To stand or not to stand

July 21, 2011

National and Act are being criticised for a possible deal under which Act wouldn’t stand candidates in marginal seats.

MMP allows such deals and it’s not very different from parties telling supporters how to rank their preferences under Preferential Voting systems.

While there might not have been an overt deal before, minor parties have made it clear they aren’t seeking electorate votes in previous elections.

I’ve attended meet-the-candidates meeting in Waitaki, and before that Otago every election since MMP was introduced and every Green candidate has told supporters s/he’s only interested in the party vote and they should give their electorate vote to Labour.

Minor parties are unlikely to win electorate seats and when it’s the party vote that determines the make-up of parliament, not winning seats doesn’t affect how many MPs they get. But standing or not standing candidates in electorates can influence the outcome for those seats.

In 1999 the Green Party candidate for Otago got 1,872 votes. In the 2002 election the party didn’t stand a candidate in the electorate and Gavan Herlihy, the sitting National MP lost to Labour’s David Parker by 684 votes. Act’s candidate Gerry Eckhoff got 1,294 votes and while not all those votes would have gone to National, enough probably would have to have enabled him to hold the seat.

Not putting up electorate candidates can come at a cost. Regardless of whether or not they’re seeking electorate votes, having a candidate contesting a seat can help boost list votes.

However, standing in every electorate is expensive and it also requires a party to have enough potential candidates, of sufficient calibre, to ensure they don’t do more harm than good.

If a party doesn’t have enough resources – human and financial – to contest all seats properly, it’s  better putting its efforts into the party vote alone.


Two Dons, two Johns

July 13, 2011

It’s not easy for a wee party to cover all bases and since Gerry Eckhoff missed out on returning to parliament in 2005, Act has lacked a rural voice.

That could change with Southland farmer, and Federated Farmers’ immediate past president, Don Nicolson becoming an Act candidate.

He’s standing as a candidate in Clutha Southland but I don’t think that will trouble sitting MP who got a majority of more than 13,000 and attracted about 65% of the electorate vote in the last election.

The party will have to do better that its dismal poll ratings if he’s to get into parliament on the list too. Labour’s doing it’s best to put farmers off voting for them but Nicolson might be able to persuade some of those disgruntled with National to try Act.

The has yet to rank its list but Keeping Stock points out so far it’s looking like Don, John, John and Don.

If the party’s to counter John Ansell’s proposition that Act is a party for men or women who think like men, it will need to introduce a little gender diversity.


Why not farm weka?

February 4, 2010

When Central Otago farmer Gerry Eckhoff was an Act MP he suggested changing the law to allow kiwi farming.

He pointed out that farmed animals don’t number among the endangered species;  and it would be better for the future survival rate of the birds and relieve the taxpayer of a cost if farmers looked after kiwi than leaving their fate to DOC and nature.

The idea of farming another native species, the weka, has now been raised by Roger Beattie.

Federated Farmers is supportive. Game spokesman Donald Aubrey said:

It’s ironic that the Chatham Islands take a far more enlightened view to the consumption of weka and to the farming of trout.  Crazily, despite having one of the world’s most easily farmed and popular fish to consume, mainland New Zealand treats an introduced species as being more of a native than our native eels.

“It’s time to unleash our entrepreneurs, represented by Mr Beattie. Domesticating some native species – aquatic or terrestrial – actually removes pressure off the wild populations.

“I see Roger Beattie as being in the same mould as the likes of Sir Peter Jackson and Weta’s Richard Taylor.  Those two were told a big budget Hollywood film would never be filmed in New Zealand but have proved the naysayers wrong.

“Roger Beattie is told can’t but he replies can and without any subsidies too.  Let’s face it, if the weka was instead a turkey, it would make us look like one for not trying,” Mr Aubrey concluded. 

I agree.

We need to stop being precious about native species, it will be better for the birds and the economy.

Trout aren’t native to New Zealand and the arguments against farming them hold as little water as those against farming weka.

Offsetting Behaviour  is unimpressed that vague unease enables the idea to be vetoed and Roarprawn gives a guide to how some native birds taste.


ORC sees sense on new HQ

June 26, 2009

The Otago Regional Council needs new headquarters and had looked at various options.

The one the majority of councillors appeared to favour was a modern design on the waterfront which was also the most expensive.

Counsellor Doug Brown went public with his concerns about that in an opinion piece in the ODT in February. His colleague Gerry Eckhoff  added his arguments against the plans last Thursday. Tuesday’s paper carried 11 letters to the editor supporting him.

Proponents of the project excused the expense by saying it would be paid for from reserves not rates. But those reserves have been built up from rates and using them for that project would have meant they wouldn’t be available for other projects which would then have to be funded from rates.

There is never a good time to impose additional costs on ratepayers. The uncertain financial environment and questions over the role of councils after the government’s review of local authorities make this an even worse time to take the most expensive option for new headquarters.

On Wednesday the majority of councillors realised this and parked the waterfront plans and agreed to reconsider all options.

Today’s ODT editorial credits the council for its restraint and suggests another, better option for the new HQ:

The front-running option, at this stage, ought to be Dunedin’s former chief post office, as long as it can be bought for a modest amount.

The building is bigger than the council needs, but it has potential and several advantages.

Converting old buildings isn’t a cheap or easy option.

But if it could be done for a reasonable price it would bring life back to a now disused historic building and also help reinvigorate Princess Street.


Informed Vote Essential for PGW SFF Deal

July 11, 2008

Gerry Eckhoff  has some concerns about the proposal for PGG Wrightsons to take a 50% stake in Silver Fern Farms.

The wider industry is bedevilled by self-interest, protectionist or silo mentalities which have cost the sheep industry dearly.

A statement by Owen Poole, chairman of Alliance Group, that Alliance has the best brands in Europe, is a case in point. Silver Fern Farms (formerly PPCS) also tell farmers that its brands are the best. Both are wrong.

The best brand is “New Zealand Lamb”, yet the two large co-operatives continue to believe in their own rhetoric and that, divided, we farmers stand a better chance of survival in the international market place.

I don’t think Alliance is a good brand name for meat. Silver Fern Farms is an improvement on PPCS but Eckhoff is right, New Zealand Lamb is the recognised brand.

The offer by PGG Wrightson to buy 50% of Silver Fern Farms (SFF) is, in reality, the only lifeboat afloat as the sheep industry sinks, so it is little wonder many farmers want to grasp the lifeline offered.

The $220 million offer may well be a very fair one but the question as to why the SSF board, after deciding to seek outside capital, did not call for wider expressions of interest for a 50% stake in the company remains unanswered by the board.

Farmers have had their shares in the company capped because it’s argued too big a shareholding is contrary to the co-operative ethos. But that doesn’t seem to be a consideration with PGW taking a 50% share. A lot of farmers would not be in a position to increase their investment, but there may be some who would not only be able but willing to do so.

Silver Fern Farms has a turnover of $2 billion so the offer by PGG Wrightson of $220 million effectively allows the purchase of a controlling interest in New Zealand’s biggest meat company, for 12c in the turnover dollar.

That seems like a fire-sale price to many sheep farmers, but it also speaks volumes as to the ability of Craig Norgate and Tim Myles of PGG Wrightson.

Farmers will await with interest an analysis/advice from the one non-farmer or independent director of SFF.

The SFF chairman, Eion Garden, says the proposal should not be seen as a financial bailout. That view will be greeted with some incredulity by observers.

If Mr Garden is correct, then he needs to explain why he does not simply invite Mr Norgate and Mr Myles on to the board of SFF for their undoubted expertise, but without the cash.

The Board says the capital injection will be used for improved technology and marketing, but that doesn’t explain why it needs to come from PGW.

Much of the rationale for the merger presented to farmers is the need for year-round supply and the technical assistance PGG Wrightson can bring to ensure this happens.

All that needs to happen to ensure supply during the August-September-October period (the off-season for supply volumes) is for meat processors to ask farmers, in, say, February, to submit a tender price to supply whatever number of stock the processor needs during these months.

The processor then obviously accepts the lowest tender prices until the required numbers are reached. Whether a merger is necessary to achieve that easily obtained outcome is a moot question.

A change in strategy doesn’t necessarily require a change in structure.

It is concerning that the emphasis of the merger appears not to be so much about capturing a greater share of the overseas value chain but locking in the domestic supply chain.

At a time when the world is increasingly short of meat protein and with the prices set to rise substantially, the board of SFF offers to sell 50% of the business to a very willing buyer.

That clearly indicates that there is not too much wrong with the industry – just the people currently running it.

TI wouldn’t say that about all the people running the industry.

If sheep farmers choose to exercise their right to vote on this issue, as they must, they have a duty to future generations to inform themselves as well as possible on all the issues and not just rely on the opinion of vested interests.

That’s good advice for any vote, but you can’t require people to have a comprehension test before they put their tick on the voting paper.


%d bloggers like this: