Pravda Project at work

01/10/2021

Is the media biased?

I can understand reluctance to give any oxygen to conspiracy theories, but it is possible to write a story on this extraordinary response without doing that.

 

Could the reluctance to report this have anything to do with the Public Interest Journalism Fund which Karl du Fresne calls the Pravda Project.

. . . Judith Collins and David Seymour were putting the heat on Jacinda Ardern over Labour’s so-called Public Interest Journalism Fund. Collins wanted to know whether the fund – applicants for which must commit to Treaty principles and support for te reo, among other things – was influencing the editorial decisions of media outlets. Seymour more pointedly asked what would happen to a media outlet that had accepted money from the fund but wanted to report something deemed inconsistent with Treaty principles.

Ardern brushed off the questions as if they weren’t worthy of an answer, but that’s by the bye. What interests me is whether the exchange in the House was reported by any media outlet that has accepted, or has its hand out for, money from the fund.

This highlights another potentially disturbing and insidious aspect of the media slush fund. Can we expect mainstream media outlets to report criticism of the fund or possible revelations and concerns about its misuse, or will that be left to independent journalists such as Adams?  

You see what’s happening here? I’m already wondering whether the media are choosing to ignore stories about the fund that might not reflect favourably on it or them. The mere fact that it’s necessary to ask this question shows how media companies compromise their credibility by accepting money from a highly politicised government agency.  

Incidentally, “Public Interest Journalism Fund” strikes me as a bit of a mouthful, and time-consuming to type, besides. So I’m giving it a shorter, punchier name: the Pravda Project, after the old Soviet Union’s esteemed official press organ, on the assumption that the PIJF will exhibit the same fearless independence and unstinting commitment to the truth. 

Michael Basset has similar concerns:

. . . The availability of money, coupled with a completely absent sense of constitutional propriety, appear to offer the divine intervention Ardern and Robertson need going forward. Their gig is to bribe the media in the run-up to the next election in the hope that they will save Labour. This is happening in two ways. First, the direct distribution of cash from the Public Interest Journalism Fund aimed at keeping the media on side until the next election. All the big daily papers have dipped into it already, and applications are now open for a further swag of taxpayer money. The second way the government is trying to keep the media on side is by over-paying them for printing the masses of Covid announcements. I’m reliably informed that the government negotiated none of the regular discounts available to those who advertise on a grand scale in newspapers and TV. The expectation is that none of the media greedies will bite the government hand that feeds them. Or not very hard.

If my information is correct, it is corruption, pure and simple. In normal circumstances there would be rebellion. But in the topsy-turvy world of this pandemic, I’m not sure that anyone any longer cares much about constitutional propriety.

Privately owned media has a lot more leeway in what it chooses to report and how it reports it.

But publicly owned media has a much greater responsibility to be balanced and fair.

Regardless of whether its privately owned or publicly, the Pravda Project makes it look like the media is softer on the government and harder on the opposition which leads it wide open to accusations of bias.


Kindness to theirs not ours

30/09/2021

The litany of woes from people trying to cross Auckland’s boundaries grows by the day.

A Rotorua father faces the prospect of missing the birth of his triplets after his application for an exemption to get through Auckland’s southern border was denied.

The rejection letter leaves Kevin Acutt forced to pick earning a living for his family over one of the most significant moments of his life.

His wife Amber went into premature labour during the nationwide alert level 4 lockdown last month – just 23 weeks into her pregnancy – but staff at Waikato Hospital were able to put a stop to her contractions.

Since then, she’s been having regular scans at Auckland City Hospital’s maternal foetal medicine unit – and last Friday she was admitted there permanently as she requires close monitoring for abnormal umbilical cord flow.

Currently, the triplets are in a stable condition – but the couple have been advised it’s still a high-risk pregnancy, and things could change at any moment.

If one of them takes a turn for the worse, it’ll prompt an emergency procedure requiring swift removal of the babies, and likely the need to promptly resuscitate them. . . 

He is in Auckland with his wife but has to return to his job on Monday.

“We’ve fallen into a category that doesn’t really exist at the moment, because you can go to appointments as a support person, but our appointment has turned into a whole ‘however long she might be’,” he told Newshub. . . 

He’s asking the ministry to show humanity.

“What’s the point? What are we doing this whole COVID lockdown thing for? It’s for the people, it’s for humanity. But what’s the point, if we’re going to lose our humanity along the way?” he said.

“We’re stopping people from burying the dead, from witnessing the birth of new life. What’s the point of carrying on if we’re going to stop doing that?” . . .

It’s not only stopping people at the city boundary where humanity is lacking, there’s a growing problem at the border. Claire Trevett says MIQ is a debacle that has made mincemeat of the promise Kiwis could always come home:

If there was one thing Sir John Key was right about in his critique of the Government’s response to Covid-19, it was his assessment that the MIQ system has become a national embarrassment.

For all the successes in the Government’s handling of Covid-19, there have been failings and the ongoing bottleneck that is the MIQ system is one of them.

MIQ has been largely effective in one of its two core purposes: keeping Covid-19 out.

But its other core purpose was to let New Zealanders come in. The extent to which it is keeping New Zealanders out has now reached an inexcusable level.

It falls well short of the Jacinda Ardern’s promise that, no matter what else happened, New Zealanders would always be able to come back.

The latest draw for MIQ slots highlighted that in the process of trying to make the MIQ booking system fairer, it has done the opposite. It has also been very bad PR for the Government.

The new ‘virtual lobby’ system in which people are randomly selected for places in the queue for rooms makes it abundantly clear just how much the demand is outstripping the supply. . . 

MIQ has become an MIQueue that has left people stuck in other countries without jobs, without homes and with the threat of losing their pensions.

The Government’s response has partly consisted of blaming people for not returning earlier – for not coming, say, in June last year when there were vacancies in MIQ, or for not coming back from Australia when the bubble was open, or for going overseas at all.

That is not good enough. The Government showed it was capable of quick action when it ramped up the vaccines rollout after the Delta outbreak. But it has failed to deliver the same urgency on MIQ.

The delays and uncertainty have flow-on effects.

This week, it was pensioners overseas who were concerned they would not be able to get back within the 30 week window after which their pensions would be halted.

The Ministry of Social Development’s response bordered on heartless:

“Closure of the travel bubble with Australia, other flight limitations due to Covid and difficulty securing a spot in MIQ, were all reasonably foreseeable before departure for anyone who left New Zealand within the past 30 weeks.” . . 

The return of Covid-19 was more than reasonably forseeable, it was inevitable but the government was prepared for that.

Had it been, we’d have had a vaccine rollout not a strollout, testing and tracing would have been much faster and any lockdown would have been shorter, or possibly unnecessary.

The MIQ system was put together in a hurry because it had to be. It was a blunt instrument and it has also been effective. It was not expected then that it would be needed for so long.

But it has not evolved since then. In fact, it seems to have gotten worse – and the downstream consequences have compounded: it is not only New Zealanders trying to get in that are suffering.

It has caused backlogs in immigration and severe worker shortages in many sectors.

That was excusable for a while, but it has dragged on and on and things have hit pressure-cooker levels. . . 

It is no longer excusable. New Zealanders overseas have a right to come home and people here have a right to leave the country without the fear they won’t be able to come back.

Remember the tongue lashing Jacinda Ardern gave Scott Morrison about the way Australia treated illegal immigrants?

She was demanding he show kindness to the people who had become their problem but she, her government and bureaucrats are showing none to our own people.


Clarke and Dawe

27/09/2021

Oh dear, the green’s great Greta isn’t happy with our our Prime Minister.

Greta Thunberg, the originator of the global School Strike for Climate movement, has taken a fresh swipe at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for a lack of action over climate change. . . 

“It’s funny that people believe Jacinda Ardern and people like that are climate leaders. That just tells you how little people know about the climate crisis.” . . .

Apropos of which:


Spitting Image

23/09/2021


Rural round-up

21/09/2021

Down on the Farm – Paul Gorman:

Rural life has always had its challenges, but environmental politics and the complexities of modern farming have brought new pressures. For some, the load becomes too much to carry.

When he was a kid, Sam Spencer-Bower used to help out his grandfather Marmaduke in his massive vegetable garden, just across from the farm cottage where he lived with his parents. He didn’t realise at the time that his grandad was something of a legend in Canterbury farming. His family had worked on this land ever since great-great-grandfather Marmaduke Dixon came from Claxby in Lincolnshire and in 1852 established a large farm in North Canterbury, near the gravelly north bank of the Waimakariri River.

In fact, Marmaduke Dixon was one of the first in New Zealand to irrigate his land, initiating flood irrigation from the Waimakariri before 1900. Sam’s grandfather, Marmaduke Spencer-Bower, farmed the land until he was about 95 and wrote a book about the farm and Marmaduke Dixon’s legacy. In other words, Sam Spencer-Bower — middle name Marmaduke — had a lot to live up to.

By the time his grandfather died at the age of 98, Spencer-Bower was already well on the road to taking over the fifth-generation family farm. He was studying for a degree in farm management at Lincoln University. That’s where he met his wife, Jo, who was herself from a sixth-generation farming family (her brother is former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw). At the time, Jo recalls, she liked the fact that Sam had a “sensitive side”, that he was “not a big showman”. . .

Flood fund criteria way off the mark :

Nearly four months on from the floods that devastated much of rural Canterbury, the Government has fallen short of the promises it made to local farmers, says National MP Nicola Grigg.

“Jacinda Ardern and Damien O’Connor flew into Ashburton with cameras rolling to announce a $4 million Canterbury Flood Recovery Fund – indicating that it was just a start, that they were still working to establish the full scale and cost of the damage – and that there would be more where that came from,” says Grigg who is MP for Selwyn.

She says the fund offers grants of up to 50% of eligible costs with a total limit of $250,000 and will contribute to uninsurable costs to enable productive land to return to a productive state as quickly as possible.

“Essentially, it can only be used for the clearing up of flood debris such as boulders, gravel, trees, and silt on productive land. Insurable costs, such as replacing fences, have not been targeted by the fund.” . .

Farmers weigh weather impact across islands – Neal Wallace & Colin Willscroft:

A wet spring is proving a major challenge for southern South Island farmers, causing sleepy sickness, forcing dairy farmers to milk once-a-day, feed out supplements or stand cows off paddocks.

While annual rainfall is about average, the pattern in which has fallen, with up to 85mm already falling this month, is causing sodden ground conditions, especially on the Southland coast

Otago Federated Farmers meat and wool section chair and Clinton farmer Logan Wallace says a dry autumn meant he went into winter with low pasture cover, which required his hoggets to be sent to grazing. He says much of South Otago is similarly short of feed.

He applied urea, which provided a brief respite before a recent cold snap reduced its effectiveness, and recorded more than 75mm of rain in the week to the middle of September, equivalent to that month’s average rainfall. . . 

Paddocks ablaze with colour as sales plummet for daffodils – Country Life:

Sweep into Clandon Daffodil’s driveway on the outskirts of Hamilton you’ll be treated to an unusually vibrant spectacle.

This year, because of Covid-19 restrictions tens of thousands of unpicked daffodils are dancing in the paddock, unable to be sent to Auckland’s flower market.

Clandon is one of New Zealand’s biggest daffodil growers and owner Ian Riddell says Auckland usually takes three quarters of its daffodils.

“We’re getting plenty of comments from people who come in and are saying ‘wow it’s amazing’…It certainly is a sight. It probably won’t happen again. . . 

Call for SI specific residency visa – Neal Wallace:

An immigration adviser is calling for a rethink on how long-term migrant workers are treated, saying up to 6000 in the South Island face an uncertain future.

Ashburton-based Maria Jimenez says these migrants are employed in healthcare, hospitals, construction and agriculture and have an expectation they could apply for residency after meeting work criteria.

Because of covid’s impact on the immigration office, the Government suspended Expressions of Interest (EOI) selections for the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) last year, closing a pathway to residency for many migrants.

The Government is also resetting immigration policy in a move to reduce the reliance on imported workers. . . 

Public back gene-editing tech as climate worries rise :

The public want farmers to have access to new precision breeding techniques such as gene-editing to respond better to climate change, a new survey says.

It indicates rising concern about the environment following a summer of droughts and heat waves, including the hottest temperatures recorded in Europe since records began.

The YouGov survey of over 2,000 adults, carried out on behalf of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, shows public enthusiasm for new approaches to farming in light of these extremes.

The majority of those surveyed (81%) agreed that farmers should be able to benefit from innovations that could help them play their role in meeting the UK goal of reaching net-zero by 2050. . . 


Democracy locked down

25/08/2021

MPs are regarded as essential workers but the Prime Minister has decreed that parliament won’t sit:

The Prime Minister has advised me that she is unilaterally suspending parliament, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“I have expressed that a one week suspension of Parliament is all the National Party will support. However, the Prime Minister has indicated that she expects it will continue longer than that.

“At a time when New Zealanders have the harshest lockdown in the world and have lost our freedoms because of the Government’s failure to vaccinate and secure the border, this move by Jacinda Ardern is unfathomable.

“Look around the world and you will see parliaments managing to continue to function despite challenging circumstances. In the UK they operated virtually for almost a year.  

No-one is suggesting all 120 MPs gather for business as usual but there are alternatives.

Just a few weeks ago the PM chaired an international meeting of APEC virtually. If it’s possible to do that, it’s possible to have a virtual parliament.

“There are important questions that need to be asked as to how Delta got into New Zealand. Suspending Parliament means the Government avoids this scrutiny.

“As Leader of the Opposition I will be reaching out to the ACT and Māori Parties to establish how best we can prevent this shut down of democracy at the very moment we need it the most.

“Additionally, Labour have resisted all calls for the recommencement of the Epidemic Response Committee. Jacinda Ardern clearly thinks that her actions and the actions of her Government should be beyond reproach and is moving to ensure that is the case.

“This is unacceptable and an overreach of power. It leaves New Zealanders with no ability to demand accountability and transparency from the Government.

“Clearly, despite her assurances to govern for all New Zealanders, Jacinda Ardern is unwilling to be accountable to them.

“The National Party will lead the Opposition to demand democracy is retained during this time of crisis. New Zealand cannot and will not become a one-party dictatorship.”

Heather du Plessis Allan is disappointed in the Prime Minister for refusing to allow the opposition the chance to properly scrutinise this lockdown and her decisions about it. 

. . . But there is no reason to refuse permission to set up the epidemic response select committee like Simon Bridges did back in the last level four lockdown. 

That was done via zoom. No one needs to travel. No one needs to congregate. It’s completely safe. 

Yet, it would allow the opposition to control who gets called in to answer questions, who gets to ask questions, and how long questioners get during that select committee. 

It is simply not comparable or good enough to rely on a bunch of existing select committees with labour MPs in charge. 

Especially when the health select committee, arguably the most important one right now, is chaired by the hapless Liz Craig who, along with other labour MPs on that committee, has been so hell bent on wasting time and frustrating Chris Bishop from being able to ask questions that she ended up reprimanded by her own teammate Trevor Mallard.  Does that fill you with confidence?   . .

Day by day as this government shows it hasn’t learned from past mistakes I have less and less confidence in anything it says or does.

The Prime Minister doesn’t need to hog all the media space. 

She already gets up to an hour a day any day she likes beaming straight into Kiwi’s lounge rooms. 

She already gets to pick and choose which media outlets she goes on in a bid to avoid hard questions. 

When she stops meetings from taking place via zoom It goes beyond a health-based decision and becomes a political decision. 

She is playing politics here while she pretends to rise above that. 

It is impossible to respect this decision and her for making it. 

Select Committees are sitting but they are chaired, and dominated, by government MPs. That makes them a very poor second to the Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) that operated so successfully last year.

One extra week of parliament not sitting might be excused but locking down democracy for more than this week without the ERC being reconvened or a virtual sitting of parliament would be an abuse of power.


Foreseen consequences

12/08/2021

All but two sectors recorded reductions in emissions in the year to March and guess which ones went up:

“The year to March 2021 was one of significant upheaval for our economy and society, and that has flowed through to our greenhouse gas emissions,” environmental economic accounts manager Stephen Oakley said.

“In the last year, we’ve seen both the largest annual decrease on record and the most volatile quarterly movements in emissions.” . .

“Electricity, gas, water, and waste services emissions were up due to the greater reliance on fossil fuel use for electricity generation over the year, as New Zealand experienced dry conditions in hydro-generation areas,” Mr Oakley said. . .

The increase in energy emissions was a foreseen consequence of government policy.

They were warned that killing of domestic gas and coal production with no plan for transmission to renewable energy would result in the need to import coal and that’s what’s happened.

The  policy that was supposed to reduce emissions has led to an increase:

I completely agree with the Energy Minister Megan Woods and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in their assessment of the blackouts on Monday as ‘not good enough,’ National’s Energy and Resources spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

“It is a pity Labour is committed to proportioning blame to everyone but themselves. As the Energy Minister, the buck stops with you. New Zealanders need to know that they will not be left without electricity on the coldest night of the year.

“Wages aren’t the only thing Labour is freezing. The power outages left many families with no other way to warm their homes. This Government has, after all, told us that wood burners are bad news for the environment.

“This whole incident reveals the weakness in the Labour’s impractical target of 100 per cent renewable electricity and the spur of the moment gas exploration ban issued by Jacinda Ardern last term.

“We have been importing millions of tonnes of Indonesian coal in order to keep our power sources going instead of using our own natural resources and employing a gradual step down from fossil fuels. . . 

The gas ban was virtue signaling greenwash at its worst.

The damage was not just to the environment but to the whole nuclear moment rhetoric with the reaction to this week’s black out by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Energy Minister Megan Woods. Climate change policy was nowhere to be seen when they were asking why energy companies weren’t burning more coal.

And that is how it will be – keeping the lights on, homes warm and manufacturing going now will always be more important than a cleaner, greener world tomorrow.


Submit for free speech

05/08/2021

Vague law is bad law and the proposed legislation on hate speech is very, very vague.

Any speech that intends to excite hostility or ill-will against, or bring into contempt or ridicule, any group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins, sex, marital status is already illegal and covered under the Human Rights Act.

The Free Speech Union briefing paper on proposed legislation spells out the dangers of extending that :

It is impossible to provide statutory protection for every group in society. The Government hasn’t specified which groups they think should be added to protected lists, saying they want the public to decide on that, yet they have referred to the classes of people protected against workplace discrimination – including sex, marital status, religious belief, ethical belief, race, and political opinion.

Blasphemy has only recently been removed as an offence under the law but the government wants to protect religious belief.

Neither Minister Faafoi nor Prime Minister Ardern would clearly exclude political opinion from protection. If included as a protected group, people could be imprisoned for insulting others’ political beliefs, and so the essence of our democracy and free and frank debate would be undermined.

Are we to be no freer than North Korea to debate politics, disagree with political views and poke the borax at politicians?

While bigoted and resentful opinions are perhaps widely considered indefensible or condemnable, that does not mean they should be made
illegal. Belonging to a particular group within society should not privilege individuals or remove the rights of others to hold opinions, whatever they may be, concerning that group. What does it say of certain groups, when they are given particular legal protection? What does it say of others when they are not? Who gets to decide/ re-decide/re-decide again, as
our country continues to change? Increasing the number of groups specifically protected under hate speech law is a fool’s errand, which will never cover enough groups but always cover too many groups, depending on who you ask.

It is entirely unclear how these laws would be applied in competing cases. For example, would a fundamentalist religious aherent’s expressed views on homosexuality, and the Rainbow Community’s response to that religion be equally “hateful”? Do those sentenced then have to share a cell for up to three years?

The “hate speech” law in the United Kingdom, on which the proposed New Zealand legislation is based, has a special section which explicitly states that “…discussion, criticism, or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents…” is exempt from the law. Troublingly, there is no such provision considered by our lawmakers at present.

The proposed changes seek to move the current law from
the Human Rights Act into the Crimes Act. This may sound like a technicality, but it means that Police and courts will be charged with defining “hate speech” and deciding where the line is.

It will see the courts recognise Parliament’s intention for this law to have a more active role in our country, despite the ambiguities related to how it should be applied.

“Hate speech” legislation has always existed outside of the Crimes Act because of the difficulties in defining hate. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice have been unable to clearly state where the line is. This is an irresponsible way to legislate, and once again reveals the fraught nature of these proposals. For a law to be legitimate, the people it regulates must be able to clearly see what it allows and what it prohibits.

In the past, actions have been illegal. Thought has been considered relevant only to the extent that there is demonstrable, objective evidence to speak to an individual’s intent. However, now sharing your thoughts with others (if they could be interpreted as ‘maintaining or normalising hatred’) could be illegal, absent any action. What you think may become illegal. . . 

The dangerous path down which the proposed legislation would lead police can be seen here:

STREET PREACHING NZ posted a video to the social media platform in July which shows them being approached by a police officer on Karangahape Road.

In the video, the officer tells them “there is a difference between preaching and hate speech and you are very close to crossing the line”.

But the group argued they were only preaching and in fact, the people who had called the police on them had threatened their group.

“These people actually came up and assaulted us,” one member said.

“They have threatened to kill us, they have threatened to beat up these guys and say that we are preaching hate.”

But the police officer responds: “What you guys are saying is very subjective and saying it to people up here could be taken… in a way likely to incite violence, okay?” . . 

Okay?

Without knowing exactly what the people in the group had said we can’t know whether or not it was okay, but the report doesn’t show the officer making any attempt to find out.

If this happens under existing law, it would be much worse under the proposed legislation.

More than 10,000 people have already submitted against the proposed ‘hate speech’ changes:

The Kiwi public has responded loud and clear to the Government’s questions raised in the consultation document on proposed hate speech changes: they don’t want the Government policing their speech, says Jonathan Ayling, Campaign Manager for the Free Speech Union.

More than 10,000 kiwis have submitted to the Ministry of Justice, claiming the ambiguous, unworkable changes amount to an overreach by the Government into our civil liberties. Engagement like this at the consultation phase shows how strongly New Zealander’s feel, and the threat they see to their freedoms in these changes. That us why these changes shouldn’t go forward.

“The website created to facilitate submissions to the Ministry of Justice on this issue, www.FreeSpeechSubmission.com, went live on 17, July, and in a little-over-two-weeks, we have had an overwhelming response from the public endorsingthe submission of the Free Speech Union, and submitting their own views.

“In particular we are encouraged by the huge quantity of feedback from minority communities pointing out that anti-speech laws are far more likely to damage rather than protect social cohesion.”

“Ministers’ inability to to explain what would be criminalised under these proposals reveals the danger they pose to free speech. Vague intention is an irresponsible way to legislate. The Government should listen to the public, and drop these proposed reforms.”

The signatories to this open letter show this is not a left vs right political issue.

It is a matter or right vs wrong ; freedom vs unwarranted restriction, democracy vs dictatorship.

If you haven’t already submitted the link above can help you.

 

 


Who’s standing up for farmers?

30/07/2021

This is funny:

. . . after 20 years of nuking our taste buds with bread that’s mostly sugar, Ronald McDonald’s special sauce, chicken vindaloo, deep-fried chicken and crisps made from artificially flavoured carpet underlay, most of us could not tell a beautiful piece of prime beef from a Walnut Whip.

This is not:

. . . Right. So one day you’re in the supermarket and in front of you are two legs of lamb. One is from the UK and costs £20 and one is from New Zealand and costs £15. So that’s an easy choice. You buy the one from down under. Lovely.

But it isn’t lovely, because animals farmed in New Zealand and America and China and Brazil and Canada and Australia — with which Boris has just done a much-trumpeted trade deal — do not have anything like the happy lives enjoyed by the animals farmed here. . . 

Both come from the pen of Jeremy Clarkson writing in The Times on why the UK should be proud of its animal welfare.

He might be right about that but he’s wrong that New Zealand standards for animal welfare aren’t at least as high as those in the UK.

Ironically that is partly due to the need to meet standards imposed to give access to the UK market when it entered the EU.

But more than anything it is because we’re very good farmers and very good farmers know that animal welfare is paramount.

The Listener has caught up with Clarkson’s criticism and in its editorial (not online) asks: who would we rather have tell the world about New Zealand produce – Jeremy Clarkson of our own government?

Britain’s RSPCA welcomed the trade negotiations, stressing New Zealand alone among the UK’s potential free trade partners has animal welfare standards as good as, and in some cases, better than Britain’s.

But did our Government speak up in our farmers’ defence on animal welfare? Did it point out that this country is also head-and-shoulders the most sustainable producer of dairy and meat – even counting air miles after export to the northern hemisphere? Not a word.

Nor has it ever thanked agriculture for agreeing to arguably disproportionate methane-reduction goals because of the lack of progress on – mostly urban-generated – carbon emissions.

It’s this sense of abandonment and blame that sent farmers with placards to more than 50 towns and cities last week as much as the undeniable burden of new restrictions and compliance obligations they face.

Yes. This government, at least as much as its predecessor in the mid to late 1980s, doesn’t understand farming nor does it champion it. The policies of the 80s were necessary, based on sound economics, and have led to better outcomes. Much current policy is unnecessary, based on political ideology not economics or science and will lead to perverse outcomes.

The government has been damagingly remiss in declining to champion the global competitiveness of this country’s meant and dairy sector. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had unprecedented global attention, not least for climate advocacy, yet rarely, if ever, has she talked overseas of this economy’s most outstanding sustainability story. As we approach new trade negotiations with the European Union, the United States and Britain, that environmental prowess has never been more relevant. Yet how can we sell our products to other countries’ populations if even our own citizens are under the misapprehension we willfully produce every emissions? . . 

 Farmers here have been doing a lot to improve environmental practices and doing it for some time. But government policies and dictates give no indication they understand or appreciate that.

Urban New Zealander should be encouraged to take pride in the progress the majority of the farm sector is making. Townies are not subject to a fraction of the individual accountability required from farmers for landfill, emissions and water use. . . 

The generally positive response to the Groundswell protests indicates that many urban people do understand and respect what farmers are doing.

It’s a pity the government doesn’t show it has nearly such a positive view and that it is failing to champion farming on the world stage.

 


Plea to learn from history

28/07/2021

Jamie Mackay has written an open letter to the PM with a plea that she learns from her party’s history:

Dear Jacinda,

I’m writing on behalf of New Zealand farmers. . . 

Like you, I was sceptical about the Groundswell protests. But perhaps unlike you, I was taken aback by the scale and unity on show, by the noise made by the silent majority.

Farmers are sometimes chastised for claiming to be the backbone of the economy. I would argue that, these days as our biggest export earner by a country mile, that’s a fair claim, especially with the demise of tourism in the short-to-medium term.

But in reality farmers are a subset of the SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) that are the engine of our economy. And that could be the small engineering business employing a dozen workers or your local cafe owner working 70 hours a week.

And the problems that threaten to handicap farmers will have an adverse impact on all those other SMEs that service and supply them.

Groundswell targeted seven pillars of protest. The ute tax was seventh on that list and a convenient calling card to hang a protest hat on. In reality Groundswell was all about the pace of change and the tsunami of regulation hitting, not only farmers, but all SMEs and the productive sector.

So Jacinda, what I’m asking on behalf of farmers is that you look to history for a solution to getting farmers on board to combat the undeniable (sorry CC deniers) threat GHG emissions pose to our planet.

As a keen student of politics, and the history of your own political party, you’ll know all about the biggest economic reforms this country has ever undertaken.

While Michael Joseph Savage and his 1930s formation of the welfare state was right up there, I would argue that the transformative 1980s David Lange-Roger Douglas Government takes the cake. That was until Lange lost his nerve, stopped for a cup of tea, and choked on the cake.

Rogernomics gutted provincial New Zealand. Farming was seen as a sunset industry. Who needed pitch-fork wielding hayseeds on the land when you could invest in Brierley shares? I don’t need to remind you how that ended in tears.

Yet history proves Douglas was a visionary and the man most responsible for where New Zealand agriculture finds itself now – as the most sustainable farming nation on Earth.

Rob Muldoon had taken our country into a death-spiral of interventionism and unsustainable subsidies.

The seeds of the problems that Douglas had to solve were planted over several years. The current government is replanting some of those bad seeds.

Douglas could see there was no future in farm subsidies. So we went cold turkey, almost overnight. Too hard, too early! The collateral damage was huge and the cost horrendous to provincial New Zealand. The cure was worse than the disease. Yet Douglas was right. Only his timeframe was wrong.

And herein, Jacinda, lies the history lesson. Transformation is like Rachel Hunter’s hair. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

It is already happening but problems which developed over years can’t be solved overnight.

By all means, incentivise a transformation to lower emission vehicles. But don’t penalise the productive sector, until you have a realistic, practical and “legitimate” alternative.

By all means, incentivise cleaning up our waterways. But recognise farmers who have spent hundreds of thousands of their own money on fencing off waterways, riparian planting and restoring wetlands. And hold urban New Zealand to equal account.

By all means, incentivise the reduction of methane emissions from ruminant livestock. But let’s look to science for the answer such as methane vaccines and new pasture species rather than the sledgehammer of an arbitrary 15 per cent reduction in livestock numbers.

And by all means, use your undeniable profile on the world stage to petition the world’s worst emitters, China, the USA and India to get their collective [green]houses in order. Don’t sacrifice New Zealand and its economy on the altar of climate change.

So Jacinda, to quote from that iconic Aussie movie The Castle, it’s all about the “vibe”. Farmers get the vibe, agree on the end-point but would question the timeframe as to how we get there.

Learn from Rogernomics. Be on the right side of history on this one. Take farmers with you. Be kind. Our collective provincial plea to our PM is; we want Ohakune carrot, not Wellington stick!

Yours faithfully,

Jamie.

Most agree with the goals but many disagree not just with the timeframe but the way the policies are being imposed by people in Wellington dealing with theory rather than working with the people on the ground who understand the practice.

Rather than looking at what’s working and using that as a model to help the laggards follow suit, the government is doing to farmers what it’s done to polytechnics and is threatening to do with three waters.

It’s going for central control and the pace at which it’s trying to impose it is, as Jamie points out, ignoring the mistakes of its own history.


Rural round-up

27/07/2021

Opportunity obscured by rules – Bryan Gibson:

Farmers across the country descended on towns and cities on Friday to protest against the raft of reforms they say unfairly target their livelihoods.

When asked about the protests last week, the Prime Minister agreed that reform was coming thick and fast and that it was a challenging time for those working in the primary industries.

But she maintained that transforming our economy to limit climate change and environmental degradation would only get harder the longer it was left.

That may be true, but what is also true is that if a sector of society feels that its only way forward is to take to the streets, then there’s been a failure of communication and leadership. . .

Buller farmers in recovery mode – Peter Burke:

With calving just a few weeks away, farmers in the Buller district are now busy repairing damage to their properties.

The recent floods caused stock losses, ruined pasture and damaged sheds and tracks on about a dozen farms in the district.

This latest flood is being described as the worst anyone in  Westport has seen in their lifetime but most of the damage is in the town rather than in the rural areas. . .

Labour’s immigration policy could do lasting damage to the Pacific – John Roughan:

Next Sunday Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to make another of those nauseating apologies for the past, this time for the “dawn raids” against suspected overstayers from the Pacific Islands that happened a few years before she was born.

It’s not just the assumed moral superiority of the present that always gets up my nose, it’s also the injustice to people now dead and unable to speak for themselves. It makes me wonder what apologies the future might make for things governments are doing now.

One potentially regrettable project is particularly ironic. The Prime Minister who will apologise for the dawn raids next weekend is presiding over an immigration “reset” that could do far more lasting damage to the Pacific Islands than the clumsy policing their New Zealand expats suffered in the 1970s.

It surprises me that a Labour Government takes a dim view of seasonal work that enables Pacific Islanders to come here and earn some good money picking fruit for a few months. In a recent TVNZ item on our travel bubble with the Cook Islands we heard people there lamenting the loss of their younger people migrating permanently to New Zealand. . .

Spring Seep wins at Dairy Innovation Award – Gerald Piddock:

Spring Sheep Milk has beaten global giants Nestle and China Feihe to win the best infant nutrition category product at the World Dairy Innovation Awards.

The company won the category with its Gentle Sheep infant milk drink, beating Wyeth Nutrition, which is owned by Nestle, Chinese infant formula giant China Feihe and Blueriver Nutrition Co.

Spring Sheep’s general manager of milk supply Thomas Macdonald says they are proud of the achievement.

“They are some pretty big names playing in the infant space globally and a sheep milking company from New Zealand managed to beat them. It also validates the consumer story,” Macdonald said. . .

Direct drilling no-till system good – Shawn McAvinue:

Southern growers featured at the Federated Farmers Arable Industry Awards in Christchurch earlier this month. Shawn McAvinue talks to them about their mixed cropping operations.

The Horrell family has been cropping for five generations in Northern Southland and the future is looking bright.

Grain Grower of the Year winner Morgan Horrell said his great-great-grandfather started the farm in the 1860s.

The chances of his children — Zara (23), Jake (21), Sam (14) and Dan (12) — continuing on for a sixth generation was looking good.

“Sam’s driving tractors already.” . .

New grain legume varieties a step closer to commercial use:

Plant Research (NZ) Ltd is a New Zealand based R&D company specialising in the development of new grain legume varieties.

This summer, the company enters the final stages of development and multiplication of chickpea and soy varieties developed specifically for New Zealand’s maritime environment.

Managing Director and Principal Plant Breeder Adrian Russell says his team have worked through a large number of potential genetics from both programmes to identify varieties that are adapted to our unique environment and have functional traits for product development in the plant protein space. . .

The Golden Goose: Farmer’s poem for Jacinda Ardern – Graeme Williams:

Inspired by the Howl of a Protest last week and concerned with government regulations on the rural sector, East Coast farmer and bush poet Graeme Williams has put pen to paper in a plea to Jacinda Ardern to look out for farmers. He shared his poem, The Golden Goose, with The Country today.

The Golden Goose, by Graeme Williams

Dear Aunty Jacinda,
A moment if I may,
A response I think is needed,
To the protest the other day.

Farmers are generally too busy,
To rally and cause a stink,
But their overwhelming response,
Must have made you stop and think. . .


Look, listen and learn

21/07/2021

Has Groundswell become the Prime Minister’s Voldemort?:

 Organised by lobby group Groundswell NZ, the Howl of a Protest against the government’s environmental regulations — including the “ute tax” — saw convoys of tractors, trucks and utes rumble through main streets from Kaitaia to Invercargill.

The fact the protesters were well behaved and the protests had such a huge turnout made it impossible to dismiss them as the actions of a small number of radicals or perennially disaffected farmers. It was a big swathe of grassroots New Zealand on the move.

A very subdued Ardern spoke directly to voters on Friday evening on her Facebook page. She opened by euphemistically referring to the day’s protests as “activity around the country that broadly relates to our farming community and our primary sector”.

Tens of thousands of people protesting in more than 50 towns and cities is activity? That’s shades of Harry Potter and Voldemort, or he who must not be named.

Defending her government policies, she asserted that “We can’t stand still” in implementing commitments to climate change and freshwater because our trading partners demand it of us. Of course, farmers are not asking to “stand still” but rather believe that the changes are happening too quickly and they are not being adequately consulted. . . 

She said she’d listen but she’s not hearing what’s being said: that the answer to the problems must be practical and should follow models that are already working with farmers and councils working together.

Will she hear what Alice Sanders is saying:

Hey Jacinda Ardern,

I think it’s time to chat.

You see I’ve done a lot of thinking the last few days (moving breaks and pushing sheep up will do that to you). I thought a lot about the farmers at the Groundswell NZ protests (which we couldn’t attend, funny how you tax the people who can’t leave work for the protests isn’t it), I thought a lot about my life and upbringing and I thought a lot about you.

I wondered what your upbringing was like, I wondered if you’d ever spent time on a farm before you were in politics, before anyone knew who you were and it was a photo opp.

My upbringing was great, a real kiwi farming life, we didn’t have heaps but we had everything we needed and we were very loved. But I wondered if you watched your dad come home soaking wet, well after dark, exhausted night after night with his head in his hands after a weather event caused havoc on farm and animals?

Yet he still had the time to give you a cuddle, kiss you and tuck you and your siblings in at night. Do you watch your dad now in his 60’s sitting again with his head in hands as yet another raft of regulations are announced.

Regulations that will cost more and more or even worse in the case of the Crown Pastoral Lease bill could let you take our well loved, well managed land off us if you so desire. None of these regulations have an off set that means there will be further income to fund them, this is to be done with whatever money (if any) in the farming budget.

Do you wonder what the chain of these regulations is? Instead of retirement farmers now have to keep going. Those who have managers have to lift their expectations of those managers who then have to lift the expectations of their staff. This is causing stress beyond anything you could expect any person to endure.

Don’t forget a farmer never leaves the “office” they close the curtains and open them everyday and they are there. What do you think happens when this stress stacks up? You know of course, what happens to families, what happens to relationships, what happens to people. Divorce, domestic violence, suicide happens, all the time!

Let’s ignore that for a minute though (how you can I don’t know, neither does Mike King).

So regulations cost money and don’t make any, how do we free up the money in the farming system? Not lose animal health costs we never would do that.

Lose a labour unit, so instead of Dad coming in at 8 in the dark, it’s 10 in the dark and 6 in the morning start time And what happens to that labour unit who has lost his job and his home (most farm jobs provide accomodation to staff remember).

Well he moves to town, can he find a rental? Of course not, you’ve upped all the healthy home standards and bright line test so that mum and dad investors who make up most of our property “investors” have decided to sell. And who buys those houses? Well middle class white people (like me), so what happens to our most at risk people?

They end up in emergency housing aka motels. These are the people you campaigned to save!

My goodness.

And those farm owners who can’t afford to carry on, they sell up.

But land prices and debts as high as they are, guess who will purchase it. Yup overseas investors, and they are already doing it. Isn’t that who you were trying to stop?

Now going back to those protests, did you show yourself? No. Did your so called agricultural minister Damien O’Connor MP show himself? No.

And what did you say to the farmers who are proven to be the most advanced, most sustainable, forward thinking farmers in the world, who provided for the country not just with food but with export to support the economy and pay for your COVID relief package!

Oh just that you are carrying on with the regulations and in saying that you are saying you just don’t care. We are forever moving forward as a farming community, always working to nourish our lands and our animals so it continues on for our children, our country and I guess your wages and you can’t see that and neither can your party.

It’s not about utes, it’s not about money. It’s about our people, our lives, our country and our economy.

So yes Jacinda, let’s chat. 

 And while farmers chat, look, listen and understand that what works can’t be designed and dictated from desks in Wellington.

What works is already being done on the best of farms and the recipe can be replicated, adapted and applied to others, without the big stick regulations so beloved by this government.


Good law is clear law

29/06/2021

When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

Fiddling with language in this way might be alright in literature, it isn’t in law making which requires clarity, yet confusion and lack of clarity are what we’ve got with the government’s explanations on its proposed law on hate speech.

Richard Harman writes in Politik the Prime Minister is confused, or confusing:

The Prime Minister yesterday added more confusion to what was contained within the Government’s discussion document on hate speech.

It quite clearly proposes that inciting hatred or hostility against a group on the basis of its political opinion would be grounds for prosecution.  A successful conviction could result in up to three years jail or a $50,000 fine.

However, Jacinda Ardern claimed at her post Cabinet press conference yesterday that the Government had removed political opinion as grounds for prosecution. . . 

But the confusion comes right at the top of the document,  on page four, where there is a summary of the Government’s proposals which it says it has agreed to “in principle”.

“Under this proposal, more groups would be protected by the law if hatred was incited against them due to a characteristic that they have. This may include some or all of the other grounds in the Human Rights Act. These grounds are listed in section 21 of the Act, which is included in Appendix One.”

That section has a long list of grounds that could be invoked, but critically it says in Section 21 (j), “political opinion, which includes the lack of a particular political opinion or any political opinion.”

And herein lies the confusion; the Prime Minister was clearly talking about page 17 while seeming to not know about what was in the summary on page four. . .

Tova O’Brien points out the Prime Minister and Justice Minister don’t understand what they’re proposing:

Jacinda Ardern is wrong about her own hate speech law. Completely and utterly wrong.

Not only is the Prime Minister wrong about the basic facts of the proposal, she was wrong to shut down debate on hate speech on The AM Show this morning with her glib, inaccurate dismissals. 

The Prime Minister and Ministers develop policy and set policy directions for law. If they don’t understand the policy direction and intent of the law, how can they expect the judiciary to interpret and apply the law? 

On Newshub Nation we questioned the Justice Minister about the proposed changes and tested his policy direction and intent with examples. He conceded that, for example, if millennials expressed hatred towards boomers they could potentially be found liable for hate speech. 

Ardern is now contesting that, saying the law will only apply if it ‘incites violence’. That is wrong, the proposed threshold is as low as ‘insulting’ someone. 

The Prime Minister was dismissive about the interview and said we were trivialising the need for the law change – the terror attacks on March 15. 

It is insulting and irresponsible to pit journalists – or anyone who questions or debates the legislation – as somehow being in opposition to the needs of the victims of March 15th. 

If Jacinda Ardern wants to be the only voice who can have a say on the proposed hate speech changes – let’s fact check some of what she said on The AM Show this morning and you can decide whether she should have the only and ultimate say.  . . 

If the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the law how are the rest of us supposed to?

The more that our elected lawmakers talk about the proposed ‘hate speech’ laws, the more concerned New Zealanders should become, according to the Free Speech Union.

“Over the weekend the Minister of Justice, Kris Faafoi, couldn’t clearly say that millennials wouldn’t be up for possibly three years in jail if they wrote something that spoke ill of boomers as blame for not being able to afford a house,” said Dr David Cumin, a Spokesman for the Free Speech Union.

“This morning the Prime Minister told the AM Show the proposed law was to ‘clarify’ the existing legislation, was to stop incitement to violence against groups, and political opinion would not be included as a protected category.”

“The PM’s comments do not match the proposals issued by her Government. If the proposed law change is just about stopping incitement to violence, why is the wording not so clear?”

“And why would our PM allow incitement to violence against people with a certain political opinion? Surely, when the threshold of inciting violence is breached, whoever is the target should be protected. Inciting violence towards anyone is already criminal, and rightly so.”

“Something doesn’t add up. Either the politicians don’t understand what they are doing, or they are misleading Kiwis.”

The Free Speech Union is calling on New Zealanders to join its campaign against the proposed ‘hate speech’ laws at www.fsu.nz/support 

Why, when the law against blasphemy has been repealed, would the government want to introduce a new and confusing law criminalising people who criticise religion.

As the Observer editorial says:

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and a cornerstone of democracy, which cannot flourish unless citizens can articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship or sanction. . . .

Good law is clear law. The proposed hate speech legislation is neither good nor clear; in threatening free speech it threatens to undermine democracy and neither the PM nor Justice Minister even understand what they’re proposing.


Govt PR vs media, no contest

08/06/2021

Remember Jacinda Ardern’s promise to be the most open and transparent New Zealand had ever seen?

Andrea Vance writes that her promise to be open and transparent is an artfully crafted mirage:

. . . In her first formal speech to Parliament she pledged: “This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.”

Since then the numbers of faceless communications specialists have skyrocketed. The Government’s iron grip on the control of information has tightened.

And it is now harder than ever to get information. . .

In my 20-year plus time as a journalist, this Government is one of the most thin-skinned and secretive I have experienced. Many of my colleagues say the same.

Even squeezing basic facts out of an agency is a frustrating, torturous and often futile exercise. . . 

Such stonewalling might be common-place in dictatorships. It’s not supposed to happen in a democracy.

Vance gives examples of the difficulty she, and other journalists have, in getting information and notes why:

It’s now very difficult for journalists to get to the heart and the truth of a story. We are up against an army of well-paid spin doctors.

Since the current Government took office, the number of communications specialists have ballooned. Each minister has at least two press secretaries. (Ardern has four).

In the year Labour took office, the Ministry for the Environment had 10 PR staff. They now have 18. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade more than doubled their staff – up to 25.

MBIE blew out from 48 staff to 64. None of those five dozen specialists could give me those figures for many weeks – and again I was forced to ask the Ombudsman to intervene.

The super ministry – and its colleagues uptown at the Health Ministry – are notorious for stymieing even the simplest requests. Health’s information gatekeepers are so allergic to journalists they refuse to take phone calls, responding only (and sporadically) to emails.

But it is the New Zealand Transport Agency that take the cake: employing a staggering 72 staff to keep its message, if not its road-building, on track – up from 26 over five years.

There’s no contest in government PR versus the media.

PR staff will be paid far more than they’d get in the media and instead of providing information they’re keeping it from journalists and so from the public who pay them.

At every level, the Government manipulates the flow of information. It has not delivered on promises to fix the broken, and politically influenced OIA system.

It also keeps journalists distracted and over-burdened with a rolling maul of press conferences and announcements, which are often meaningless or repetitive and prevent sustained or detailed questioning.

In this age of live-streaming and blogging, organisations often feel obliged to cover every stage-managed utterance for fear of missing out. . . 

This isn’t openness, it’s obstruction in an attempt to hide the facts and present the fluff.

Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the nation’s journalists do not concern you. Why should you care?

Because the public’s impression of this government is the very opposite.

They see a prime minister that has captivated the world with her ‘authentic’ communication style, intimate social media postings, daily Covid briefings and proactive releases of Cabinet papers.

It is an artfully-crafted mirage, because the reality is very different. This is a Government that is only generous with the information that it chooses to share.

The government isn’t only withholding information from and manipulating it to the media, it’s obstructing the Opposition.

All of which begs the question: what are they hiding?


Rural round-up

05/06/2021

Canterbury flooding: Historic Grigg family farm wiped out by worst rain they’ve ever seen – Kurt Bayer:

Canterbury farmers bordering rivers have been devastated by the hundred-year flood, with lost animals, thousands of kilometres of smashed fencing, and green fields turned overnight into shingle. Surrey Hills Station farmer Arthur Grigg, whose access bridge, driveway and paddocks have been wiped out, says the Government needs to step up after the “extraordinary” event. Kurt Bayer reports.

From the picturesque plateau where he was married just weeks ago in the shadow of the century-old family homestead, Arthur Grigg surveys the damage.

“It’s a kick in the guts,” he says, shaking his head.

The place, Surrey Hills Station near Mt Somers, up until the weekend, had been looking good too. Grigg had been thinking about a mid-winter break, maybe a spot of fishing. . . 

Nothing – not even a hug – Tim GIlbertson:

Jacinda breezed in to town recently, with Damien in tow.

Following his triumphant decapitation of the live export trade, Damien was presumably looking for another prospering rural enterprise to put the taiaha into. But mother nature’s drought is successfully doing the job for him. So, he would have left disappointed.

The PM greeted local councillors and discussed the success of the mayoral task force for jobs, which has created 12 new positions. Loud applause. Then she visited a regenerative dairy farm.

What she did not do was look out the window of the ministerial BMW and say: “My God! You are having another massive drought leading to the massive long term economic and social damage to the entire region. We must act on water storage at once!” . .

Adopting a plant-based diet can help shrink a person’s carbon footprint, but a new study finds that improving the efficiency of livestock production will be an even more effective strategy for reducing global methane emissions.

The study looked at the intensity of methane emissions from livestock production around the world – in other words, how much methane is released for each kilogram of animal protein produced – and made projections for future emissions.

The authors found in the past two decades, advances in farming had made it possible to produce meat, eggs and milk with an increasingly smaller methane footprint.

Some countries, however, had not had access to the technology enabling these advances. . . 

Trophy win elates Trust boss -Peter Burke:

Tataiwhetu Trust chairman Paki Nikora is elated to have won this year’s Ahuwhenua trophy for the top Maori dairy farm. He never thought the trust would reach such heights in the agricultural sector.

Nikora says Maori tend to belittle themselves all the time. However, when push came to shove, the trust decided to give it a go and enter the competition. There were scenes of great excitement as Tataiwhetu, which runs an organic dairy farm in the Ruatoki Valley, south of Whakatane, was announced the winner and presented with the trophy by the Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

When Nikora was presented with the trophy there were scenes of great jubilation as whānau came on stage to join in the celebrations, which included waiata and a haka.

Tataiwhetu runs 432 Kiwi cross cows and carries 188 replacement stock on its two support blocks. They milk once-a-day with the herd producing 129,140 kgMS a year. . . 

Calf rearing workshops to run through-out New Zealand:

Practical workshops on successful calf rearing by Dairy Women’s Network and SealesWinslow are ensuring New Zealand farmers are entering the season confidently with the right tools and knowledge to raise healthy calves.

Calf rearing is a critical time for dairy farmers, with success determined by the quality and management of newborn calves from the time of birth through to 12 weeks of age.

Each of the workshops will focus on the best practice behind providing food and shelter for newborns, with SealesWinslow’s Nutrition and Quality Manager, Natalie Hughes, presenting on calf housing and pen design for optimal health and stimulation. 

“During the workshops we’ll explore the latest research and look at how we translate this into practical tips and advice to set you up for a successful calf season,” said Hughes. . .

Farm working to give back more than it takes – Curtis Baines:

A farm on the outskirts of Melbourne is making waves within its local community, and it’s all thanks to an initiative connecting producers with consumers.

Sunbury’s Lakey Farms produces pastured lamb, beef, goat, mutton and wine.

The farm works with the philosophy that it puts back more than it takes, through ethical treatment of livestock and regenerative farming.

Lakey Farms owner John Lakey believes in the ideology that animals – particularly livestock – deserve fair treatment and an abundance of roaming space. . . 


Rural round-up

03/06/2021

The climate-change dilemma facing dairy farmers – milk more cows or cull the herd – is politically challenging, too – Point of Order:

From one Wellington  platform  Reserve  Bank governor Adrian  Orr is  telling  the  country   strong global demand for NZ primary products is ensuring the economy remains resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic and is helping offset tourism losses. He  says  Fonterra’s  forecast  of a  record opening milk price is “very good news” and is included in the bank’s projections.

From another platform, Climate Change Commissioner Rod Carr told hundreds of people – including farmers – at an agricultural climate change conference that for the agricultural sector there would be no way to wriggle out of slashing emissions.

Carr said agriculture made up about half of NZ’s emissions, and this needed to be reduced to meet climate obligations.International customers would go elsewhere, costing the economy billions of dollars in the coming years.

So  here’s  the  problem: . . 

Time for industry to be heard, leader says – Sally Rae:

“Maybe enough is enough.”

Otago Merino Association chairwoman Jayne Reed, from Cloudy Peak Station, near Tarras, was referring to the never-before-seen pressures the agricultural sector was facing, in her address to the annual merino awards.

“Not the usual seasonal weather worries, commodity price fluctuations and the odd flustering visit from the bank manager, which our fathers dealt with, but an increasingly scary onslaught of bureaucratic intervention … written in some cases by young idealistic policy makers who have never stepped on a farm.

“Our urban neighbours are telling us how to manage our outcomes without any real understanding of what 99% of us are working towards and this is the really disappointing part. . . 

Rural leaders plead to NZTA for second Ashburton bridge plans – Adam Burns:

Damaging floods in Ashburton have sparked calls for urgency around a second bridge by the district’s rural leaders, with the town’s sole overpass at risk.

The Ashburton River Bridge had to be closed for most of yesterday after reports of slumping. It has reopened to light vehicles only, but further testing for heavy vehicles is expected later.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would not be drawn on questions around the second bridge issue when she fronted media in Ashburton yesterday.

“The priority right now is connecting people with Ashburton,” Ardern said. . . 

Perriam’s vision for breed recognised with family award – Sally Rae:

John Perriam is a man of vision, risk and “you can do it” approach.

Through his love for merino sheep and his home, Bendigo Station, he had “given it his all” and made a significant difference to the New Zealand merino industry.

That was his daughter Christina Grant reflecting on the pivotal role her father has played in the industry, during the Otago Merino Association’s awards evening.

She was presenting him with the Heather Perriam Memorial Trophy, named in memory of his late wife and her mother, and presented for outstanding service to the merino industry. . . 

Synlait braces for heavy loss – Sudesh Kissun:

Listed Canterbury milk processor Synlait is heading towards its first financial loss ever, but is telling its farmer suppliers not to worry.

The company revealed last week that it now expects to make a net loss of between $20 million and $30 million for the financial year ending this July. Last year, Synlait recorded a net profit of $75 million.

The milk processor has had a challenging 18 months. Key stakeholder, and one of its major customers, the a2 Milk company downgraded its forecasts because of disrupted markets and problems with its key Chinese market – leaving Synlait with large inventories of base powder and infant formula.

Synlait co-founder John Penno has returned to his former role of chief executive and is leading a reset of the business. . .

Are we running out of New Zealand wine? :

New Zealand winegrowers are becoming increasingly concerned about running out of wine after a smaller harvest than usual this year. The famous wine-growing region of Marlborough was especially hard hit by this issue. As an area famous for its excellent quality wine – particularly sauvignon blanc – that gets supplied across the country as well as internationally, this lack of grapes could potentially be disastrous for the wine industry as a whole.

Last year, spring was cooler than usual, with frosts occurring until unusually late in the season. This, combined with increasing costs of production, has made wine harvesting more difficult and expensive than usual.

Additionally, the New Zealand wine industry usually relies on the influx of seasonal workers on working holidays who are ready and willing to help with the harvest. With Covid closing the borders, these people have not been able to enter the country in the past year. Attracting New Zealanders into these roles has proved far trickier for many growers, especially those in more rural areas. . . 

 


Don’t change law, enforce it

27/05/2021

Neil Miller Taxpayers’ Union analyst says electoral laws should be enforced, not changed:

Faced with a steadily growing number of electoral finance investigations by the Serious Fraud Office, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stared kindly into the camera and intoned, “we should be looking at the way our regime works. Clearly, it’s not currently, so let’s do something about that.”

The Taxpayers’ Union could not agree more that we should “do something about that.” However, the “something” is not to change the rules again or argue they are unclear (which they are not). The real “something” is to actually enforce the law. These prosecutions are proof that the regime is finally starting to work.

It is a terrible look for the Prime Minister to suggest that the electoral finance law needs to be changed so soon after her party has been charged. National was charged – the law was fine. New Zealand First was charged – the law was fine. Labour is charged and their ally the Māori Party is under investigation – the law is not working and needs to be changed. That is Banana Republic behaviour.

The law that worked for other parties now doesn’t work for Labour and its ally? Banana Republic behaviour indeed.

Of course, all parties are presumed innocent until found guilty of course, and all have pleaded innocence in relation to the charges.

Prime Minister, the problem is not the regime or the system – it is how politicians try to constantly push the boundaries of the system. They do it because it often works, there are rarely any consequences of note, and, if there are, they come long after the election affected by the activity in question. By the time any judgment is made most voters, if they were even aware of it, will have forgotten about the issue.

National and Labour are well established parties with teams constantly working on the minutiae of election finances. There are no excuses. The Māori Party is alleged to have missed deadlines for declarations which seems to be a cut and dried issue. Either they did, or they did not. There is no room for interpretation.

There is no hope of taxpayers ever seeing a cent paid back from New Zealand First – sorry, the completely separate New Zealand First Foundation – now that the organisation is essentially moribund. If Winston Peters wants to come back, he will likely disband New Zealand First (and its debts), then create the First New Zealand Party with Rt Hon Winston Peters as the leader.

Advance New Zealand’s Billy TK can plausibly plead ignorance – there is plenty of evidence of that in his public comments. His co-leader, Jami-Lee Ross, much less so. In fact, what Labour is being charged with (hiding the identity of donors and the size of the donations) is – allegedly – known in Wellington as “the JLR shuffle”.

We do need to do something and that is to support the Serious Fraud Office finally enforcing the existing laws. Parliament has not done it, the Police have shown no interest in doing it, and the Electoral Commission cannot enforce them.

All power to the Serious Fraud Office.

If anything needs changes it’s to give the Electoral Commission the power, and any necessary funding, to police the law and the ability to deal with transgressions during the pre-election period before voting starts.


A freeze by any other name . . .

11/05/2021

The PM and Finance Minister are both trying to say the public wage freeze announced last week is not a freeze:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Deputy, Grant Robertson, were both forced on the defensive this morning over their public sector wage freeze decision.

They both rejected that the moves to restrain public sector wages was a “freeze”, as there is still some room for movement in pay scales.

Speaking to reporters at the post-Cabinet press conference, Ardern said she had no plans to reverse the Government’s decision.

But she has admitted that she thinks the Government should have put more emphasis on the fact that public servants earning more than $60,000 a year can still move up through their pay bands. . . 

Moving up through a pay band is not generally regarded as being the same as a pay rise and if people aren’t getting a pay rise it’s generally regarded as a pay freeze.

That the government realises the need to restrain its spending and is doing something about it ought to be a good thing but in targetting people nurses, police and teachers, most of whom are underpaid for the work they do and responsibilities they have, they’ve hit the wrong target.

It would have been far better to follow the example of John Key and BIll English during the GFC when total public service spending was frozen, excepting health and education and with the direction there was to be no reduction in front-line services.

That left the people paid to manage their departments and ministries to do so by cutting fat and showed the workers, and public that frontline staff were valued.

Instead the government has demonstrated its propensity for control freakery once again, upsetting public servants, unions and gaining no points from the public who generally don’t think the frontline staff in education, health and policing are overpaid.

The government was probably trying to show it can manage its finances well. It hasn’t done that and has also demonstrated political mismanagement in the process.

 


Addressing supply deficit

15/04/2021

National has a policy that will address the root cause of the housing crisis – the supply deficit:

National is proposing an alternative solution to the housing shortage that will urgently address the country’s land supply problem and help councils fund supporting infrastructure.

  • Judith Collins’ Emergency Response (Urgent Measures) Member’s Bill will put in place emergency powers similar to those used to speed up house building in Canterbury following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
  • The new law would require all urban councils to immediately zone more land for housing – enough for at least 30 years of expected growth.
  • Resource Management Act (RMA) appeals process would be limited to ensure these new district plans can be completed and put in place rapidly.
  • $50,000 infrastructure grant would be provided to all local authorities (urban and rural) for every new dwelling they consent above their five-year historical average.

Across our country, a toxic mix of land use restrictions and consenting requirements severely limit the new land available for housing and how intensively existing residential zones can be developed. The result is that developers have limited options for where they can build new houses and face extensive costs, delays and legal hurdles when they embark on a new housing development.

Judith Collins has drafted a Member’s Bill that will go into the ballot this week. The draft legislation will effectively put in place emergency powers similar to those used to ramp up house building in Canterbury following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

The law change would also incentivise councils to lift their game by providing a grant of $50,000-per-house for every new dwelling consented over and above a historical average.

This streamlined mechanism for allocating the Government’s $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund would provide councils a simple tool for funding the infrastructure needed to support new housing, such as pipes, roads and public transport stops.

The time has come for an extraordinary solution to this unfolding emergency. We need to short circuit the faltering RMA to get more houses built. National acknowledges that under the current law even if councils want to make more space available for housing, they face multiple handbrakes. The RMA ties them into a knot of consultation requirements and infrastructure costs loom as a heavy burden.

Our Emergency Response (Urgent Measures) Bill gives councils permission – in fact it requires them – to say ‘yes’ to housing development and to get as much new housing built as they can as soon as is possible.

These RMA changes will expire after four years, reflecting the fact they are a temporary solution while more fundamental changes are made to New Zealand’s planning laws. Rural councils would not be compelled to rezone but could utilise the new powers if they wished.

National’s approach has a proven track record of success in Christchurch where the resulting surge in housing supply after the earthquakes saw affordability improve while it was deteriorating across the rest of the country.

House prices rose by 7.4 per cent annually across New Zealand from July 2014 to March 2019, but only rose by 2.9 per cent annually in Christchurch during that time.

Swift action is needed to help first-home buyers, with New Zealand’s housing market now the least affordable in the OECD.

Despite Labour’s big promises prior to the 2017 election, the median house price jumped from $530,000 to $780,000 between October 2017 and February 2021, a 47 per cent increase in just over three years.

National is the party of home ownership. We are committed to sensible solutions that will get more New Zealanders into their own home without hitting them with more taxes.

Judith Collins will be writing to all Members of Parliament to seek their support for her Emergency Response (Urgent Measures) Bill to go straight on to the Order Paper, rather than into the Member’s Ballot.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could also do the right thing by New Zealanders by adopting this Member’s Bill as government legislation to help it become law faster.

The government has been tinkering with policies that try to restrict demand. They might raise a bit more money from taxes, but they won’t build more houses.

National’s policy isn’t tinkering. It’s addressing the shortage of supply by making building easier.

It worked in Christchurch, it would work again everywhere else if the government could get over its reluctance to accept good advice because it came from National.

This is too important an issue to put politics before people and the practical solution that will help house them.

You can read the whole Bill here.


Anything but kind

25/03/2021

Court documents have provided National with fuel to renew calls for Speaker Trevor Mallard to resign:

The legal threats used by Trevor Mallard to silence a Parliamentary staffer who he falsely accused of rape make him unfit to continue as Parliament’s Speaker, Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop says.

National has received the statement of claim by the plaintiff, lodged in the High Court as part of defamation proceedings, which alleges Mr Mallard repeated his false allegation against the staffer in public even after he was told by Parliamentary Service that it was incorrect.

The document also shows Mr Mallard, who has admitted he knew within 24 hours of making the initial claim that he made a mistake, informed the staffer, through lawyers, that he would not apologise, would not pay damages, did not accept the staffer had been defamed, would prove what he said about the staffer was true, and would defend any claim “vigorously”.

Mr Mallard, via his lawyers, said that should the staffer pursue litigation, “the question of his reputation, and his conduct, will be very much the centrepiece of any public proceeding”.

It took about 18 months before Mr Mallard finally settled with the staffer and apologised for “distress and humiliation”. The matter cost taxpayers $333,641.70 in the form of a $158,000 ex-gratia payment to settle the legal claim, $171,000 in fees to Dentons Kensington Swan and $4641.70 to Crown Law for advice to the former Deputy Speaker.

Trevor Mallard has lost the confidence of the Opposition over his handling of this matter and should not continue as Speaker of the House, Mr Bishop says.

“Trevor Mallard behaved in a threatening and bullying way. This wasn’t just a ‘mistake’, as he tried to portray it. His behaviour is unbecoming of someone whose job it is to uphold the standards and integrity of Parliament.

“He is in a position of immense power and has used this power to try and silence a former employee. The irony is that he has exhibited the exact behaviour the Francis review was commissioned to stamp out: bullying.”

National has sought the leave of Parliament to debate a motion of no confidence in Mr Mallard on several occasions this term, but they have been continually blocked by Labour.

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins wrote to the Prime Minister on March 16 to inform her of this latest information regarding Mr Mallard.

“The Prime Minister and her Labour MPs need to ask themselves whether this is the sort of behaviour they’re prepared to keep defending,” Mr Bishop says.

“In any other workplace in New Zealand, Trevor Mallard would be sacked. What’s good for any other workplace should be good for Parliament as well.”

Making the accusation without proof was wrong.

Failing to apologise as soon as he knew he was wrong made it worse.

Allowing the legal process to continue when he knew he was wrong compounded the wrongdoing.

That the legal process included threats should the accused man pursue litigation is unacceptable behaviour from anyone let alone the Speaker.

This could all have been avoided had Mallard apologised as soon as he knew his accusation was groundless.

It could have been avoided had PM Jacinda Ardern done the right thing by seeking his resignation months ago.

Allowing the matter to fester is anything but kind to the man who was wrongly accused and who lost his job as a result of that.

It is also anything but kind to the taxpayer who has already had to pick up the bill for legal costs and could well face even heavier payments for more legal fees and compensation.

The PM says she always reads letters from children. She should not only read but act on this one:

The transcript of Bishop’s speech is after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »


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