GM could be greener

July 2, 2018

Outgoing Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it’s time to reignite the debate on genetic modification.

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A this morning, Sir Peter told Corin Dann that debate needed to be more constructive and less polarising than it had been in the past.

“The science is as settled as it will be; that is, it’s safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies. That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past,” he said.

“We’re facing issues of biosecurity; we’re facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free; we’re facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, etcetera. We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy.

“Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute. And everything about life is about rational decisions with some degree of uncertainty. But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” . . 

Anyone who thinks New Zealand is GM free is dreaming.

While GM is tightly controlled here, there is nothing to stop food with GM ingredients being imported and  imported corn and soy products are just two which are likely to have GM components.

Jo Goodhew said in her valedictory statement:

. . .  it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms to our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science. . . 

GM has been around for decades with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment.

GM has the potential to improve human and animal health; food production, reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and provide safer alternatives for disease, weed and pest control than conventional products.

GM could be a greener solution to many problems if, to paraphrase Jo, the debate moved from fear of the unknown to safe and proven science.

Jo Goodhew’s valedictory statement

August 11, 2017

I was a member of the pre-selection committee which approved Jo Goodhew’s application to seek the National Party candidacy of what was then the Aoraki electorate.

Our confidence in her was rewarded when she won the seat from Labour, held it and what became the Rangitata seat when boundaries changed.

She did that by listening to and working tirelessly for her constituents as the best MPs do.

She also served as a whip and Minister.

Yesterday she delivered her valedictory statement.

To the many peoples, all voices, all mountains, all rivers, thank you for coming to support this auspicious occasion. Welcome, welcome. I begin this, my last speech in the House as MP for Rangitata, with pride, having been part of something very special for 12 years, and still with the passion for the things that I care about. As such, today I have some stories to tell, some messages I want to record in Hansard one last time, and, of course, some thankyous to deliver.

I leave here having been part of the huge class of ’05, 12 years the parochial MP, first for Aoraki then for Rangitata, 5 years a Minister, and one of the renowned East Coast blondes. I arrived in this place determined to be a fantastic electorate MP. I would later realise that I was up to the task of being a Minister, but I never wanted to be PM. I am a team player and I relished being part of such a wonderfully strong and talented National Party team.

My maiden speech recorded that water was a major issue in my then seat of Aoraki. That speech also recorded my huge respect for and support of volunteers—more on both soon. I was elected 17 September 2005, having campaigned for 10 months and knocked on 12,500 doors across the seat. Delegates questioned me before my selection, and they did not hold back, even asking: “Who will cook for your husband and children?”. I was not long into my time as MP before our teenage daughters asked me to stop cooking meals at the weekends to leave for sitting days; they informed me that they preferred their father’s cooking. You know, it took me a while to get over that, but I did.

Later in the campaign I had help out door knocking from two fabulous women, Anne Steele and Robyn Hewson. They got me out of bed when I was almost too tired to go out and keep going. It has been the commitment of tireless volunteers just like these two women that has kept me going through the tough times and encouraged me when the going got rough.

The 2005 effort paid off, and on election night we recorded a 13,000 swing in the candidate results. I have always thought that timing is everything, and whilst the swing back to National was strong that year, I would spend my first 3 years as an MP as an Opposition backbencher. I was disappointed at the time, but, on reflection, it is actually the best way to start a political career. Campaigning and being seen does bring challenges. Our Ford Falcon was sign-written and also had my photo on it. Supportive up until then, this was a step too far for our teenage daughters. How embarrassing to be taken to rowing in that—that is, until one of their friends dubbed it “the Jo-inator”. Apparently it was suddenly quite cool. Huge boundary changes made 2008 another tough campaign. When 80 percent of the territory and 40 percent of the people change, you have a lot more work to do. I was welcomed by the people of mid-Canterbury, and I thank them for that.

Some MPs get to experience a local issue that makes people take to the streets against the Government. In my case, it was the statutory management of Hubbard Managed Funds and Aorangi Securities and the later failure of South Canterbury Finance (SCF). The taxpayers of New Zealand shouldered the burden of paying out SCF investors, but the people in the electorate took the issues personally. I got through that by hearing everyone out, respecting their strongly held views even when not agreeing with them, and not hiding away. I was certainly the stronger for that experience.

There have been many amazing opportunities afforded to me as an MP and a Minister, and I will share some of them because they have a wider message. Like most MPs I have opened a few conferences and buildings. I have opened quite a few dementia units, including one in a prison. I am not sure how I feel about having my name on the outside of dementia units. Dementia touches almost every New Zealander in one way or another, and it robs people of precious years. New Zealand needs to acknowledge, plan for, and learn to deal with this as respectfully and sensitively as possible.

I opened, on behalf of the then Minister, both the Timaru and Ashburton Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Community Link offices. The Ashburton site would, on 1 September 2014, become the scene of tragedy when my constituents Peg Noble and Leigh Cleveland were, quite literally, gunned down doing their jobs. I would return to that site as Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector to open Ashburton Community House. Out of that tragedy a strong community, while still mourning, dusted itself off and combined its efforts to fund-raise and turn the building into a wonderful facility for the people. Out front stands a carving that marks the loss of Peg and Leigh.

I proudly presented New Zealand’s seventh Commission for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) report to the UN in 2012. I was questioned for 4½ hours by a 25-person committee, dedicated to pushing New Zealand to do more in this space. The committee was certain that New Zealand would be better off with gender quotas. I still totally disagree with that approach, and, for myself, I would be absolutely mortified if I suspected I was ever chosen for a role because I was anything other than the equal to the male candidate, or even better.

New Zealand has more to do in this space, but much to be proud of. I think there are a number of ways we can move the dial for women and girls, including one that I think we can do for ourselves. The female of the species is wired differently to the male, so we need to recognise what in that creates hurdles for us in achieving equality of outcomes. Some of the hurdles are literally innate—not put there by others. Before I get shouted at for blaming the victim, hear me out. We need to understand and confront our own unconscious bias, make it conscious, and then deal with it. When I automatically think to myself that I do not have all the skills required to apply for the job, I need to recognise that neither does the guy next door, but he will apply, intending to learn on the job. When the performance review rolls around, I should not take the oft times approach and expect that my skills and value will have been recognised already, instead I need to do what guys do and describe my value to the organisation on a regular basis so that there is no doubt. Sometimes we need an internal rewire to compete on an equal footing. It is only one of a number of fronts we should tackle, but it is an important one.

I wish the media focused on attitudes, intentions, and results instead of labels when it comes to bridging the gender divide. Who gives a continental whether I label myself a feminist or not? Let deeds speak for the determination to shift the dial towards equality. Prime Minister Bill English has been the driving force behind the social investment approach. We know women are grossly over-represented in domestic violence statistics. Women and girls who do not achieve in education will likely become part of a low-income family. Teen pregnancy can lead to poor outcomes for that woman, and the child or children. So who cares if Bill English labels himself a feminist? Under his and Paula Bennett’s watch, teen pregnancies dropped by 57 percent. The approach is to get in early and help women to change their path and achieve their potential.

To all of those out there who cry poverty, and how much better off these families would be with more money, I say “We the Government—the first time in 43 years—we raised the benefits.” But a dysfunctional family with an extra $50 in their hand a week will still be a dysfunctional family. They need so much more than money. That is where the social investment approach comes in.

I was patron of Goodhew Class SO 3/14 LSV course at Burnham Military Camp. You know, I was moved to tears by the stories the participants told me about how their lives were changed by that experience. I know there are others in this debating chamber who have been patrons as well. That course, however, was only the start for them. Without employers willing to take them on afterwards, without training for them to go to, a golden opportunity could well have been lost.

As Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector for 5 years I had innumerable chances to recognise and thank New Zealanders for their efforts to enrich our communities and help others less fortunate than themselves to achieve community goals and projects—our largest workforce. I am proud to have, amongst other things, developed the Government Position Statement on Social Enterprise, and then launched a cross-agency working group to further promote it. Social enterprise allows social or environmental objectives to be achieved using a social enterprise or business approach. It is not a new approach, but there are many more examples of it today. I ask you to think of Pomegranate Kitchen, Eat My Lunch, Wilding & Co, Kilmarnock, and Patu Aotearoa and think of businesses that are literally making a huge difference.

The more social enterprises that flourish here in New Zealand, the more social and environmental objectives will be achieved without the Government getting involved, and certainly not getting in the way. Discerning spenders want to support those approaches to achieve outcomes they believe in.

As senior citizens Minister I had enormous frustration when hearing older New Zealanders described as a looming natural disaster—a grey or silver tsunami, or even a landslide at times. This characterisation diminishes older New Zealanders. We often speak of young people fulfilling their potential. Well, it is time we did more to encourage older people to fulfil their potential across their whole life.

For those who would like to keep working—and I emphasise that; for those who would like to keep working—there could be flexible hours, mentoring or training roles, leave without pay for retirement travel, and then them going back to roles where they feel respected and valued. I am tired of hearing that the workforce is ageing and all will retire at once. To employers, I suggest they offer an alternative for those who want to stay in the workforce.

My food safety portfolio gave me the scariest moments. New Zealand has an enviable reputation for food safety technology and practices, but things can still go wrong. In late 2014 a threat to contaminate infant and other formulas with 1080 was received. A huge Police and Ministry for Primary Industries response commenced, called Operation Concorde.

When the Prime Minister, Nathan Guy, and I faced the cameras early in March, we knew significant protections were in place. When I was asked to give a message to mums and dads, I urged them to keep using the formula, even though I knew that if I was wrong, a child could die. There is no antidote or treatment if 1080 is consumed. Now, the Police got their man—amazing work. The whole supply chain is now better protected from threats of a similar nature, and consumers now know to check products they buy for tampering.

At Christmas 2015, frozen berries contaminated with hepatitis A hit the headlines. Now, tracing followed, and the recalling and additional testing of imported product, and my message on this front is simply that country-of-origin labelling (COOL) gives no assurance of food safety, or otherwise. Almost every single one of those frozen products was already labelled with its country of origin. It is not so long ago that New Zealand apples were also contaminated by a worker with hepatitis A. So the answer is health and food safety officials working closely to identify and trace food-borne illnesses fast. Excellent traceability systems on the part of producers are essential and COOLs are only a marketing tool that works when the origin has a great reputation, which is exactly what New Zealand has.

I worked hard to progress the National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry. The gestation was far too long, but worth the wait, I believe. This will reduce, by thousands, the numbers of consents required each year.

Back to water—New Zealand has certainly woken up to the value of water. At the heart of the issue is the need to look after our freshwater and use it wisely and efficiently. We have an abundance of freshwater. Now the focus is on repairing degradation that has happened over many decades and preventing further lessening of water quality.

The National Government is the first Government to have the intestinal fortitude to tackle thorny issues like allocation, reliability of supply, measuring quality, cleaning up poor-quality fresh water, requiring stock exclusion from waterways, and mapping a path to restore degraded waterways.

One last thought for the primary sector: it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms and our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science.

So what am I proud of? I absolutely loved the electorate work, and people tell me it showed. The people of the electorate encouraged me to connect, and I feel connected to them. I have relished meeting regularly with leaders, businesses, non-governmental organisations, schools, rest homes, and individual constituents, because I believe I needed to know them to represent them. I have shared their celebrations, their tribulations, sought solutions for them, listened to their stories, and advocated for them. What a privilege it has been.

I will proudly claim to have been part of the team that progressed the social investment approach. It was a team that was not afraid to measure the cost of unfulfilled human potential in not taking action. It was not afraid to insist on measuring whether actions taken really worked. In targeting where resources can effect the most change in lives, we get to do what we came here for: make a difference.

From the time I came to Parliament I have often held the aged-care responsibility. In the Opposition health team under Tony Ryall, I rose to his challenge. He exhorted every one of his health team to know their particular issue better than anyone else in this Parliament. I held forums across the country, inviting all stakeholders, and I asked what had been going well and what we could do better. In September 2007, the document discussing options was launched by leader John Key. Entitled Choice Not Chance for Older New Zealanders, there followed many hundreds of submissions. Then came the policy launch: more money for respite for exhausted family caregivers and unannounced spot audits in rest homes, eventually leading to all audits being put up online for the public to see. Over time there was extra money for dementia care, and that resulted in a 25 percent increase in the number of beds. A standardised assessment tool was implemented and accelerated.

So that is why it was a very proud day for me when the National Government announced that more than $2 billion over 5 years would recalibrate the pay rates for caregivers, so that their work was given the value it deserves.

Time is running out, so a couple of very brief messages: New Zealand, plant more trees—lots more; build more wonderful buildings using our timbers; use engineered timber to build tall, strong buildings. I was delighted to read page 3 of the Dominion Post today and to see Sir Bob Jones is leading the way, with a 12-storey timber building.

In the health sector, I am a strong believer of the quality and safety markers, and that it really matters. It does not just save money and resources; it saves lives. All practice should be best practice.

Thankyous: to former party president Judy Kirk, who believed I could win. Thank you, my friend. I thank president Peter Goodfellow and the board members, regional chair Roger Bridge, and former regional chairs Ailsa Smail and Kate Hazlett for their friendship and support. To my current and former electorate chairs, Allan Booth and Mark Oldfield, and campaign chairs, John Rushton and Mark Oldfield. You have had great committees doing a wonderful job for me. I thank you. I really appreciated the farewell party last weekend.

To former Prime Minister John Key: thank you for the opportunities you gave me, first as junior whip and then as Minister. I made the most of them and had an amazing time. I will always know I was part of a caucus led by an amazing Prime Minister, who helped New Zealand recover from huge adversity with his unfailing belief in New Zealand, New Zealanders, and a positive and exciting future.

To Prime Minister Bill English, who now gets the opportunity he undoubtedly earned, and is superbly equipped to accomplish: I wish Bill and all the candidates for this election well in the contest of ideas, so you can continue to deliver what we have started to achieve, and what we as a nation are capable of. I hope, come 23 September, that the people of Rangitata elect young and energetic Andrew Falloon.

To my “class of ’05” classmates—good buggers all—Wednesday nights after 10pm will never be the same. To friends who are here today: there will be more time for us now. Thank you for hanging in there.

An electorate MP struggles to be effective without great electorate agents: Don McCully, Janet Bates, and Robyn Hewson; then came Annette Ireton and Barb Aitken; now Alison Driscoll, Tracey Miron, and Robyn Hewson. Robyn still has my back, all those years after helping me door-knock. I have been blessed. Thank you all so much.

To the Wellington crew: first, Heather Henderson, then Elizabeth Neilson, Micheal Warren, Annette Ireton, Susan Palmer, and now Erin Taylor—what a time we have had. To my “SPS Supremo”—Rebecca Tane and the whole ministerial gonzo team that you knitted together: those 5 years were incredible. I learned so much from you all. Thank you. I am honoured that so many of you are here today.

If things are not going well at home, it is impossible to do your work well. Thanks to the incredible support of my husband Mark we have made the juggle work. To our daughters, Abi and Harriet in the gallery and Emily in London: thanks, guys, for cutting me enough slack to do my job, for making me so proud of you, and for making sure we kept talking to each other. Happy birthday, Harriet and Emily.

I grew up on a farm. Dad and I would drive round the sheep in the little truck, the radio always on the Parliament station. Maybe I was brainwashed there, or maybe it was just entertainment for us both. My mum and dad, Bruce and Winnie, have found a myriad of ways to support me. Dad just retired from the electorate executive at the last AGM. Mum and dad, I cannot thank you enough for all of the ways you and our extended family have helped me.

Once upon a time, an experienced MP warned me against telling anyone that my maiden name was McCully. It is OK, Murray. I have been my own person and I do not think it turned into a burden. But perhaps that is because I do not have scary nickname—that I am aware of.

People have asked me what I am going to miss. I will miss the people in this Parliament. No matter what your role is, I thank you for your cheery smiles, your warm greetings, your help, and your courtesy.

I finish with the whakataukī that has never been so true to me as now:

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

[What is the most important thing in the world?

It is people, it is people, it is people.]

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Cabinet changes

December 18, 2016

Prime Minister Bill English has announced changes in and outside Cabinet:

Prime Minister Bill English has today announced his new Cabinet line-up which builds on the success of the last eight years and provides new ideas and energy heading into election year.

“Over the last eight years National has provided a strong and stable Government which is delivering strong results for New Zealanders,” says Mr English.

“This refreshed Ministerial team builds on that success and provides a mix of new people, alongside experienced Ministers either continuing their roles or taking up new challenges.

“This new Ministry is focused on providing prosperity, opportunity and security for all Kiwis, including the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will remain the Minister of State Services and Climate Change Issues and will pick up the Police, Women and Tourism portfolios.

“I am looking forward to working with Paula as my deputy and I am delighted she is taking on the Police and Women’s portfolios.

“As only the second woman Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Paula is well placed to take on the Women’s portfolio and represent the interests of women at the highest level of the government.”

Steven Joyce will pick up Finance and Infrastructure, while Gerry Brownlee will remain the Leader of the House and retain Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, and the Earthquake Commission portfolios. He will also be appointed as the Minister of Civil Defence.

“Steven and I have worked closely together in the Finance portfolio over the last eight years, and as Economic Development Minister he has delivered strong leadership of the government’s Business Growth Agenda.

“As Infrastructure Minister Steven will have a key role in overseeing the significant investments the government will be making in the coming years.

“I am delighted to have Gerry continue in his senior roles, including Leader of the House, and also to have him pick up the Civil Defence portfolio in which he has provided such leadership during the aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake.”

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have both picked up additional senior ministerial responsibilities.

Simon Bridges continues as the Minister of Transport and will pick up the Economic Development and Communications portfolios and Associate Finance, while Amy Adams retains Justice, Courts and picks up Social Housing, Social Investment and Associate Finance. Amy Adams will take a lead role in driving the Government’s social investment approach.

“Simon and Amy are two high performing Ministers who are ready to take on more responsibility. I am confident they will work well with Finance Minister Steven Joyce,” says Mr English.

At National’s Mainland conference, Amy told delegates she’d asked for money to be directed into social portfolios because that was the way to address the causes of crime.

She is well qualified for the extra responsibility for social investment.

Jonathan Coleman continues in his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios, and will play an important role on the front bench.

“All New Zealanders care deeply about the health system, and Jonathan’s focus on ensuring that the needs of people young and old in accessing quality health care is a very strong one.”

Michael Woodhouse has also been promoted up the Cabinet rankings, retaining Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety and picking up the ACC portfolio.

“I would like to congratulate Michael on his promotion. He has been a solid performer and I know he still has a lot more to contribute.”

Anne Tolley has picked up Local Government and will also be appointed Minister for Children, where she will continue her work on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Hekia Parata will retain the Education portfolio until May 1, at which point she will retire from the Ministry to the back bench.

“I am keen for Hekia to see through the education reforms which she is well underway on, and she will work closely with other Ministers to ensure there is a smooth transition in May.”

There will also be a transition of ministers in the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Murray McCully will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio until May 1at which point he will retire from the Ministry to the backbench. A decision on his replacement will be made at that time.

“I am keen for Murray to stay on for this transitional period to ensure I have the benefit of his vast experience on the wide range of issues that affect New Zealand’s vital interests overseas.”

This ensures there will be no need for a by-election if he leaves parliament when he’s no longer a minister. It also leaves the door open   for another couple of back benchers to get promotion next year.

Judith Collins takes on new responsibilities in Revenue, Energy and Resources and Ethnic Communities, and is well placed to oversee the significant business transformation work occurring at Inland Revenue.

A number of Ministers largely retain their existing responsibilities, including Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

Paul Goldsmith and Louise Upston have been promoted into Cabinet.

“I would like to congratulate Paul and Louise on their promotions which are all well-deserved,” says Mr English.

There are four new Ministers. Alfred Ngaro who goes straight into Cabinet and Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean and David Bennett who have been promoted to Ministerial positions outside Cabinet.

I am especially pleased that Alfred and Jacqui are being promoted.

He was an electrician before entering gaining a degree in theology and has extensive experience in community work. (See more here).

Jacqui is my MP, serving one of the biggest general electorates in the country. She c0-chaired the Rules Reduction Taskforce and was Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism and Local Government.

“The National party Caucus is a tremendously talented one, and as Ministers finish their contribution it’s important for the government’s renewal that we give members of our caucus an opportunity. Alfred, Mark, Jacqui and David have worked hard and performed well in their electorates and as select committee chairs, and deserve their promotions.”

There will be 21 positions in Cabinet until May 1 and a further six outside Cabinet (including two support party Ministers) keeping the total number of Ministerial positions at 27 plus the Parliamentary Under Secretary David Seymour.

“I would like to thank our support party leaders Peter Dunne, Te Ururoa Flavell, and David Seymour for their continued contribution to a strong and stable government.”

Mr English said that he expected to make announcements on the two further new Ministers to replace Ms Parata and Mr McCully just prior to their 1 May retirements from the Ministry.

Ministers Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew are departing the Ministry.

“I would like to thank Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew for their service to New Zealand as ministers. I am sure they will continue to be great contributors to New Zealand society in the years ahead.”

The full list of portfolios and rankings is here.

Rural round-up

November 9, 2016

MIE tried hard but couldn’t make a difference – Allan Barber:

MIE’s decision to disband after three years trying to persuade the red meat sector it was going to hell in a handcart has come as no surprise. But the organisation’s founders and directors are not unnaturally disappointed at their inability to gain support for their plan to solve the endemic problems of the industry.

MIE’s chairman Dave McGaveston has blamed everybody for MIE’s failure, including the government, directors of Silver Fern Farms and Alliance (especially the MIE candidates who were appointed to their boards), the rural media, Federated Farmers and Beef + Lamb NZ. The last named organisation actually provided nearly $300,000 of financial support for farmer awareness meetings, business plan preparation and production of the Pathways to Sustainability report. But it incurred MIE’s displeasure when it refused to provide further funding for a roadshow to drum up support for the group’s plans, correctly recognising this was beyond its remit. . . 

China’s Binxi Cattle to mount $25.3 million takeover for Blue Sky Meats –  Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – China-based Heilongjiang Binxi Cattle Industry Co intends to make a $25.3 million takeover offer for Blue Sky Meats, the Southland-based meat processor whose shares trade on the Unlisted platform.

NZ Binxi (Oamaru) Foods, a subsidiary of the Chinese company, will offer $2.20 per share for up to 100 percent of the shares, Blue Sky said in a statement to Unlisted. The formal takeover offer has not yet been made but is due within 30 days of the notification of intention. . . 

Lamb flap prices jump to 18-month high on Chinese New Year demand – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Lamb flap prices jumped to their highest level in a year and a half, driven by increased demand from China where buyers are stocking up for New Year celebrations.

The price for lamb flaps rose to US$4.70 per kilogram in October, up from US$4.50/kg in September and US$3.80/kg for the same period a year earlier, according to AgriHQ’s latest monthly sheep & beef report. That’s the highest level recorded by AgriHQ’s since April 2015. . . 

Sydney shows off ag’s opportunities:

GROWING confidence in global agricultural is putting fizz back into the farm sector, and Rabobank’s innovation summit in Sydney today is yet another example of the investment communities’ interest.

Focused on food trends and new business development, 1000 local and international farmers are mingling with ag start up companies, investors and industry leaders on Cockatoo Island, formerly a convict prison barracks, Navy dockyard and now a UNESCO world heritage site. . . 


New programme tackling disruptive innovations for primary industries:

Five years ago, a small team of tech enthusiasts laid the groundwork for a new primary industry event for Australasia, MobileTECH. The objective was to bring together and showcase mobile innovations designed to increase productivity within the sector.

In a sector where meetings, conferences, expos or field days run every other week, it was always important that this event had to have a clear purpose. Those involved were excited about the growth in mobile technologies for the rural sector and in the rapid developments in cloud computing, wireless sensors, big data, satellite imagery and others.

In its design, it needed to be an independent programme about the technology and what it can do; not about politics, markets or the business buzzwords of the day. . .

Vegetable industry joins GIA partnership:

The vegetable industry has become the twelfth industry partner to join the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) biosecurity partnership, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.

“It’s great to have Vegetables New Zealand Incorporated signed up and working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and other industry partners,” says Mr Guy.

“It means we can work together on managing and responding to the most important biosecurity risks. . . 

Fresh vegetable industry signs biosecurity agreement:

Vegetables New Zealand Incorporated today signed an agreement with Government to better protect the fresh vegetable growers it represents in managing biosecurity procedures.

Vegetables NZ Inc is the governing body representing 900 commercial growers who produce more than 50 crops, with a farm gate value of over $390 million per annum, to supply the increasing demands of sophisticated customers both in New Zealand and in our export markets.

The Deed of the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) for Biosecurity Readiness and Response was signed by representatives from Vegetables NZ Inc and government at Parliament, with Martyn Dunne, chief executive of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew in attendance. Vegetables NZ Inc joins 12 other primary sector industry groups that have joined with the government in the GIA partnership. . . 

Are dairy fats beneficial for good health?

For decades, experts advised people to reduce their fat intake, however they now agree that fats are actually beneficial for people’s health, and dairy fats have an important role to play.

Fonterra Senior Research Scientist and Nutritionist, Dr Elisabeth Weichselbaum, explained that the idea that fat makes you fat was flawed. Research today shows that, people who eliminated fats from their diet often replaced them with refined carbohydrates, which in turn is thought to have contributed to the double burden of obesity and diabetes.

“Fat not only provides a valuable source of energy, but also delivers key building blocks for the body and essential, fat-soluble vitamins. Dairy, which is a natural source of fat, plays a key part in this because it is packed full of nutrients. . . 

Rural round-up

September 21, 2016

Improved dairy sector expectations see New Zealand farmer confidence surge higher:

Results at a Glance

· Overall confidence in the agricultural economy has improved considerably from the previous quarter

· Farmers’ expectations for their own business performance also improved, driven by sizeable improvement in expectations among dairy farmers

· While overall confidence was up among all sectors, sheep and beef farmers registered small decline in expectations of their own business performance

· Horticulturalists’ business performance expectations also fell, but remain at elevated levels

· Farm business investment intentions remained stable. . . 

Young role model inspires primary sector job seekers – Gerard Hutching:

Ellie Cranswick knew New Zealand was different to the United Kingdom the moment she saw drench being advertised on TV.

She noticed on arrival that there were a number of differences between the two agricultural industries, from the end markets, to the genetics, to systems used.

Originally from Dorset, 27-year-old Cranswick now has her red bands firmly grounded in New Zealand soil after five years in the country. . .

Changing agri-food perspectives – Keith Woodford:

When I was an undergraduate back in the 1960s – in some ways it seems just yesterday – the dominant agricultural paradigms were about farm production and management.  As students, we learned nothing about marketing. And when marketing did come in vogue in the following decades, the dominant perspective was that marketing was what happened at the end rather than the beginning of the agri-food chain.

To a considerable extent, that perspective of a value chain that starts with production still survives within our animal-based agricultural industries. In contrast, the plant-based industries have been more successful in making the transition to a consumer-led position. And that may well be why, in an evolving world, our horticultural industries are currently succeeding where our traditional pastoral industries are currently struggling.

Our three big plant industries that are leading the way are viticulture, kiwifruit and apples. And then there are some other such as cherries which are also making good progress, plus seed crops such as carrots. . . 

Hope wallaby tracks ‘isolated incident’ – Lynda van Kempen:

The spread of wallabies is a serious concern and the last thing Otago needs is another destructive animal pest, a regional council director says.

Otago Regional Council environmental monitoring and operations director Scott MacLean, commenting about wallaby tracks being found at Galloway, near Alexandra, recently, said the council was treating the sighting seriously.

“Given that at this stage, only wallaby sign was sighted, I would like to think, and certainly hope, that this is an isolated incident. . . 

$3.1m funding for climate change projects:

Primary Industries Ministers Nathan Guy and Jo Goodhew have welcomed $3.1 million in new funding for 13 climate change research projects in the agriculture and forestry sectors.

The grants were announced today by the Ministry for Primary Industries through the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme.

“This funding plays an important part in helping our primary industries prepare for the future challenges of climate change,” says Mr Guy.

“$935,000 is being invested in three projects to analyse soil carbon on hill country farms and under irrigation systems. . . 

Mighty mite makes easy meal of Marlborough broom – Mike Watson:

A tiny insect with a big appetite is making short work of invasive scotch broom plants in dry areas around Marlborough.

The broom gall mite was released by the Marlborough District Council biosecurity team into an area south of Blenheim in 2011.

In the past five years, the biocontrol agent has been spread by wind to surrounding farmland on the Redwood Pass and Dashwood Pass. . . 

Using wood fuel is heating up:

With the continual growth in the use of wood fuel for heating the Bioenergy Association is increasing its support for wood fuelled heat plant operators and maintenance staff, helping plant owners improve the performance of their plant and encourage others to move from coal to wood fuel.

“The amount of wood fuel replacing coal is growing each year and we want to ensure heat plant operating and maintenance staff are well supported,” says the Association’s Executive Officer Brian Cox.

The Bioenergy Association is holding a forum for heat plant owners, operators and maintenance staff in Christchurch on 27 September. . . 

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Rural round-up

September 13, 2016

Producing more and more milk not New Zealand’s future: Landcorp head:

The chief executive of Landcorp, Steven Carden, on TV One’s Q+A programme says the business is reviewing all land conversions and looking for alternate uses for land that are economically more viable, and environmentally more suitable, than dairy farming.

“I think if you look at Landcorp – and we farm throughout the country – we are looking at all of our land portfolio and thinking, “What is the right land use for it?” And I think what we’ve found is that we can’t really find dairying as the justified new additional land-use conversion option,” he told Corin Dann.

“So we are looking at alternatives. I think New Zealand can sustain a few more cows, so long as there are the farm systems set up to do that. So people are looking at herd homes and other farm infrastructure which would require us to farm quite differently but allow us to produce more milk. Having said that, that’s not our future, I don’t think, as a primary-sector country, to just produce more of a commodity product like milk, necessarily.” . . 

Rustlers slit pet cow’s throat, take legs for meat – Phillipa Yalden:

The grisly slaughter of a pet dairy cow that was dismembered for meat has left a South Waikato farming couple fearful.

Thieves armed with a gun and knives broke into Bev and Trevor Bayly’s 172-hectare farm early one morning and slit the throat of their “friendly” Jersey.

When attempts to shoot the cow dead went wrong, the rustlers took to the animal with knives, cutting off the legs before leaving the carcass behind at the property between Wharepapa South and Arohena, near Putaruru. . . 

Shanghai Maling bid to buy Silver Fern Farms stake under consideration by Upston, Bennett – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office has sent its recommendation on a proposal for China’s Shanghai Maling Aquarius to acquire a half stake in Silver Fern Farms, New Zealand’s largest meat processor, to the relevant government ministers for a decision.

Land Information Minister Louise Upston and Associate Finance Minister Paula Bennett received the documentation from the Overseas Investment Office last week, and are now considering the application, spokesman Harley Thorpe said. The Ministers are aware of the Sept. 30 deadline Shanghai Maling and Silver Fern Farms had set for the deal and have that in mind, he said. . . 

Boom time for ag robotics:

Robots and drones have already started to quietly transform many aspects of agriculture. And now a new report is predicting the agricultural robotics industry, now serving a $3 billion market, will grow to $10 billion by 2022.

The report, by IDTechEx Research in Britain, is called Agricultural Robots and Drones 2016-2026: Technologies, Markets, and Players. It analyses how robotic market and technology developments will change agriculture, enabling ultra-precision farming and helping address key global challenges.

It describes how robotic technology will enter into different aspects of agriculture, how it will change the way farming is done and transform its value chain, how it becomes the future of agrochemicals business and modifies the way we design agricultural machinery. . . 

Helicopter’s beacon leads to farm rescue :

The pilot of a weed-spraying helicopter used his emergency locating beacon to raise the alarm about a seriously injured farm worker in the central North Island.

The pilot was about to start his spraying job on a farm near Ohura, west of Taumarunui, on Monday when he noticed a man on the property had apparently fallen from his horse. . . 

Lake snot the ‘new didymo’ :

Lake snot will have to be treated like a new didymo, says the Otago Regional Council, which has begun a two-year study into the spread of the algal slime.

The slime – also known as lake snow – was first found in Lake Wanaka in 2004, and has since been found in Lake Coleridge and Lake Wakatipu.

The lake snot has clogged up fishing lines, boat intakes and Wanaka’s laundromats, and has led the Queenstown Lakes District Council to install a filter on the Wanaka town water supply. . . 

Lamb day-care proves a hit:

A primary school north of Auckland has seen its roll surge in recent weeks with the opening of an unusual daycare.

Waitoki School near Kaukapakapa has built a daycare pen for lambs and is encouraging its 90 pupils to fill it with their own woolly companions.

“We have about seven to nine lambs on site at the moment. The kids bring them along and it’s their job to raise them, look after them and feed them,” said the school’s principal Chris Neison.

The lamb daycare was built in mid-August by a team of teachers, parents and grandparents. . .

Native Tree Plan Shows Positive Face of Scion’s Research:

The commercial propagation of indigenous trees in Ngati Whare’s new nursery in Minginui is an exciting development for all New Zealand and shows the benefits of ethical research that does not require release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms into the environment. [1]

Scion has been helping with the project by developing vegetative cuttings using leading edge technology that reflects community values. Ngati Whare and Scion are to be congratulated. This shows the acceptable face of Scion’s work and does not involve transgenic organisms or genetic engineering. Scion had earlier success with the propagation of seeds from the rare taonga plant Ngutukākā (white kaka beak), which have been planted on the ancestral lands of Ngāti Kohatu and Ngāti Hinehika. [2] . . 

Minister Goodhew on food safety visit to China:

Food Safety and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew will travel to China today for bi-lateral meetings and to open a new Fonterra dairy facility in the Shanxi Province.

“The relationship between New Zealand and China has never been stronger, and it is crucial for our economy that we maintain that strong relationship in food safety,” says Mrs Goodhew.

While in Beijing, Mrs Goodhew will meet with Vice Minister Teng Jiacai of the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) for the third Joint Food Safety Commission meeting, to build upon the shared goal for increased communication and cooperation between the two countries. . . 

Events to help make the most of ‘money months’:

DairyNZ’s Tactics for Spring events kicked off in the Waikato last week, aimed at helping farmers manage their pasture during the most productive time of the year on-farm.

The nationwide events are taking place in September and October, the beginning of the ‘money months’ when more pasture will be grown and more milk produced than any other time of the year.

With uncertainty around where milk prices will go DairyNZ research and development general manager Dr David McCall is urging farmers to focus on what they can control. . . 

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The most memorable days end with the dirtiest clothes.

(that’s not a job that usually dirties clothes and I’m not sure why he’s using a ladder).

New winery future-proofs Rockburn Wines in Central Otago:

After leasing premises at the industrial McNulty Road site for 10 years, the team at Rockburn Wines recently completed their first vintage at their new winery in Ripponvale Road, Cromwell.

The award-winning producer acquired the existing winery site in September last year to meet increasing demand and future-proof its operation.

“Due to rapid growth and remarkable popularity of our wines, we were forced to outsource some processes in previous years due to capacity shortfalls. We’re very pleased to bring everything back under one roof from this vintage onwards. The old McNulty Road winery was getting near breaking point and we’re thrilled to have found a site at Ripponvale Road that sets us up for further growth,” says Paul Donaghy, General Manager of Rockburn Wines. . . 

Rural round-up

August 31, 2016

Why the green, green grass of home is simply the best – John Roche, Kevin Macdonald:

New Zealand’s grazing system was once considered “the eighth wonder of the world”.

In the 1970s and 80s, a team at Ruakura led by Dr Arnold Bryant undertook grazing experiments that were to revolutionise the way pasture was managed through winter and spring.

The system matched herd demand through assigning the correct calving date and stocking rate with a store of pasture (ie cover at calving) and crop and an assumed winter growth rate. . . 

Westland ups season forecast payout:

New Zealand’s second biggest dairy co-operative Westland Milk Products today announced a 20 cent increase in its forecast 2016-17 season payout.

The company’s forecast average operating surplus has increased to $4.75 – $5.15 per kgMS while the average cash payout range has increased to $4.55 – $4.95 per kgMS.

Chairman Matt O’Regan says this is a result of a recent uplift in international dairy prices for the range of products Westland produces, along with positive August GDT auction results. . . 

Population of honey bees is growing fast:

New Zealand’s honey bee population is growing rapidly, despite recent reports of its decline, according to Apiculture New Zealand.

The industry body was responding to comments from Lincoln University that give the impression that honey bees are under threat in New Zealand.

The university said New Zealand agriculture stands to lose between $295 and $728 million each year if the local honeybee population continues its ‘current decline’.

“I’m pleased to say that hive numbers are growing rapidly,” said ApiNZ chief executive, Daniel Paul. . . 

Wild bees set to save our honey industry from varroa mite – but they need your help  – Jamie Small:

Plant & Food Research is asking for public help to locate colonies of feral bees, as groundbreaking evidence suggests they may save our honey industry from the devastating varroa mite.

Bee numbers in New Zealand are growing – bucking the international trend – thanks to human intervention controlling varroa, says Dr Mark Goodwin, who leads the organisation’s apiculture and pollination team.

The high price and demand for manuka honey is encouraging apiaries to expand in the face of the colony-killing mite and other threats. . . 

Buyers caught napping by potential milk production decine – Gerard Hutching:

A milk futures broker says whole milk powder buyers have been “caught napping” by a potential shortfall in the product, explaining why the price has risen 28.8 per cent at the last two global dairy auctions.

Director of OM Financial Nigel Brunel said the price hike had been “staggering” and taken everyone by surprise.

“Buyers haven’t been able to source WMP at the right price and have been concerned that New Zealand supply could be well down this season. They have been caught napping in a sleepy sideways WMP market for almost a year,” Brunel said.

As a result the buyers had climbed over each other to source WMP and lifted the price. . . 

New appointment to FSANZ Board:

Jane Lancaster has been appointed to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Board, Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew announced today. Ms Lancaster’s term began on 1 July 2016.

“Ms Lancaster will make a valuable contribution to the FSANZ Board with her background in food science, biotechnology, and strong governance experience. In particular, she has professional experience in food safety, food regulation, and the food industry,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“Ms Lancaster replaces Neil Walker, whose second term on the FSANZ Board expires on 30 June 2016. Mr Walker’s extensive knowledge has been highly valued by both myself and the FSANZ Board over this time.” . . 

Environmental impacts come first in EPA insecticide decision:

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has declined an application to import an insecticide to control pests on onion and potato crops.

The insecticide Grizly Max contains the active ingredients imidacloprid, novaluron and bifenthrin. These active ingredients are already approved for use in New Zealand, but not in a single formulation. The proposed application rate for the neonicotinoid imidacloprid was much higher than other insecticides already available in New Zealand.

At a 19 July hearing, the applicant, Agronica New Zealand Ltd, noted that Grizly Max had proved to be effective against target pests. . . 

New Appointment to Synlait’s Senior Leadership Team:

Quentin Lowcay, General Counsel and Commercial Manager, has joined Synlait’s Senior Leadership Team.

Since joining Synlait in 2013, Quentin’s role has grown to advise the SLT and Board on legal affairs, risk, corporate governance, insurance and commercial matters (particularly customer and supplier relationships). . .

New Zealand King Salmon confirms intention to undertake an IPO:

There may soon be an opportunity for Kiwi investors to own a stake in New Zealand’s estimated $180 million salmon industry.

The world’s largest aquaculture producer of King salmon, New Zealand King Salmon Investments Limited, has today (29 August) confirmed its intention to undertake an initial public offering of shares in New Zealand and a listing on the NZX Main Board and ASX. The proceeds of the offer will be used to repay debt, fund future investment and working capital, and to enable investor Direct Capital and some other shareholders to realise some or all of their investment. . . 

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Rockburn releases limited edition Stolen Kiss Pinot Noir & Rosé:

Rockburn’s Stolen Kiss Rosé enjoys a cult following around country for a couple of years now and the boutique producer from Cromwell now added another way to enjoy the “fruity and saucy side” of Central Otago Pinot Noir with the launch of their limited edition Stolen Kiss Pinot Noir.

Stolen Kiss wines are made from grapes ‘stolen’ from Rockburn’s best Central Otago Pinot Noir. The name alone evokes images of summertime rolling-in-the-clover frivolity and romance. . . 

Substantial Hawke’s Bay winery operation goes on the market for sale:

One of Hawke’s Bay’s best known vertically-integrated wine operations – featuring multiple vineyards, the winery plant and cellar door retail sales outlet – has been placed on the market for sale.

The assets are run under the Crossroads brand – owned by Yealands Estate Wines. The Crossroad’s vineyard and operations being sold encompass three separate vineyards in the bay, along with a plant capable of pressing more than 700 tonnes of grapes and storing the resulting juice in 59 tanks, and a cellar door retail premises which attracts more than 5000 visitors annually.

The Crossroads brand, business and existing stock in bottles, barrels, and tanks, are not part of the sale. . . 

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