Bulldozing democracy

28/11/2022

Labour has gone to great lengths to counter accusations they are taking assets from councils.

They keep telling us all, that councils will still own their assets.

A legal opinion from Franks Ogilvie states that is wrong:

Ministers have repeatedly asserted that Councils will have “ownership” of the four new “entities” (actually bespoke statutory corporations) to take over three waters assets under Minister Mahuta’s scheme. The Water Services Entities Bill (the “Bill”)contains statements that Councils will “co-own” the corporations in “shares” to be allocated to them. In this opinion the assertions that Councils will share ownership are referred to as the “Claims”.

The claims are false, misleading and deceptive. The Councils will have none of the bundle of rights that define and are conferred by ownership in any sense familiar to lawyers, or understood as the common significance of ownership. Councils are expressly denied the rights of possession, control, derivation of benefits, and disposition that are the defining attributes of ownership. . . 

In spite of this, the government keeps telling us that councils will still own the assets.

However, by entrenching the clause in the Water Services Entities Bill (the one that was about Three Waters and is now about Five Waters), that stops the entities being sold, it loses that argument.

If the councils still own the assets whose business is it if they wanted to sell them?

Its theirs, their ratepayers’ and residents’ business, not the government’s.

If it’s not the business of councils, ratepayers and residents, but the government’s, the government admitting that councils won’t continue to own their assets.

That is an important issue, but not as important as the government’s entrenching the clause and thereby attempting to bind future government’s to a partisan and deeply unpopular measure.

Entrenchment has until now been for constitutional matters. Requiring a super majority for them is a democratic safeguard.

Entrenching a highly contentious and politically partisan measure like this is an attempt to bind future government’s to the current one’s will and that is the antithesis of democracy.

Law professor Andrew Geddis explains what happens when MPs entrench legislation and why it matters and concludes :

. . . The point being, what happened on Wednesday was a potentially momentous broadening out of an existing wrinkle in our system of parliamentary governance. Since 1956, our law has said that some key bits of our electoral system are so at risk of partisan gaming that we can’t trust a bare majority of MPs to decide them. Now, the amended three waters legislation also says that there is a basic policy issue that is so overwhelmingly important as to justify today’s MPs placing handcuffs on tomorrow’s MPs when dealing with it.

If that is indeed the case, what other sorts of issues might a supermajority of MPs think rise to that level? And, in this brave new world, what happens to our system of parliamentary law-making, based as it is on the assumption that the view of the current majority is always subject to revision by the future’s?

David Farrar has a few suggestions for policies past governments could have entrenched and  future government could entrench.

There would be an uproar if a future National-led government attempted to entrench these or any other partisan policies which illustrates just how dangerous the precedent Labour, aided by the Greens whose MP Eugenie Sage moved the Supplementary Order Paper to include entrenchment.

There is an uproar on social media, and the issue was discussed on NewsTalkZB yesterday afternoon it ought to be making headlines everywhere.

Labour has been bulldozing Five Waters with no concern for democracy from the start but until now there was the knowledge that a change of government could easily repeal the legislation and replace it with something far, far better in proper consultation with the councils which own the assets.

Entrenching the clause has made that a bit harder and shown how little regard Labour and the Greens have for democracy.

Garrick Tremain says it all:


Would you trust him?

21/11/2022

If National had ruled out working with New Zealand First in 2017, would it have made a difference?

Polls showed about half of NZ First’s supporters wanted the party to go with National, but we’ll never know if ruling the other party out would have helped National.

Now that Winston Peters has apparently ruled out working with Labour, would it help National to rule out working with him?

I say apparently because there is wriggle room in his statement:

“No one gets to lie to me twice,” he says this week.

“We are not going to go with the Labour Party, this present Labour Party crowd, because they can’t be trusted.

“You don’t get a second time to lie to me, or my party and they did.”

He starts with the Labour Party then says this present Labour Party crowd but what does that mean?

If Labour had a different leader, which is possible if the polls consistently show it would be unlikely to win a third term, would that be enough for Peters to change his mind?

Who knows? Would you trust him?

If we can learn anything from the past, it’s that what he says doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what he’ll do.

Apparently being clear about ruling out Labour ought to give voters certainty but there is some wriggle room, and it also takes away his party’s options which weakens it, making it more like the Greens and Maori Party who will never go with National, and Act who will never go with Labour.

The party could sit on the cross benches and if National and Act or Labour, the Greens and Maori Party didn’t have more than half the MPs needed to govern. They would they would then be forced to negotiate with Peters issue by issue.

That would be a disaster.

The country is in a mess and the mess will be worse by next year’s election.

A mess that bad needs a government we can trust and gives us certainty, neither of which can be assured if NZ First is in the mix.

Besides, one of that party’s strongest platforms is policy that both National and Act would deliver without it anyway – one person, one vote, no co-governance of public assets, and assistance based on need not race.

What then would we get if enough people vote to allow NZ First back into parliament? Uncertainty and instability if it was needed in government or sitting on the cross benches. Both could still allow Labour back into government.

That brings me back to the final comments in my previous post. If people don’t want a Labour-led government after next year’s election, they must vote for a National-led one and the only way to get that is to vote for National or Act.


Vote for democracy

02/08/2022

MIchael Bassett calls the current government the worst he’s seen in his lifetime:

Have you noticed the ways in which New Zealand’s mainspring seems gradually to be unwinding with Jacinda Ardern’s government? A collection of small things add up to an unfolding collapse of civil society as we have known it. . .

We are experiencing the worst government of my lifetime, one that has caused more damage and divisiveness in our society, than there has been at any time since the Great Depression. 

Last week there were another step away from democracy and towards division.

. . . Mahuta has slipped a change into a piece of legislation that will make it mandatory for councils every six years to consider whether they should introduce Maori wards.

When they meet for their six-yearly Representation Review, the first step councils must take must be a decision about whether to establish Māori wards or constituencies.

That makes it very likely, doesn’t it, that a lot of councils will opt to introduce Māori wards. Because if they consider the wards and then actively choose not to introduce them, what are they? 

They’re racists.

That’s the response to any criticism of the government’s divisive race-based agenda.

Instead of responding with reasoned argument explaining or justifying proposals, proponents simply call the critics racist.

And no one wants to be called a racist so they’ll probably just end up taking the easy option and introducing the Māori wards.

Clever politics, Nanaia. 

And what’s more, because she popped these changes into an omnibus piece of law with a whole bunch of other boring, technical changes for local elections most people seem to have totally missed it.

In fact, from what I can see, no one’s reported on it in the 26+ hours since she put out her press release.

What’s especially clever here is that Nanaia is forcing something on ratepayers that ratepayers don’t want, but really can’t stop. . .

Another step towards further division and less democracy will come this week with the third reading of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill.

A National Government will restore the basic principle that all New Zealanders have equal voting rights, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“It’s astounding that any party should have to make such a promise – given most Kiwis take equal voting rights for granted – but that basic principle is being undermined by the Labour Government.

“On Wednesday, Labour and the Greens are set to vote for the third reading of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill. The legislation removes both equal voting rights in that region, as well as the basic principle of democratic accountability.

“The Bill will give Ngāi Tahu the right to appoint two councillors. Since Māori will have had an equal vote in the appointment of the other 14 councillors, this arrangement gives Ngāi Tahu voters extra voting power.

“Since the Ngāi Tahu appointments are permanent, the normal rules of accountability do not apply. The universal principle that politicians are better behaved when they know they can be thrown out at the next election, will not apply for these councillors in Canterbury.

“Once this Bill is passed this week, against strong opposition from National, we can be sure that other regions will try to follow.

“Labour members on the Māori Affairs Committee are still trying to resurrect the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill, which would move away from equal rights for the Rotorua District Council.

“This is anti-democratic and divisive.

“This morning on Q&A, when quizzed on whether co-governance in Three Waters gave Māori disproportionate power, the Prime Minister’s only response was that “democracy is democracy”.

“New Zealanders don’t need meaningless blather from the Prime Minister. They need a resolute defence of basic democratic principles.

“Equal voting rights and accountability at the ballot box are basic principles and National will restore them if returned to office in 2023.”

Voters will have a stark choice at next year’s election.

They can vote for more divisiveness under a Labour and Green government or they can vote for a return to democracy with equal representation with a National-led government.


Showing true colour

29/07/2022

The Green Party members who didn’t endorse James Shaw as co-leader are showing the true colour of the party – red.

The environment isn’t their prime concern, it’s merely the means to promote their far left anti-capitalist agenda.

That’s always been the party’s weakness.

If its members were moderate on social and economic issues the party could sit in the middle of the political spectrum and be able to coalesce with Labour or National which would give them a lot of power.

Instead they sit to the left, even far left, of Labour which puts them in a far less powerful position.

This is why the Teal candidates in Australia did so well in their recent election – they, and their supporters, want green without the red.

Whether or not Shaw retains the co-leadership, the members have undermined him and the party and in showing their true colour will be far less likely to attract voters who want the green without the red.


When the pendulum swings too far

16/03/2022

Who said this?:

. . .Here I come back to the government’s aim of closing the gaps between rich and poor, and the way in which it was overtaken in public understanding by the subsidiary goal of closing the gaps between Maori and the rest. I don’t describe the second goal as lesser than the first out of any wish to minimise the effect of growing inequality on Maori people. What I mean is that from the point of view of a democratic government, the first goal can encompass the second, but the second can’t encompass the first. If the government’s goal is to reduce inequality, it follows that it will do whatever it can to improve the position of Maori.

How goals like this are achieved is the whole business of politics. It is not particularly easy politics, because the racial element always makes politics difficult, however you handle it. In this country there is the history of dispossession and displacement. There is the growing number of people who identify as Maori. There is the growing number of those who wish to wield political power as, and on behalf, of Maori, and increasingly have the means to do so. These are challenges to the political process, but they are not insurmountable.

Democratic government can accommodate Maori political aspiration in many ways. It can allocate resources in ways which reflect the particular interests of Maori people. It can delegate authority, and allow the exercise of degrees of Maori autonomy. What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does that, it isn’t a democracy. We can have a democratic form of government or we can have indigenous sovereignty. They can’t coexist and we can’t have them both.

That is clear and correct – it is either democracy or Maori sovereignty. It is impossible to have both.

This brings me to the preoccupation of successive governments with the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is with no disrespect for Maori feeling for the treaty that I have to say it means nothing to me. It can mean nothing to me because it has nothing to say to me. When I was in office I understood that the government had succeeded to certain legal and moral obligations of the government which signed the treaty, and that in so far as those obligations had not been met it was our responsibility to honour them. But that is the extent of it.

The treaty cannot be any kind of founding document, as it is sometimes said to be. It does not resolve the question of sovereignty, if only because one version of it claims one form of sovereignty and the other version claims the opposite. The court of appeal once, absurdly, described it as a partnership between races, but it obviously is not. The signatories are, on one side, a distinctive group of people, and on the other, a government which established itself in New Zealand and whose successors represent all of us, whether we are descendants of the signatories or not. The treaty cannot even resolve the argument among Maori themselves in which one side maintains that that you’re a Maori if you identify as such, and the other claims that it’s your links to traditional forms of association which define you as Maori.

As our increasingly dismal national day continues to show, the treaty is no basis for nationhood. It doesn’t express the fundamental rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and it doesn’t have any unifying concept. The importance it has for Maori people is a constant reminder that governments in a democracy should meet their legal and moral obligations, but for the country taken as a whole, that is, and must be, the limit of its significance.

Here I come to the dangers posed by the increasing entrenchment of the treaty in statute. The treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts. It is a bald agreement, anchored in its time and place, and the public interest in it is the same as the public interest in enforcing any properly-made agreement. To go further than that is to acknowledge the existence of undemocratic forms of rights, entitlements, or sovereignty.

The treaty is a wonderful stick for activists to beat the rest of us with, but it could never have assumed the importance it has without the complicity of others. It came to prominence in liberal thought in the seventies, when many who were concerned about the abuse of the democratic process by the government of the day began to see the treaty as a potential source of alternative authority. It’s been the basis of a self-perpetuating industry in academic and legal circles. Many on the left of politics who sympathise with Maori aspiration have identified with the cause of the treaty, either not knowing or not caring that its implications are profoundly undemocratic.

I don’t think it any coincidence that the cause gained momentum in the eighties and nineties, when the government retreated from active engagement in economy and society and in doing so weakened the identification between government and governed which is essential to the functioning of a democracy. It isn’t in the least surprising that undemocratic ideas flourish when democracy itself seems to be failing.

I think that in practice the present government will find it difficult to draw back from its public commitment to the treaty, and that this will almost certainly rob it of its chance to build a more cohesive society and a more productive economy. It has, in the public mind if nowhere else, adopted a goal whose pursuit is inevitably divisive, and it is spending its political capital on it almost by the hour. The result, if the worst comes to the worst, will be a fractured society in which political power will be contested in ways beyond the limits of our democratic experience. . . 

Who said that?

A racist?

A right wing extremist?

I don’t think either of those descriptions could be applied to  David Lange who said this in the 2000 Bruce Jesson lecture.

Nearly 22 years later we’ve got more of what he was concerned about:

Here I come to the dangers posed by the increasing entrenchment of the treaty in statute. The treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts. It is a bald agreement, anchored in its time and place, and the public interest in it is the same as the public interest in enforcing any properly-made agreement. To go further than that is to acknowledge the existence of undemocratic forms of rights, entitlements, or sovereignty.

The current government has gone further than any any other, it plans to go further still and anyone who questions that risks being called racist.

It would however, be difficult to call a Maori who criticises the dangerous path down which this government is headed racist and Shane Jones is doing that in saying stop dragging Treaty of Waitangi into policies where it’s of dubious value:

As the Covid virus continues to move through the community, another virus spreads across our political system.

Just as there is ignorance about the exact origins of Covid, the public does not recall giving the Labour Party permission to impose its Treaty of Waitangi co-governance master plan. A dogma that thrives where visibility is weak, debates are shallow and agendas are murky.

Take for example the bog known as Three Waters, a reform designed to avoid a repeat of the 2016 Havelock North drinking water crisis.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has a superior agenda in mind which will be in our best interests, not only for drinking water but also storm and wastewater – providing it goes through her Treaty purification plant.

The Government wants to forcibly transfer all our publicly-owned water assets into four jumbo corporations and then hand over 50 per cent control to iwi – a radical move from contaminated water to toxic politics.

According to the Government, this is necessary to satisfy Treaty articles of faith and accommodate the fractious iwi leaders collective, who should stick to their rūnanga knitting rather than whinging in Wellington. . . .

It is high time to call time on how the Treaty of Waitangi is being dragged into policy areas where it is of dubious value, alienates people, and eats away the goodwill of past decades.

It is critical that the jurisdiction of the Waitangi Tribunal be reviewed and changed. It is no longer fit for purpose, it indiscriminately strays into matters where it lacks competence and adds no value. Whilst the legal truffle hunters may encourage it to be expansive, it is overdue a political pruning. In 2025, which will be in the next electoral cycle, the tribunal will have existed for 50 years. Why should it still exist and for what purpose?

Treaty co-governance is being grafted onto our political system without any public consent or informed debate. Labour did not seek the approval of the electorate in 2020 for this divisive agenda. Quite the opposite.

He Puapua, which is behind much of the treatyfication being rammed through by the government was kept hidden from the public until well after the election.

We had no say in legislation that was rushed through under urgency taking away the right to veto Maori seats on councils, a separate Maori health authority with a veto over the other non-Maori one was presented as a fait accompli and consultation on giving Maori 50% control over Three Waters was a farce.

The wellbeing statistics for whānau remain woeful but the political leadership is pitiful.

Rather than deal to the Tribesmen gang, which now appears to own the Waikato Expressway, our Māori MPs encourage tribal ambitions to control the health system. The case for establishing a separate Māori Health Authority with budgetary veto powers has not been made. The same for the proposed Māori Education Authority.

No doubt these structural changes will lead to more statutory Treaty references which then leads to more litigation whilst the gang nephews run amok.

These whānau want practical results, not superficial linguistics where everything gets a Māori title but whānau circumstances don’t markedly improve. Kāinga Ora is a case in point, where the Māori grammar is inversely related to the actual housing outcomes for Maori. Rather than indulging the Mongrel Mob tenants, put them in a tent until they learn to respect their neighbours.

Tiriti co-governance is an artifice that will hobble economic activity and worsen statutory processes such as those in the Resource Management Act. A developer’s deathtrap bogged down with red-tape, surrounded by loose hapū cannons that threaten to spike economic development unless their two cents worth is handsomely paid for. Consultation is a part of democracy, however, it needs to be tightly defined and not allowed to morph into either green or brown mail.

The Three Waters project is doomed to fail because it is not sustainable in our democracy for a $185 billion public utility programme to be 50 per cent controlled by iwi. These are public assets, not tribal baubles.

The current Government can shroud its agenda with artfulness but the result will be the same. Any iwi co-governance legislation it arrogantly forces through Parliament will be undone by a future government.

Such a government should be formed on the clear basis that there will never be political privileges such as the iwi co-governance plot.

The pressing issues confronting the average rangatahi are very basic. Rather than tribalised Three Waters, they need three affordable staples, veges, meat and milk.

The political agitators and those driving the political gravy train have a lot to gain if the government allows the tentacles of the Treaty principles to stretch further.

But the treayification does nothing to improve the lives of those who are disproportionately represented in negative statistics for crime, education, health and welfare dependency and it undermines democracy.

A year ago Barrie Saunders asked democracy or partnership, what do we want?

. . . At present New Zealand has a quality democracy.   We have fairly-drawn electorates, an easy voting system, and a reasonable level of political literacy.  Money struggles to buy Government policy, which is all as it should be.  

However, we have no reason to be smug, because this democracy is under threat. Governments since 1987 and the Courts have been entrenching a modern view that the Treaty of Waitangi means there is an ongoing “partnership between the Government and Iwi”.  Some Maori leaders want a form of co-governance between Parliament, elected by all New Zealanders, with one which has to negotiate policy with iwi leaders.  

The partnership concept has been advanced in small steps, without the Government first holding an honest conversation with all New Zealanders.  Apart from concerns about the costs in the early stages of the treaty settlement process, New Zealanders have basically remained silent while governments negotiated settlements and wrote the subsequent legislation.   . . 

For the record, while I prefer they don’t exist, separate Maori seats or even Maori wards, do not undermine our democracy, provided each is based on the same electoral numbers as general electorates and wards.  Nor do I think a requirement for central and local Government to have regard for the views of Maori, destroys democratic integrity, provided the consultation process is genuine, and also that it doesn’t necessarily mean agreement must be reached.  

These provisions help create social cohesion that is critical to successful democracies.  However, we could soon reach a point when the word “democracy” will not accurately describe our form of government.         

For anyone who thinks I may be exaggerating the threat to our democratic model, I strongly recommend they read the 2010 iwi-sponsored 129 page “The report of Matike Mai Aotearoa – the independent working group on constitutional transformation”.  It is all laid out with a plan to achieve the transformation by 2040.  The recommendations are not about making the Treaty fit within the current constitutional arrangements; rather it creates a whole new form of Government based around a minority view of what the Treaty means. . . 

There is reasonable agreement that Maori were mistreated by the government and that their land was stolen. There is broad support for Treaty settlements to compensate for that and acceptance that there is a place for Maori solutions to Maori problems.

But the pendulum has swung too far with a separatist and divisive agenda that makes some more equal than others.

Most of the support for Treaty settlements is for them to be full and final, not for repeated renegotiations, nor the growing erosion of democracy through the insertion Treaty principles into all sorts of places where they have no place and certainly not for  co-governance.

Jones has been silent since losing his seat in parliament last year.

His opinion piece could well signal the start of his campaign to return with New Zealand First and it should come as a warning.

The trend in recent polls shows Labour and the Green Party couldn’t govern without the support of the Maori Party.

That could well push wavering voters towards the right rather than the left.

But if National and Act aren’t quite clear that co-governance and democracy are mutually exclusive they will open the door to New Zealand First and history shows the risks that could come with that.

 


Priorities

01/03/2022

Another Labour election promise is yet to be delivered:

A ground-breaking drug treatment programme led to a 34 per cent drop in criminal offending by people who took part, a study found, prompting calls for the Government to urgently extend the initiative nationwide.

Te Ara Oranga, or the Pathway to Wellbeing, is a partnership between the police and the Northland DHB which helps steer meth addicts towards treatment in the health system and employment, rather than the revolving door of criminal charges in the courtroom.

One of the key findings in the recent study of Te Ara Oranga was a return of at least $3 for every $1 invested, possibly up to $7, according to the evaluation report published on the Ministry of Health website in late December.

The Labour Party made an election promise in October 2020 to expand the treatment project from Northland to another 4000 families in the Bay of Plenty and the East Coast, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying “the old ways have failed us over decades”.

Struggling towns in those three regions are the worst affected by the country’s methamphetamine crisis, where the weekly per capita consumption rate of the drug can be more than double the national average, according to Herald analysis of two years of wastewater test results.

Nearly half-way through the electoral term since Labour was re-elected with an overwhelming majority, no progress had been made on the number one law and order priority, Te Ara Oranga.

Attempts to confirm a timeframe for future plans were met largely with silence from the agencies and Cabinet Ministers involved. . .

Is there anything the government could do that would have such a good return in health, social and financial terms, especially for Maori who are over represented in statistics on meth users and victims of meth users?

Manifesto Commitments are for a three-year term. We are still committed to the roll-out of Te Ara Oranga by the end of the term,” said Police Minister Poto Williams in a statement to the Herald last year.

She did not respond to further questions last week, but a spokeswoman for Health Minister Andrew Little said there was no further update.

This ought to be a far higher priority for attention and funding than restructuring the health system.

But a recent study of the effectiveness of Te Ara Oranga has led traditional opponents who clashed in debate over drug law reform being united in calling for the Government to make faster progress on the promised expansion.

“Te Ara Oranga is a no-brainer,” said Sarah Helm, the executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

“This evaluation shows we shouldn’t be holding back from sharing this programme in other regions impacted by methamphetamine. This is urgent and important.” . .

While the cost-benefit analysis was complicated by whether someone was a casual, moderate or heavy user of methamphetamine, the calculation suggests a return of between $3 and $7 for each dollar invested into the programme.

“In a nutshell, this report concludes that Te Ara Oranga works,” Professor Ian Lambie wrote in the foreword. Lambie is the chief science adviser on justice issues for the Prime Minister. . . .

The pilot programme in Northland was established under the previous National government.

Dr Shane Reti, the party’s health spokesman who also lives in Northland, said the recent evaluation was further confirmation of Te Ara Oranga’s successful track record.

“It’s the best meth programme in the country. It’s because of the true partnership between police and health, they’ve both got skin in the game,” said Reti.

“The real magic though, is the pou whenua. These are the people working and living in the community, with lived experience, who have now retrained in health or social work. They know how to support people going through the programme because they’ve walked down that path themselves.”

Reti said a future National government would expand Te Ara Oranga across the country, but also increase funding so the programme could provide more intensive outpatient support.

“It’s not even much money, in the scheme of things.”

Alongside National and Labour, Te Ara Oranga has also been supported by the Green Party when the pilot programme received a $4m funding injection in 2019.

Such cross-party political support for drug policy is rare, said former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark in an opinion piece published in the Herald today.

“We have a programme here that can make a huge difference and is uniquely homegrown. The Government has some important choices to make about how to take it forward.” . .

The choices aren’t just important, they’re urgent so why the delay?

It is rare, probably unprecedented, to have support for an initiative from National, the Green Party, a former Labour Prime Minister, the police, a DHB and the Drug Foundation.

Not only do they agree on this, their support is backed up by hard data which clearly shows the need for and the benefits of the programme.

A spokesperson said the Ministry of Health was pleased with the pilot results of Te Ara Oranga and “expanding the programme is under active consideration”.

“However significant funding will need to be secured for a full roll-out of the programme,” said the spokesperson, who later clarified $38m was needed. . .

Where else could the government spend what is for it a relatively small amount of money and get a $3 to $7 return?

It is setting up a separate health authority for Maori at considerably more expense. That will benefit the well-paid people who get employed by it but no-one has been able to explain how it will lead to an improvement in services, especially to those most in need.

What does it say about government priorities that it is wasting time and money on restructuring but hasn’t got around to expanding Te Ara Oranga?


Too early to get excited but . . .

04/12/2021

The latest Roy Morgan poll putsOpposition parties ahead of ahead of Labour and the Greens.

Support for New Zealand’s Labour/Greens ‘coalition’ government was down 3.5% points to 46.5% in November as support for the Labour Party dropped 3.5% points to 36%. Support for the Greens was unchanged at 10.5%. This is the lowest level of support for Labour since the election of the Jacinda Ardern-led Government in October 2017 with 36.9% of the vote.

For the first time since the election support for the Parliamentary Opposition National/ Act NZ/ Maori Party has now overtaken the Government at 47% in November, up 3% points since October. However, it is worth noting there is no formal agreement between these three opposition parties.

While the Maori Party is counted as opposition the likelihood of it supporting National and Act in government is slight.

Support rose for all three opposition parties with National up 0.5% points to 26.5%, Act NZ up 1.5% points to a new record high of 17.5% and support for the Maori Party hitting its highest for over five years since January 2016, up 1% point to 3%. . . 

It’s too early to get excited, but this poll does follow the trend of other recent ones with the government losing popularity and National and Act gaining.

That has mostly been due to a surge is support for Act.

Now that National has a new leader, it will almost certainly become more popular.

Some people who moved to Act may swap to National, but that won’t help the centre right become the government.

The challenge is to regain those voters who moved left in such numbers in last years election and thereby increase the centre right support.


Rural round-up

30/11/2021

Taxpayers Milked to the tune of $48K for anti-dairy propaganda :

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is challenging the New Zealand Film Commission’s funding criteria after it gave anti-dairy documentary Milked a $48,550 “finishing grant”.

The film, currently screening in New Zealand cinemas, argues that the dairy industry causes climate change, pollutes water, destroys land, abuses cows, and victimises dairy farmers. The film is explicitly political, with constant shots of the Beehive in the trailer, and features contributions from Greenpeace, SAFE, and the Green Party. The film appears to be part of a wider anti-dairy campaign – the promoters have erected billboards attacking the dairy sector.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The 40,000 New Zealanders employed in the dairy industry are unlikely to be happy to learn they are funding a film that attacks the source of their livelihoods. And that’s to say nothing of the rest of us, who all benefit from dairy’s enormous contribution to New Zealand’s economy.”

“We wish the filmmakers well in their attempts to win hearts and minds, but that doesn’t mean they should receive government money for their propaganda. Just imagine the outcry from certain groups if the Taxpayers’ Union received government money to produce a film on the evils of socialism.” . . 

Unease over regulations – Kayla Hodge:

Proposed changes to adventure activity regulations could prove to be a nightmare for commercial operators and landowners.

A review of the adventure activities regulatory regime is proposing to tighten restrictions on how operators work, and introduce tougher rules for landowners who allow access to adventure activity operators.

Under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment proposal, landowners will have to be involved in the management of natural hazards, providing information to operators or assessing and managing risks.

The review came in the wake of the 2019 Whakaari/ White Island eruption that killed 22 people and injured 25 who were on a tour accompanied by an operating company. . .

Co-products offaly underused: academic – Sally Rae:

Fancy a shake of pizzle powder in your chowder? How about some heart in your tart?

Don’t choke at the suggestion; meat co-products, better known as offal, are protein-rich and food scientist Associate Prof Aladin Bekhit, from the University of Otago, believes consumers are missing out on “wonderful nutrients” by turning their noses up at them.

A recent study, supervised by Prof Bekhit, investigated the macronutrient composition of sheep heart, kidney, liver, skirt, stomach, testis, tail and pizzle.

Protein content ranged from 10.2%-28.8% and the pizzle (an animal’s penis) was found to have one of the highest levels. . .

 

Fight to eradicate wilding pines far from over – expert – Tess Brunton:

The lead investigator of a nationwide fight against wilding pines says they can’t stop work to eradicate wildings or risk the tide turning against them.

Before 2016, wildings were estimated to be invading roughly 90,000 hectares each year.

Later that year, a five-year government-funded research programme, Winning Against Wildings, was launched aiming to control or contain wildings nationally by 2030.

It has sparked new knowledge, research and techniques for controlling the pests including remote-sensing tools to detect and map invasions in remote areas and using low-dose herbicides to control dense wilding invasions. . . 

ANZ sponsors Dairy Industry awards :

A unique sponsorship opportunity with the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) has been entered into by New Zealand’s largest bank.

ANZ Bank New Zealand will sponsor the Financial and Business merit awards in the Share Farmer and Dairy Manager categories in four regions – Southland/Otago, Canterbury/North Otago, Waikato and Taranaki.

A representative from the bank will also judge the National Share Farmer of the Year category.

NZDIA General Manager Robin Congdon says this sponsorship shows ANZ Bank New Zealand has huge support for the dairy industry. . . 

NSA responds strongly to article labelling sheep a menace of the countryside  :

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is shocked and disappointed by factually incorrect and damaging comments made of UK sheep farming in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (Thursday 25th November 2021).

In the article titled ‘There’s a fluffy white menace that is spoiling Britain’s National Parks’ ‘destination expert’ Chris Moss labels sheep as a blot on the landscape suggesting they be removed from National Parks and failing to recognise their importance to the countryside he is enjoying or the rural communities that so many appreciate visiting.

NSA Chief Executive says: “The comments made in this piece are both unhelpful and divisive at a time when many in agriculture and the environmental movement are working together to move to an even more multifunctional land use and approach to farming.

“Mr Moss states that sheep are ruining our landscapes, including National Parks, ignoring the fact the vast majority of these are in areas where sheep farming is the predominant land use activity. Maybe he should consider that it is thousands of years of sheep and livestock farming in these areas that has actually made these iconic regions such that people want to designate them as national parks. In fact, sheep farming and its relationship with the Lake District landscape and culture is one of the core reasons why this national park was designated a World Heritage site in 2017.” . . 

 


If it’s really a crisis . . .

10/09/2021

Green Party co-leader James Shaw is denying accusations of hypocrisy for his decision to fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 conference on climate change:

The Green Party refused to attend Parliament while Wellington was still at alert level 4 on Tuesday last week.

Shaw at the time had said there was a perfectly serviceable option that would enable MPs to work from home – Parliament via teleconferencing software Zoom – and politicians should be modelling the health advice to stay home. He said the party was reluctant to be returning to the House even at alert level 3.

“I think it’s absolutely irresponsible, I mean it literally risks people’s lives by holding an in-person Parliament,” Shaw said. . .

That was last week in New Zealand.

The conference is a couple of months away in Glasgow, one of the UK’s Covid-19 hotspots.

Shaw will be have to quarantine on his return, taking an MIQ spot away from people who are desperate to return to New Zealand. If staff are going they too will take MIQ spots from people who anyone with a heart would acknowledge had far greater need of them.

National’s climate change spokesman has turned down an invitation to attend.

Covid-19 has meant that New Zealanders have had to sacrifice a great deal. They have missed funerals, weddings, births, and all manner of other special moments, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Stuart Smith says.

“It seems a no-brainer to me that now is not the time for me to be jetting over to the other side of the world for a conference, no matter how important the subject. That is why I have made the decision not to attend the 26th Conferences of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow this year.

“The Climate Change Minister James Shaw asked me if I was interested in attending COP 26 in Glasgow some time ago and I indicated that I was interested subject to the details and the circumstances at the time.

“Given I would be required to spend two weeks in MIQ when I returned, taking up a valuable spot that I know Kiwis overseas are desperate for, I could not justify the trip.

“I note Minister Shaw was vocal about the public health risk he considered Parliament sitting in Level 3 and 4 to be. One would think international travel in a pandemic would present a greater risk.

“The COP has been run by the United Nations for nearly thirty years and brings together people from all nations for a global climate summit. It is a worthwhile event and I look forward to hearing of the discussions second-hand.

“Since G20 was conducted online, it is disappointing that a climate change conference run by the United Nations would not also offer online engagement.

“I feel missing out on this particular event, while disappointing, pales compared to the sacrifices made by so many of my fellow New Zealanders.”

The greater hypocrisy isn’t Shaw’s going to Glasgow when he made a fuss about going to Wellington and applies not just to him but to all the people who are flying to Scotland for the conference. It’s that it’s an in-person meeting not a virtual one.

If they want us to take their claims of a climate crisis seriously, they must lead by example.

It doesn’t matter how many trees the conference-goers pledge to plant to offset their emissions, by flying a combined total of many, many thousands of kilometres they’re telling us to do as they say not as they do.

The truly green way to discuss the issue is to have a virtual conference. It worked for APEC, it would work for COP26 and it would show us that they are taking their claims of a climate crisis as seriously as they are exhorting us to.


If proportionality is so important . . .

23/04/2021

The waka jumping law was one of the dead rats that New Zealand First forced Labour and the Green Party to swallow in the previous government.

It’s a rat for which Labour has now developed a taste:

Labour will vote against a proposed repeal of the Waka Jumping law, killing off any chances of removing the controversial law.

The Waka Jumping or ‘party hopping’ law allows parliamentary parties to remove their own MPs from Parliament in some circumstances, meaning party leaders and caucuses have the power not just to expel MPs from their own party, but from Parliament itself.

It was passed with much controversy last term after NZ First won agreement for it in the party’s coalition agreement with Labour. The Green Party, who have long opposed such laws, swallowed the “dead rat” and voted for the law – as the party believed it was bound to honour Labour’s obligation to NZ First. . . 

The Green Party’s disquiet with the law remained, and in the final months before last year’s election it backed a National Party members’ bill by Nick Smith which sought to repeal the law.

At that point before the election National and the Greens had enough votes together to pass bills, so the bill passed the first of the three readings it would need to become law.

But at the election Labour won an outright majority, meaning no bill can pass if Labour votes against them.

Labour had voted against repeal at the first reading, but openly mulled a change in position following the election.

However a report from the Justice Select Committee which considered the bill makes clear that Labour’s opposition to repeal remains – with the Labour-majority committee voting to recommend the bill not be passed.

Labour MP and Justice Select Committee chair Ginny Andersen said the committee members heard no compelling new case to repeal the law.

She said the “proportionality” of Parliament – basically the fact that the number of MPs in Parliament roughly corresponds to the number of party votes they received – was important.

“The proportionality of Parliament is important, that’s why we have MMP, maintaining that is important.”

“The Labour members on the committee all agreed that this is an important principle – the idea of proportionality. It helps maintain public confidence.” . . 

If proportionality was really the issue then Labour would be addressing the way a by-election can upset it if it’s won by a candidate from a different party than the one that held the seat before the election.

That’s what happened in Northland when National’s Mike Sabin resigned and Winston Peters won the by-election.

To maintain proportionality, National ought to have got another list MP. Instead another NZ First list MP came into parliament completely upsetting proportionality by leaving National with one MP fewer and the opposition with one more.

Labour didn’t make a murmur then and raising proportionality to oppose repeal of the waka jumping legislation is a feeble excuse not a valid reason.

It does however, beg a question – what makes Labour so unsure about the loyalty of its caucus that it isn’t prepared to bury the dead rat this term when it  swallowed it so reluctantly last term?


What’s the difference?

17/11/2020

When National promoted the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, Labour, New Zealand First, the Green Party and their followers were vehement in their opposition.

When Labour added a couple of words and made it the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Trade most MPs who had been so strongly against the TPP were just as strong in their support of the CPTTP and there was hardly a whisper against it outside parliament.

The Labour government has just signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with 10 countries from the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus Australia, China, Japan and South Korea.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFaT) says this anchors New Zealand in a region that is the engine room of the global economy.

The 15 RCEP economies are home to almost a third of the world’s population, include 7 of our top 10 trading partners, take over half New Zealand’s total exports and provide more than half our direct foreign investment.

RCEP deepens our trade and economic connections in the Asia-Pacific region, an important part of New Zealand’s Trade Recovery Strategy. The agreement will help ensure New Zealand is in the best possible position to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and seize new opportunities for exports and investment. RCEP is projected to add $186 billion to the world economy and increase New Zealand’s GDP by around $2.0 billion. . . 

New Zealand is too small to benefit much from bilateral trade agreements and has a lot to gain from multi-country deals like this one.

The government has done the right thing in concluding the work started under National but could be called hypocritical after the vehemence of its criticism of the TPPP.

And while some call Federated Farmers right wing and accuse it of being National in gumboots, it has given the agreement the thumbs up:

The prospect of reduced red tape from a single set of trade rules for the Asia Pacific is a major reason why New Zealand producers and exporters will give the RCEP deal the thumbs up, Federated Farmers says.

“Anything that takes us further along the path of ironing out border costs and delays, and reducing protectionist tariffs, for our exports has to be a good thing for farmers, and for New Zealand, Feds President Andrew Hoggard said.

A degree of scepticism has been voiced about how quickly our GDP would be boosted by the estimated $2 billion a year from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement signed at the weekend, given we already have free trade agreements in one form or another with all of the 14 other signatory nations. But new opportunities should eventually flow.

“This is now the largest free trade agreement in the world, covering nations with nearly one third of the world’s population. It includes clear mechanisms to us to address any non-tariff barriers put up against our exported goods by the other signatories,” Hoggard said.

RCEP delivers additional tariff elimination on a number of New Zealand food products into Indonesia, including sheepmeat, beef, fish and fish products, liquid milk, grated or powdered cheese, honey, avocados, tomatoes and persimmons.

The Green Party is the only one in parliament opposing the new agreement. Opposition from outside parliament has been muted and it’s not just on trade where the left is less vocal on issues than it was a few years ago.

When National was in power stories of homeless people and their plight were regularly featured in the news. Politicians and other groups on the left were happy to be quoted criticising the government and demanding action.

Homelessness and overcrowding are still be a major problem and, given the escalating price of houses, a growing one. But the stories of people living in cars and other suboptimal accommodation aren’t nearly as frequent.

What’s changed? Just the government.

Could it be that the people who advocate so loudly for the vulnerable when National is in power let their own partisan attachments get in the way of their political agitation when Labour is ruling?


Rural round-up

24/10/2020

Fired up over freshwater – Hamish MacLean:

Stop the degradation, show real improvements in five years, restore New Zealand’s waterways in a generation, and infuriate how many farmers? Environment reporter Hamish MacLean checks in on the fight for healthy rivers after 100 tractors rolled through Gore last week in protest over new freshwater regulations. 

Southern farmers are facing reams of new rules and red tape as New Zealand starts to go hard on keeping sediment, E.coli, phosphorous, and nitrogen out of its rivers.

But Federated Farmers calls some of the new rules “unworkable” and prohibitively costly, and says they will need to be amended by Cabinet.

Federated Farmers environment and water spokesman Chris Allen says a parade of tractors down Gore’s main street and a gathering of hundreds of farmers in Invercargill last week amid public calls for ignoring the new rules en masse are representative of farmers’ anger about the costs and the extent of the changes being forced upon them.

Measures would squeeze businesses ‘doing it tough’ – Jacob McSweeny:

Business and farming leaders in the South are joining a chorus of similar stakeholders throughout the country hoping the Labour Party forms its own government rather than going into a coalition with the Greens.

Labour won 64 seats according to Saturday’s preliminary results and can govern alone if it chooses.

Farra Engineering chief executive and Southern Otago Regional Engineering Collective chairman Gareth Evans said he was not surprised by the result, just that it was more comprehensive than expected.

“It’s good in a sense that Labour have an absolute majority so that they have to be accountable for everything that they do from here on in.” . . 

Research funded to unlock seaweed’s potential as new ‘superfood‘ –

It is far from a staple on most Kiwi dinner tables, but AgResearch scientists are aiming to unlock the potential of seaweed as a go-to food with proven health benefits. And they have enlisted the services a of a world-class chef to help them do it.

The scientists are joining counterparts in Singapore in a project funded by New Zealand government, in the amount of $3.3 million, alongside parallel funding from the Government of Singapore. The New Zealand funding is from the Catalyst Fund:Strategic – New Zealand-Singapore Future Foods Research Programme.

The research, focused on the Undaria pinnatifida species of seaweed abundant in waters around New Zealand and Singapore, also involves partners the University of Otago, University of Auckland, A*STAR, AgriSea NZ, Ideas 2 Plate and AMiLi. . . 

Waikato berry farm expecting influx of visitors due to strawberry picker shortage:

Strawberries may be harder to come by on supermarket shelves this year due to an expected shortage of pickers, so a Waikato berry farm is gearing up for a big influx of Kiwis wanting to pick their own.

Whatawhata Berry Farm, located five minutes from Hamilton on the Raglan Road will open for the summer this Friday (23 October) and is expecting record crowds during the strawberry picking season, which runs from now until late March or Easter if demand exists.

Owner Darien McFadden says commercial growers are deeply concerned there won’t be enough overseas RSE workers or those on Working Holiday Visas to pick this year’s crop, leaving fruit to go to waste and creating supply and demand issues for both export and domestic markets. . . 

Shearers were among those travelling to Melbourne via Sydney :

New Zealand shearers were on the first flights to Australia and among those who travelled on to Melbourne.

Shearers who boarded the first flights to Melbourne should have been praised for their work ethic not “poo-pooed by the Premier”, an industry representative has said.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford confirmed New Zealand shearers were on the first flights out of New Zealand to Sydney, and they later went on to catch a flight to Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne.

“Anecdotally I know they were on those flights and there was nothing illegal or incorrect in what they did – they followed process and were sponsored by their employers and had the correct permit to travel from metropolitan Melbourne to rural Victoria,” he said. . . 

HappyMoo developing tools to monitor cow health :

ICBF is participating in a large-scale European research project called HappyMoo. The project aims to develop tools to identify cow welfare issues before they become a problem and affect performance. There are many different aspects to cow welfare and essential among them are freedom from hunger, stress, and disease. These are the areas that the HappyMoo research project is focusing on.

The project will use machine learning to identify patterns in milk spectral data that are associated with undesirable conditions in the cow. Milk spectral data is recorded when milk samples are analysed in a milk recording lab by mid-infrared machines. Essentially a mid-infrared laser is shined into a milk sample and the absorbance levels are recorded. Every analysed milk sample generates 1060 data points and when we consider the thousands of cows in the thousands of milk recording herds it does not take long to add up to Big Data. Therefore, these absorbance levels provide a deep dataset and in the HappyMoo project the spectral data will be correlated with phenotypes. Already, spectral data can be used to measure milk constituents, but it has also been shown to indicate difficult to measure phenotypes such as energy balance. . . 


Too much of a good thing?

14/10/2020

When I do a questionnaire on which party I support, National always comes first and Act usually comes a reasonably close second.

If actual voting reflects the latest polls, Act would well have 11 MPs and that might not necessarily be good for the party or parliament.

Most small parties that have had a big increase in MPs have struggled to maintain unity and, if memory serves me correctly, all  have lost several MPs at the next election and all but the Green Party and NZ First have disappeared from parliament.

Act could buck the trend.

But if National supporters think ticking Act instead would be a good idea, it isn’t.

I’d be happy with few more Act MPs but 11 might well prove to be too much of a good thing.

 


Rural round-up

18/09/2020

Dr Doug Edmeades responds to Green Party agriculture policy:

The Green Party’s plan to help Kiwi farmers transition from traditional agriculture to regenerative and organic practices is a bit redundant, according to Dr Doug Edmeades.

Most farmers are already using many regenerative agriculture practices, such as rotational grazing, and zero tillage, the soil scientist told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

“Let’s not delude ourselves that if we follow RA, we will improve soil health, we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality – that’s nonsense.”

Edmeades listened with interest to yesterday’s interview with Green Party co-leader James Shaw, where the Minister said regenerative agriculture would result in better profits for farmers. . . 

‘This just cannot happen’: $9.5 billion at risk as horticulture sector struggles to fill $25-an-hour jobs – Bonnie Flaws:

The shortage of horticultural workers due to Covid-19 border restrictions is putting $9.5 billion of the country’s economy at risk, says New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard.

About 10,000 seasonal workers would be needed starting from next month to prune and pick $1 billion worth of fruit across Hawke’s Bay alone, he said.

The shortage had the potential to cripple the region’s economic recovery.

“This just cannot happen.” . . 

Fonterra set to return to profit, but will it pay a dividend? – Jamie Gray:

Fonterra’s annual result this week is expected to show that the dairy giant is back in the black, but will it pay a final dividend?

The co-op last year posted a net loss of $605 million, driven mostly by writedowns of its overseas businesses, dwarfing the previous year’s shortfall of $196m, and sparking a major change in direction.

Fonterra did not pay a dividend in its previous financial year but in its latest earnings update, it said it would reassess a payout at the end of the latest year to July 31. . . 

The future of food – Greg Bruce:

Most of New Zealand’s lowland areas are now devoted to food production. How we produce food for consumption, sale and export continues to shape our landscape and lives, but the 90 per cent of New Zealanders who live in cities have little contact with those processes and the social and environmental considerations they create.

Can farmers improve yields and use resources more efficiently? Can consumers reconnect with the land and farm practices to make more informed choices and reduce waste? What is the future of our food?

THE LATE MAY EVENING my wife and I went to Coco’s Cantina for dinner, it was appallingly cold, probably the coldest night of the year. I wore a long black double-breasted wool coat, which I call ‘The Aucklander’ because it so obviously marks me as a stereotypical city person, which I am—lacking DIY skills, any sort of self-sufficiency, and any idea of what it takes to survive without a supermarket within easy driving distance. . .

Ewe’ll be seeing spots with quintuplets – Daisy Hudson:

You could be forgiven for thinking you were going dotty.

Sue Rissman certainly did when one of her ewes delivered five spotted black and white lambs on Sunday.

The quintuplets, four girls and a boy, seemed perfectly unaware of the interest in them yesterday as they trotted around after their mum on the 21ha lifestyle block Mrs Rissman and her husband, Grant, own inland from Palmerston.

The pair have 47 ewes, which have overwhelmingly delivered twins and triplets. . .

Two farming families form state of the art dairy business :

Two farming families from the Conwy Valley in Wales have gone into a partnership to run as a single state-of-the art dairy business.

The families decided to join together for a better work-life balance, more stock, less pressure and the prospect of new opportunities.

Young farmer Emyr Owen, 30, from Bodrach, near Pandy Tudur, farms in partnership with his parents on a 185-acre former beef and sheep farm.

He joined up with his next door neighbour Gwydion Jones, 38, whose family formerly farmed a herd of 150 dairy cattle at the neighbouring 95-acre Ty’n Ffynnon farm.. . 


Wrecking ball politics

18/09/2020

David Clark writes:

Over the weekend I had a phone call from a mate who lives in urban Auckland and he wanted to have a yarn about the new Green Party Agricultural Policy, that to his mind seemed logical, fair and reasonable, almost an exciting step forward, but he wanted to see the policy through the lens of a farmer as well,

I have been reflecting on his question regarding the launching of the Green Party Agricultural “Policy” trying to quantify the feeling of hopeless that I and many farmers feel.

So let’s unpack this a bit.

How our business works is we have a farm income, that is the culmination of all the stock we sell and the grain and seed crops that we grow and sell to processors as it’s eventually makes it way to your local Supermarket.

Out of that income, we pay our farm expenses, seed, fertiliser, fuel and electricity, farm supplies, and various other goods and services. Most of this expenditure benefits businesses in our local town Ashburton and across the wider Canterbury economy.

Once we have sold our produce and paid for our expenses, there is hopefully a wee bit left over, which is what most business owners refer to as their return on investment.

Last year our arable and stock farming business made a pre-tax return on total assets of 3.6%.

The Greens intend to impose a “Wealth Tax” of 2%.

That leaves us with 1.6% return on assets before we pay any Income Tax.

The Greens then plan to “charge a fair price” for the Methane burped by our sheep. I have previously heard prices of $50-$250/t of Carbon Equivalent suggested by the Greens, but let’s say at the low end of that range, our Climate Change cost just for Methane will be 1.5% of total assets.

That leaves us with 0.1%.

The Greens intend to develop a Water Charge in consultation with Iwi.

Previously the Greens have stated that charge should be 10 cents per cubic metre. David Parker publicly stated an intention for a water charge of 2 cents per cubic metre.

Here a Valetta, even at the lower charge of 2 cents per cube, the cost of watering our arable crops would be another 0.4% of total assets annually.

That leaves us making a 0.3% loss.

The Greens then want to impose a levy of fertiliser, want us to run a zero-till or minimum-till system, not sure how that works in a long term seed production system and adopt Regenerative principles.

But here’s the clanger, they intend to impose a Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) level of 1mg/litre for all waterways in NZ. Currently water flows out of DoC land at western side of Mid Canterbury at 3.2mg/l.

To meet a DIN of 1mg/l, Environment Canterbury’s own report from 2017 found that land use in the neighbouring Selwyn Te Waihora Catchment would have to revert to dryland sheep grazing.

We have budgeted that impact on this farm and it looks like this-

Crop Income, down 92%

Sheep Gross, down 62%

Expenditure, down 70%

Wages, down 91%

EBIT, down 68%

Capital Re-investment, down 74%

Net Profit, down 105%

Tax Paid, down 75%

The actual numbers are irrelevant, because the percentage drops will be seen across many or most farm businesses, regardless of size.

Of course, that is before any of the other new taxes and levies they wish for detailed above.

This conversation hasn’t even begun to touch on the significant investment in technology and infrastructure we have made in the last 15 years to reduce our environmental impact, all of which would be both unaffordable, and irrelevant because none of it will get us even close to meeting the limits the Greens wish for.

The end result of all this is we would now own a totally unviable, un-bankable business that is not much more than a glorified life style block and has no economic future in food production. The knock on impact is that land values will collapse.

My suggestion to my mate, or anyone else in urban New Zealand reading this is to enjoy and savour the standard of living that you currently enjoy, make diary notes, take photographs so that you can look back on the “good ole days” as we embark on our journey to becoming a Zimbabwe or Venezuela of the South Pacific.

It was not sensible policy announced this last weekend, it was the framework for economic destruction.

Given the catastrophic economic news released in the PERFU today, I’m not sure we can afford to take a wrecking ball to the agricultural and horticultural sectors right now.

We definitely can’t afford the wrecking ball approach to agriculture and horticulture which are two of the country’s very few bright economic bright spots and we don’t need to.

Most farmers and horticulturalists have been doing, and are continuing to do, everything they can to operate sustainably environmentally, socially and economically and they are using science to guide them in the best way of doing it.

The Green policy isn’t science based and focuses on the environment with no consideration of the enormous economic and social costs.


Rural round-up

15/09/2020

Fears for harvest as seasonal workers locked out by Covid-19

Hawke’s Bay growers are facing a serious seasonal labour shortage as the reality of Covid-19 sinks in.

The horticulture and viticulture sectors in Hawke’s Bay need about 10,000 seasonal workers to work across the region starting from next month.

They expect there will be a significant shortfall of people for the upcoming season – which will affect harvest time the most.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said if the fruit was not picked, thousands of permanent jobs would be at risk. . . 

Green Party’s agricultural policy ignores basic science:

The Green Party’s agriculture policy is based on a mistaken understanding about the environmental impact of livestock farming FARM spokesman Robin Grieve said today

James Shaw attempted to justify his Party’s policy to price livestock emissions on his belief that livestock produce half New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. The science and the facts about ruminant methane emissions do not support that.

FARM was set up to present the facts about ruminant methane and the Green Party policy demonstrates how much the facts and the science of ruminant methane emissions are missing from the political debate about global warming. . . 

Farming passion through a lens – Cheyenne Nicholson:

A love of capturing a moment in time through the lens is helping a Manawatu farmer reach her goal of 50:50 sharemilking. Cheyenne Nicholsonreports.

Six years ago Renae Flett combined her love of farming with her love of photography to create her photography business Renae Flett Agri and Events Photography.

Her photos feature in farming magazines and agricultural marketing campaigns, and she has shot several weddings, maternity shoots and everything in between.

“I love to take photos of anything farming. I love farming. It’s my passion just like photography, so being able to combine the two makes me pretty lucky, (and) it’s all grown pretty organically,” she says. . . 

 

Fonterra targets community support where it’s needed most:

Fonterra is taking a new approach to how it provides nutrition to communities, to better reach those most in need across New Zealand.

CEO Miles Hurrell says, as a New Zealand farmer owned co-op, with employees spread right across regional New Zealand, Fonterra is part of many communities.

“We’ve taken a good look at what the country is facing into, particularly in the context of COVID-19, and asked if our current way of doing things is supporting the people who need it most.

“We can see there’s a need for us to expand our thinking and take a more holistic approach that reaches more people – which is why we’re making these changes,” says Mr Hurrell. . . 

New Zealand hemp industry set to generate Hemp $2 billion per annum and create 20,000 jobs:

A new report says a fully enabled hemp industry could generate $2 billion in income for New Zealand by 2030, while also creating thousands of new jobs.

Written by industry strategist Dr Nick Marsh, the report has prompted calls from the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association (NZHIA) for the government to take the shackles off this burgeoning ‘wellness’ industry.

“We are well behind other countries in our attitude to hemp,” says NZHIA Chair, Richard Barge. “Although it is non-psychoactive, many of our current laws treat it as though it is. This report highlights just how short sighted those laws are in economic terms, and how out of step New Zealand is with the rest of the world.” . . 

Lower North Island butchers sharpen up for competition:

Butchers from across the lower North Island sharpened their knives and cut their way through a two-hour competition in the regional stages of the 2020 Alto Young Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year competition.

It was a close call, but after a fierce competition Braham Pink from Evans Bacon Company in Gisborne placed first in the Alto Young Butcher of the Year category and Jacob Wells from New World Foxton, claimed first spot in the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year category.

This was the first regional competition in a national series to find New Zealand’s top butchers to compete in a Grand Final showdown in November. The lower North Island contestants put their boning, trimming, slicing and dicing skills to the test as they broke down a size 20 chicken, a whole pork leg, and a beef short loin into a display of value-added products. . . 

 


Rural round-up

14/09/2020

Fertiliser levy for vegan fantasy would be handbrake on recovery:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Green Party’s “farming for the future” policy, which would introduce a levy on fertiliser and cost taxpayers $297,000,000 over three years to subsidise “regenerative and organic farming methods”.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Agriculture will be a key plank in New Zealand’s economic recovery. The last thing our farming sector needs is a tax on efficiency in the form of a levy on fertiliser. Fertilisers help farmers produce more with less land, limiting the impact of agriculture on our outstanding natural landscapes. The Greens should be happy about that!”

“That the revenue from this tax will be spent on promoting ‘vegan plant-based practices’ adds insult to injury. The Government should focus on allowing the economy to recover, not wasting money on trendy environmental schemes.” . . 

Nothing sustainable without profit – Sudesh Kissun:

Chair of Dairy Environment Leaders programme Melissa Slattery believes that sustainable farming is highly important to young farmers. T

he Waikato farmer believes the upcoming generation of farmers are driven to learn and adapt, just like the previous generation did for the issues of their time.

“Opportunities will evolve for the new generation farmers who understand what is and will be required in terms of sustainability on farm,” Slattery told Rural News. . . 

Work together industry told – Annette Scott:

Verified sustainable production right across supply chains is key to New Zealand beef improving its standing on the world stage, says NZ Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) chair Grant Bunting.

The results of a pilot programme conducted by NZRSB and delivered at a field day on Rangitikei Station last week are proof NZ can do it, Bunting said.

The NZRSB, formed late last year, is about beef industry stakeholders from across the supply chain working to position NZ as a leading producer of beef that is safe and produced in a way that is environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.

“We need to ensure we not only keep up with other countries, we want to be world leaders,” Bunting said. . . 

Living the dream:

Kiwi agro-ecologist Nicole Masters is living the dream, touring ranches in the United States with her horse for company.

“I love being able to integrate my two loves which are soil and horses all in one place.”

Nicole has been working in the US for seven years now, pretty much full-time for the past three years, running workshops and coaching clients on how to build soil health and optimise water cycles.

Ranging from bison farmers to winegrowers, her clients are progressive operators who are interested in food quality and improving livestock health and pasture diversity. . . 

Ben Tombs wins Tonnellerie De Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker regional competition:

Congratulations to Ben Tombs from Peregrine Wines who came first in the Tonnellerie de Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker competition held on Thursday 10th September at VinPro in Cromwell.

Ben was back to defend his title from last year so was thrilled to be again raising the cup. Last year, as he was on the Burgundy Exchange, he was unable to compete in the national final, so is extra thrilled to be heading up to Hawke’s Bay in November this year to represent Central Otago.

Congratulations also goes to Jordan Moores from Felton Road who came second and Rachel Bradley from Burn Cottage who came third. . . 

Cattle might be secret weapon in fight against wildfires, experts say. Here’s how – Katie Camero:

Evidence shows that wildfires have become more widespread and severe over the years, with the ongoing West Coast blazes bearing testament to the worrying trend.

Firefighters and farmers have tricks of their own to prevent fires from sparking and to contain them enough for successful defeat. But there might be a secret weapon that hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves.

Researchers with the University of California Cooperative Extension set out to evaluate how much fine fuel — grasses and other plants known to start fires — cattle eat and how their feeding behavior affects flame activity.

The team concluded that without cattle grazing, there would be “hundreds to thousands” of additional pounds of fine fuels per acre of land, which could lead to “larger and more severe fires.” . . 


How did we get here?

14/09/2020

For a while during lockdown farmers were feeling the love as criticism dropped and understanding and appreciation of the work we do, the food we produce and the export income we earn, grew.

The love didn’t last long and this from a Southland farmer expressed what may are feeling:

I can’t sleep

There’s a few things on my mind.

I know farmers are supposed to be resilient and just get on with things, but I’ve been chewing over the new laws our government has just passed for a wee while now.

“She’ll be right, we’ll figure it out”…

I’m just thinking how we’re going to get our balage and silage harvested. Our contractor shared a post that they can’t get specialized machine operators into the country because they aren’t considered important enough by our government. They haven’t got enough skilled operators here and will probably have to park up machinery during harvest…

If we can’t get our balage and silage harvested in a timely fashion, we won’t have enough food for our cows for the autumn and winter. The grass doesn’t grow well in the autumn and winter…

We can always feed them crop… except we can’t. Not without breaking the law…

If we graze our cows on crop over the winter, the paddock can’t have more then a 10 degree slope, we can’t leave foot prints deeper then 5cm and we must have it resewn before the 1st of November, along with several other conditions. If we can’t meet these conditions, we have to apply for a resource consent…which requires us to meet these conditions… but we can’t… our cows weigh nearly half a ton each. They’re going to leave foot prints…

We could all grass winter… but we would need a lot more silage and balage…which our contractor may not be able to harvest for us due to lack of skilled staff. It would require us to use up more of the farm over winter causing more damage to our pasture then if we were able to put in crops…

May be we just don’t worry about it, just get the crops in and carry on…business as usual. But we’d be breaking the law…

The worst thing I’ve ever done was get a speeding ticket on my way to see the midwife when I was pregnant with our second child…winter grazing is practically classed by our government as environmental terrorism.

…I’m just a farmer… trying to grow good food for people who think I’m a greedy maniac, trying to destroy the world…

We’ve worked so hard, these past years, to try to help change the face of dairy in NZ. When we converted the farm from sheep to dairy cows, we were going to be the complete opposite of “Dirty Dairy”. Water ways fenced off, nutrient budgets, farm plans, the latest effluent management equipment, all, way before it was law.

Then, a couple years ago, when all this wasn’t good enough, we upgraded again. Spending more then six figures to make sure we were “future proofed”

It’s still not enough

How do we have free range cows that don’t pee or leave footprints? We can’t build a barn, it’s insanely expensive and our cows aren’t really suited to standing on concrete for long periods. Besides what part of free range says “housed in a barn”? We can’t sell the cows, this farm is mainly suited to pasture, not crops for humans. We can’t sell the farm, it’s been in the family for nearly 150 years.

Besides, no one wants to go dairy farming…Lol, wonder why…

During lockdown, farmers were considered an essential service provider, yet rarely got mentioned. Not that we were worried about it. It’s was nice to be left alone to get with our job for a change…

Minister Parker and Minister O’Conner said when they came out with this law that they consulted with farmers and we were “happy” with these new rules.

They lied, on both counts.

How did we get here? How did we get to the point of having rules so outrageous, forced on us, that not even the top operators can figure out how to make it work?

They say it’s to bring the “laggards” up to a better standard. We must be pretty bad then, because our cows leave footprints 5.5cm deep on worked soil after a rain, sometimes more!

But hey, “we’re resilient, she’ll be right. We’ll figure it out.”
I know I usually try to see the bright side of things. I’m still farmings’ biggest cheerleader and I still back our farmers who try their best 100%. But we’re going to have to pull something out of the bag, team. I just haven’t worked it out… yet…

might have a glass of milk and try to sleep…

This was written before the Green Party released its agriculture policy which proposes to make farming even harder:

The Green Party’s agriculture policy is another slap in the face to Kiwi farmers at a time when we should be focused on growing our primary sector, National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“Their nitrogen reduction limits are madness and would kill off dairying as we know it across the country.

“We are facing the worst economic downturn in 160 years and agriculture will lead our post-Covid recovery. With more than 220,000 people on unemployment benefits now is not the time to be putting the brakes on this still-functioning export industry.

“The Greens’ policy is yet another assault on Kiwi farmers after the Labour-led Government hit them with freshwater reforms that, in some cases, are unworkable and will shackle their ability to innovate while piling costs on to a sector that is vitally important to our country.

“National supports having cleaner waterways in New Zealand but we think there are smarter ways to achieve this. We have to back farmers to farm their way to better outcomes. They must see a pathway to improve while being profitable.

“Unlike Labour, National will work with farmers rather than against them.”

The farmer asked how did we get here?

The answer is through politics and politicians who don’t understand farming, its importance to the economic and social fabric of the country and the effort farmers have, and continue to, put into doing all they can to leave a much, much smaller environmental footprint.

And the answer?

It will take a change of government to get that.


They’re Reds not Greens

12/09/2020

More proof for the contention that the Greens are really Reds:


Science when it suits

01/09/2020

Federated Farmers is pleased the Green Party has called for us all to embrace science:

Federated Farmers couldn’t agree more with the call from the Green Party today that science should guide the policies and decisions of MPs.  

“They issued the challenge in relation to the recent positive COVID-19 cases in Auckland but as a party that should be interested in consistency and logic, we look forward to the Greens also applying this ‘listen to the science’ principle to issues such as genetic engineering technologies and methane emissions,” Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard says.  

In a press statement headlined ‘Greens call for continued commitment to science from political leaders’, co-leader James Shaw said in the wake of the new cases of COVID-19 from community transmission “… now is the time to band together as a country, be directed by the science, and back good decision making”.    

Policy should be backed by science and that should support good decision making all the time, not just in relation to Covid-19.

This is spot on,” Andrew said.  “Science also tells us that unlike the long-lived greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, biological methane from New Zealand’s farmed livestock does not need to be reduced to net zero to have no additional effect on global warming. 

“A reduction of 10-22% by 2050 is sufficient, yet the  climate change legislation put in place by the government has a much harsher, non-science based target which will only add extra significant economic costs and undermine the competitiveness of our meat and dairy in the international market.”  

Environment Commission Simon Upton told the government that forestry could be used to offset biological methane but not emissions from fossil fuels and Shaw ignored him.

The Greens have been similarly science obtuse in relation to GE.  

“Gene editing technologies have huge potential in our fight to be predator-free, to deal with pest plants such as wilding pines, and to develop new types of grasses that will lead to ruminant animals emitting less methane. But the Greens appear to have had a closed mind on GE, despite scientists such as Sir Peter Gluckman endorsing the need to debate and embrace these technologies,” Andrew said. 

The opportunity cost of New Zealand’s stubborn policy toward GE will only increase as the exciting technology continues to mature, leaving New Zealand worse off and offering an increasing competitive advantage to other countries. 

Opposition to GE is usually based on emotion not science.

All we are asking is that consumers and producers are empowered to make their own decisions on the technology, rather than being hamstrung by restrictive regulations that ignore the best available science. 

 “The Greens’ new professed enthusiasm to be guided by science is most welcome,” Andrew said. 

If only the Greens acted on Shaw’s call. Unfortunately the party only supports science when it suits it.


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