Jonathan Coleman’s valedictory

12/04/2018

Jonathan Coleman delivered his valedictory statement last night:

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote): One of the things I’ve often been asked is “Why on Earth would anyone want to go from being a doctor to becoming a politician?” And, indeed, there’ve been one or two occasions over the years—and, in fact, some in more recent times—when I’ve asked myself that very same question. But despite my job coming with a permanent open invitation to go on Radio New Zealand National Checkpoint and notwithstanding the maligned motives that some less generous citizens might attribute to politicians, the fact is that it is a very real and rare privilege to serve in this place, to represent one’s community, and to be allowed in to the lives of a wide range of New Zealanders as they experience the best and worst of what life has to offer in this country. That is also because if it’s possible to get in to Government and make it to the Cabinet table, there is the chance to effect real change to improve the lives of our fellow New Zealanders. That is the reason why we all come to this place regardless of our political views.

Twelve years, six months, and 29 days as a member of the New Zealand House of Representatives is a career probably longer than most but shorter than many. I’ve felt honoured to serve as the member of Parliament for Northcote with nine years as a Minister of the Crown. I’m extremely thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had over that period. When I look back on that time, there’s been some incredible political and life experiences, but above all I’ve gone to work every single day determined to make a positive contribution for my electorate and for our country. I was aware that each day I spent in this place was because I’d been sent here by the people of Northcote, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Some leave this place under duress, some too early, and some too late. For me, now is the right time, and I’m looking forward to the future and to the new challenges ahead. There is so much to fit into a valedictory, but having listened to a few over time, the best have a bit of reflection, maybe a little advice, a little bit of philosophy, a whole lot of thanks, and, believe it or not, not too much politics.

I was lucky enough to secure the nomination to contest the Northcote electorate for the 2005 election. My time as a candidate was pretty eventful, with an intense campaign of door knocking, human hoardings, and pub canvassing. It culminated in winning the seat from the sitting Labour member, which, of course, was a massive achievement for the whole Northcote team. That turned out to be a defining point in my political as well as personal life, as Sandra and I moved in to the electorate and built our family life there. And Northcote is now well and truly home. I’ve been fortunate enough to represent an electorate within which the previous five generations of my family have all lived, since 1846, and that has meant a huge amount to me over my career. I believe it’s a pretty rare thing, especially for an urban seat.

That first term as an MP pretty much determines your future in this place, both in the electorate and in this Chamber. I was lucky enough to be part of a health team run by the inscrutable Tony Ryall. He was prepared to share the opportunities around, especially at question time. That certainly enabled me to build a bit of a profile, clashing with the then Minister of Health Pete Hodgson who would scream across the Chamber in response to naïve questions from a young backbencher, which was a bit of a win as far as I was concerned. Yes, I felt like screaming at times as Minister of Health but I never actually did it. Anyway, the point is that politics does not have to be a zero sum game; it’s often described as being that. But sharing the opportunities with colleagues, especially junior colleagues is an approach I’ve tried to follow. Yip, there was the odd career-threatening moment in that first term but I survived to become part of the three-term National-led Government that swept to power in 2008.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to spend nine of my 12 years here as a Minister. My ministerial career kicked off with a short phone call monologue from the new Prime Minister, who had already had to wade through party negotiations and discussions with multiple colleagues. By the time he got to me he wasn’t about to enter into any debates, he just said “You’re doing immigration, broadcasting, associate health, and associate tourism. I’m the Minister of Tourism so you’ll be doing all the work. Catch you Monday.” John Key was a great guy to work for. Ministers agreed priorities with him and if he had confidence in an individual he just let them get on with it. He was, of course, arguably the most talented politician we’ll see in our life time, and to serve as part of that Government was at times a pinch-yourself-to-make-sure-it’s-not-a-dream type of experience.

He could also be pretty forgiving. As his erstwhile attending physician I was with him when as Prime Minister he tripped heavily on the stage stairs while running up to give a speech at Chinese New Year celebrations in 2009. Returning to the seat beside me he commented that his arm was a bit sore. I advised him of a treatment plan with which members of my family are very familiar, namely take a couple of Panadol, forget about it, and all would be well. However, it seems the Prime Minister did not actually follow this advice because the next day he rang to inform me that his arm was actually broken in two places. Anyway, I already had my Cabinet warrant so that was that. Being the Cabinet doctor certainly gave an interesting insight into the constitutions of various colleagues, several of whom seem to think I had an unending appetite for graphic descriptions of their symptoms. Let’s just say there seem to be a lot of very serious man flu running around.

Bill English made a remarkable contribution to New Zealand politics, and it was great working with him across my time as a Minister. Of course, his time as the Prime Minister was all too short but he made a massive intellectual contribution both to the National Party and also to New Zealand politics.

I’ve never been that keen on being dictated to and that is aligned with my political philosophy, namely that while it’s up to the Government of the day to draw up the boundaries of the playing field, if you like, it’s important to then allow New Zealanders to get on with it because they, not the Government, are the best people to determine how they live their lives, spend their money, and raise their children. And that’s what has always attracted me to the National Party’s philosophy. In line with this, on conscience issues that result in massive societal change my instinct has always been that the people should decide, not the Parliament. While thankfully our politics in New Zealand is not as polarised as in some jurisdictions it’s still important to note that philosophical differences are certainly there. While the votes are in the centre, political parties have to be able to mark out clear territory on the electoral spectrum in order to survive.

I came to politics through a background in medicine and business, and I believe that it was the former that stood me in greater stead. Because politics, in the end, is about understanding people. It’s about listening, it’s about dealing with the full range of human nature and emotion, it’s about making decisions and charting a course of action when sometimes there is no right or wrong obvious answer. Medicine also gave me daily contact with New Zealanders of every type and background imaginable. My time working as a doctor in south Auckland remained a long-term private reference point as we sat around the Cabinet table taking policy decisions. Ten dollars to see the doctor was a lot of money for many of my patients and I never forgot that. Later on when faced with really tough issues like cancer patients seeking funding for life-saving drugs I was able to reflect on my bedside experiences.

But there’s no blueprint for being a Minister of the Crown apart from a little known and, I suspect, a little read tome entitled How to be a Minister by the late Gerald Kaufman, an English MP. And I suggest some members of the new Government get hold of a copy pretty quickly. Considering its somewhat limited audience the author probably didn’t make a lot of money from book royalties. I withdrew it in my first week as a Minister and had it on continuous loan from the Parliamentary Library for quite some time, by which time I think two colleagues had actually been dismissed from the Cabinet. I felt a bit bad that my long-term loan of the library’s only copy may have deprived them of career-saving advice. Basically though, new Ministers have to make their own way and it’s very much a sink or swim environment. A Minister has to have a few very clear big picture priorities if they wish to achieve anything. Understanding details is important but it’s the agenda that counts.

My ministerial career started in immigration, which I soon discovered makes one a very popular guest at ethnic events. Some of the representations to my office were slightly unconventional, including one which arrived accompanied by a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label whiskey, which needless to say left the office in the custody of the owner. Right from the start I focused on attracting migrants with the skills and capital to make a contribution to New Zealand, including a highly successful business migration programme and the introduction of the silver fern visa to attract promising qualified young people who are likely to make a long-term contribution. We also drove the reconfiguration of the Immigration New Zealand network, aligning the footprint to important markets across the globe while moving processes online and eliminating as much bureaucracy as possible. It’s my view that New Zealand must continue to position as an outward-looking internationally-engaged open economy and immigration is central to that.

However, that term wasn’t always totally rosy. One night in September 2010, Peter Dunne offered me the generous opportunity of reading for him a bill on tax, entitled the Taxation (International Investment and Remedial Matters) Bill. Unfortunately, he sent me down with a copy of a speech he’d given two years ago, on the Taxation (International Taxation, Life Insurance, and Remedial Matters) Bill. Tell me if you can tell the difference. In fact, no one in the Parliament could, until about minute seven or eight, when Stuart Nash suddenly realised there was something eerily familiar about the words that were being uttered. But in the end, of course, the bill passed its reading and as far as I can see hasn’t been repealed yet.

My period as Minister of Defence was extremely interesting and satisfying, and there was a lot going on. The New Zealand Defence Force had three large missions in Afghanistan, the Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste, all of which we withdrew from over those years. At the same time, there was a major review of defence capabilities required to deliver on New Zealand defence policy. We were also engaging with the US on defence matters, after a considerable hiatus, and all in all this was a period of major change.

I came away from my time in that portfolio with a deep respect for the men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force. I’ve never met a group of people more dedicated to the service of their country and with greater pride in their vocation.

There were many poignant experiences, including three visits to Afghanistan, returning the veterans to El Alamein and Monte Cassino, and speaking at the Gallipoli Dawn Service on Anzac Day 2013. But there was none more intense and emotional than travelling the length of New Zealand twice in the space of 10 days to visit the parents and close family of young men and women who had been killed in the service of our country in Afghanistan literally two days before.

One of the things I’m absolutely proudest of, and you wouldn’t have read much about it in the news at the time, was getting the families of those killed and wounded in Afghanistan and Timor-Leste into this Chamber for the dedication of new plaques commemorating those deployments, and those are there, above the entrance to the Chamber. I know that recognition made a huge difference to those people.

To maintain an active, engaged New Zealand Defence Force, operations are absolutely crucial. In that regard, present and future Governments need to think carefully about how they will maintain the important strategic capability that is the New Zealand SAS.

My biggest message on defence, though, is that despite what the sceptics might think, New Zealand’s contribution really does count and has a huge flow-on effect in terms of our overall standing with like-minded nations. I know it definitely helped reopen doors in Washington over the last 10 years.

As stimulating as defence might be, health is actually a much more dangerous portfolio for any Minister. It’s on the front line of politics, and I was delighted to take up the challenge for my final three years as a Minister. It’s certainly a great way to boost your profile, up to a certain point—in fact, even beyond the point you’ve announced your retirement. It’s a portfolio where there is always more to do. Every day in my office, the overriding priority was to continue to increase and improve access to clinical services for all New Zealanders. I’m not pretending the system is perfect, and there will always be pressures in health for any Government. But some critics do the country a disservice by their portrayal of the New Zealand health system.

We delivered results, and the figures tell the story: increased access to surgery, increasing numbers of specialist appointments, decreased waiting times for cancer treatment, vastly improved immunisation rates, and more doctors and nurses. There was also $3 billion of new health facilities the length of New Zealand and a $5 billion lift to the health budget—fully funding population growth and inflation over our time in Government.

Perhaps the biggest single initiative I was involved in delivering was the $2 billion pay settlement for some of the most deserving people in New Zealand—the 55,000 care and support workers, and of course most of those people are women. I know it made a huge difference to them and their families. If the new Government, in the end of their time, can have matched our record of delivery they will be doing very well indeed.

Apart from the focus on clinical results, my big-picture drive was on a new New Zealand Health Strategy, which lays out the blueprint for a sustainable health system. That was delivered, and its implementation will now set up the system for New Zealand for decades to come. The National Government also laid the foundations for an electronic health record, and that will make a patient’s key health information available through the system. It is the only way we’re ultimately going to unlock productivity in healthcare, and I sincerely hope that this is work that the current Government will prioritise.

There were other portfolios too: State services, where I was Minister at a time of the biggest reform of the Public Service in a generation—important, but it certainly seemed like work; sport, where we linked participation to better health outcomes while continuing to drive high performance results—important, but it certainly did not seem like work.

There’s so many people to thank for the past 14 years, first as a candidate and then as a member of Parliament. To colleagues across the House, it’s been a pleasure, mostly, to work with you over the years. To Wayne Mapp, to Nathan Guy, to Judith Collins, to Gerry Brownlee, to Maggie Barry, to Simon O’Connor, to David Bennett, and to Sam Lotu-Iiga, thank you for your friendship. We all need people we can talk to in this place, and I had that, and I’m thankful for it.

To Simon Bridges, National Party leader, and the rest of the National team here in Parliament, thank you for your support, especially since my announcement but over many years before that. Simon, I wish you and the rest of the National team all the best. You will make a great Prime Minister, and you are supported by a very talented caucus.

I had fantastic people around me during my career here in Wellington: my senior private secretary of nine years,

Melissa Turner, Oliver Thurston, Nikki Grant, James Watson, Martin Watterson, Steven Parker, Angela Keneally, Michael Johnson, Kirsty Taylor-Doig, J2 Jonathan Franklin, and Margaret Lawrie. Former Nelson Under-21s fullback and political soothsayer Peter McCardle became a close friend and mentor, and I thank you Peter for all the excellent advice, some of which I even took.

Thank you to the huge number of Public Service secondees and various officials with whom I worked over my career. I always placed the emphasis on building a team in my office over those nine years, and we had a huge amount of fun, as well as working long hours with great intensity.

Electorate teams are special, and I had a wonderful electorate agent for a decade, Anne Lyttelton—utterly loyal, a great friend, and, best of all, she never failed over the years to take the bait when I’ve rung the office impersonating various demanding constituents. Gavin Cook, you’ve given 43 fantastic years of service to the electorate committee, and you’re like a close uncle to me. Colin and Helen Hartwell, you’ve been with me from day one and I thank you for all the times we’ve had over many years. We will still all catch up.

To electorate chairs Callum Dixon, Jason Shoebridge, Kevin Kline, and Alex Foan, thank you so much for all your work, support, and loyalty. To Angela Hare, Karen Meldrum, Valerie Taylor, Adrienne Moat-Wilson, John Palmer, Geoff Parry, Paul Lahore, Martin Cooper, John and Ali McFetridge, and Julie Fenning, to Peter Kylie, to Alastair Bell, Margaret Voyce, the Ellis family, to Martin Gummer, and to Tim Hurdle—thanks for the tremendous part you’ve all played along the way.

One of the toughest parts of being a member of Parliament—a long-term member in an electorate—is the people you lose along the way. I want to remember the late Bob Mitchell and the late Bill Plunkett; sterling guys, who left a big hole to fill.

To former Birkenhead and Northcote MPs Sir Jim McLay and Ian Revell, I’m absolutely thrilled that you’re here today. You’ve been staunch supporters over many years—my whole career—and I thank you.

To the National Party, to presidents Judy Kirk and Peter Goodfellow, thank you for the opportunities of the last 12½ years. To the people of the Northcote electorate, representing you has been the greatest privilege. You were so loyal in your support over five elections, and I thank you. I’ve been truly moved by the reaction to my resignation, and it has meant everything to me. Being an electorate MP is not a job; it’s a whole life. I feel privileged to have lived it for nearly 13 years.

Northcote is not an electorate I ever took for granted, but it will reward sheer hard work with loyalty. I wish the new National candidate and the team all the best in the upcoming by-election.

To personal friends, many of them from well outside politics, including the Northcote Book Club—thank you for your support and forbearance over the years. It’s going to be great, actually, now to be able to see a lot more people than I have been able to for quite some time in some of my favourite haunts, like the Northcote Rugby Club, the Northcote Tennis Club, and the Northcote Tavern. I’ll be able to spend quite a bit more time there, although hopefully not too much time in the tavern. But it will be good to be back home much more often.

To the wider Coleman and Keeney families, thank you for being there at a personal level. To my mother, Pat, and her husband, Jack, thanks for everything over more than just these last 13 years. To Kay, Richard, and Matthew, and families; to Judy, my mother-in-law, thank you. And I honour the memory of my later father, Ron, a Northcote boy. He would have been amazed to see how it’s all turned out.

Above all, to Madison and Jack, you’ve had a taste of the political life and are just two awesome kids who have grown up thinking it’s normal to see Dad on TV. Jack, you were born when I was a Minister and you’re now 10; so, you know, that’s a long time. I know you don’t like being mentioned too much, but your name is in the Hansard now. Madison, you are the same. You’ve been a fantastic inspiration to me over many years, and it’s now great to see where you’re going and the next stage, when you move off to intermediate school next year. Actually, Jack is eight; Madison is ten. I’ve spent so much away from home! I knew he was shaking his head for a reason, and he’s pointing his finger.

Anyway, to Sandra, who never liked being known as the Mayor of Rotorua’s daughter and had a very healthy sense of perspective on being the MP’s wife, this has been a long and important and fun chapter for us, but I couldn’t have started that chapter, I couldn’t have moved through it, and I certainly couldn’t have successfully finished it without you. Thank you. I still can’t believe I didn’t tell you I was contacting the National Party about being a candidate, but I guess that’s a while ago now. You’ve been with me every step of the way since that time, and you’ve seen and done it all, from delivering pamphlets to emotional support. Yes, I am in debt to you big time.

Finally, to distil political advice into succinct verse, look no further than a poem by an old white guy called Rudyard Kipling, called “If”, which he wrote as advice to his son. I’m not going to recite it in its entirety but it’s worth the read for any politician—or, actually, for any one at all.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—

Yours in the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Thank you, and kia ora. It’s been a pleasure to serve

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What does a heart attack look like?

10/07/2017

Would you recognise a heart attack?

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman is welcoming the return of a campaign which tells people how to identify the signs of a possible heart attack.

The Heart Foundation campaign includes an award-winning TV commercial which shows people acting out what people often expect a heart attack to look like, while another person is quietly experiencing actual symptoms.

“Heart disease is New Zealand’s biggest killer, it’s responsible for more than 6,000 deaths a year or around 16 deaths a day,” says Dr Coleman.

“A recent survey from the Heart Foundation found our awareness around heart attack symptoms is fairly low, with almost 80 per cent unable to identify all the major signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

“The survey also found that over 40 per cent of us would hesitate to call 111 if we were suffering the symptoms of a heart attack.

“The return of this successful awareness campaign should help further educate people about both the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and the need to act quickly.”

Symptoms of a heart attack include prolonged discomfort or pain, frequently in the chest, but occasionally in the jaw, neck or arms. Associated symptoms may include nausea, breathlessness and excessive sweating.

The Heart Foundation’s Heart Attack Awareness campaign will run from today until the end of the month, with support from the Ministry of Health and the Milestone Foundation.

 

Warning signs include:

Are you experiencing… In any of these areas? You may also experience:
  • heaviness
  • tightness
  • pressure
  • discomfort/pain
  • chest
  • shoulder
  • jaw
  • arm
  • neck
  • back
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • dizziness


$50m children’s hospital gift

10/07/2017

Wellington benefactor Mark Dunajtschik will build and gift a new $50 million children’s hospital for the region.

A media release from Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says:

The announcement was made this morning at Wellington Hospital where a heads of agreement was signed between Mr Dunajtschik and Capital and Coast DHB.

“Mr Dunajtschik is a very successful businessman with a very big heart and his offer to build a new children’s hospital for Wellington is extraordinarily generous,” says Dr Coleman.

“While gestures on this scale are not unheard of, they are extremely rare.

“Mr Dunajtschik has said his philosophy is that people blessed with a sound mind and body can look after themselves, but those born with or suffering illness and disability need our support.

“Although he has been a substantial benefactor in the areas of health, sport and education for forty years, this latest act of ‘giving back’ is unparalleled.”

This development will benefit the 4,000 children and their families admitted to child health services at Wellington Regional Hospital each year, as well as over 5,000 children who attend nearly 38,000 outpatient appointments.

While many details are still to be confirmed, the new hospital is expected to be around 7,000m², and is likely to be three floors. It is expected to include 50 inpatient hospital beds, as well as space for families to be together.

Existing child hospital and outpatient services will move into the new hospital. The services and staffing levels are expected to remain the same.

Mr Duanjtschik and his team will now work alongside DHB clinical teams to design a fit for purpose, family centred hospital for the region’s children.

The new hospital will be situated in the Wellington Region Hospital campus, and is expected to begin construction early next year and will take around 18 months.

When we were in Houston a couple of months ago a local told us the city doesn’t really do much for tourists. With the space programme and health precinct it doesn’t need to.

The health precinct covered several blocks and included the The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center . It was established by the University of Texas which funded half the cost, the other half came from the MD Anderson Foundation.

New Zealand health has benefitted from the generosity of  philanthropic people before, for example the T.D. Scott Chair of Urology at Otago University was established when a $1m donation from Trevor Scott was matched by the same amount from the Government’s Partnerships for Excellence Programme.

The $50m donation for the children’s hospital is a very generous one and it comes from a man of whom most of us have never heard.

 


Rural round-up

15/06/2017

More funding to support rural mental wellness:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have committed another joint funding boost to rural mental health.

The Ministers committed $500,000 for Rural Mental Wellness at the opening of the Fieldays Rural Health Hub earlier today.

It will go towards 20 workshops for rural health professionals treating people at risk of suicide, continued support for the rural Clinical Champions and Medical Director, as well as support aimed at younger rural workers.

“The Government recognises that rural life goes in cycles, and we want to support our rural communities through the ups and downs,” says Dr Coleman.

“The Rural Mental Wellness initiative is administered by Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand and Rural Support Trusts. . . 

Helping farmers return home safely:

Last year, 18 people died as a result of work-related incidents in agriculture, accounting for 36 per cent of all work related fatalities in 2016. This is significantly higher than any other primary industry.

The introduction of the 2015 Health and Safety at Work Act and WorkSafe’s ongoing scrutiny requires businesses to understand and adapt to minimise potential for harm to employees and contractors.

To help agri-businesses keep their employees and contractors safe, Safetrac has partnered with MinterEllisonRuddWatts to develop an interactive online training course. . . 

Sustainable farming fund hits 1000th project:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Associate Minister Louise Upston have tonight celebrated the 1000th Sustainable Farming Fund project, and awarded two Emerging Leaders scholarships at an event kicking off National Fieldays.

“The Sustainable Farming Fund supports the primary sector’s own forward thinking and kiwi ingenuity – which in turn helps keeps New Zealand ahead of the game,” says Mr Guy. 

“1000 projects have now been funded since the fund was initiated in 2000. This represents around $150 million in government funding alongside a significant level of sector support.

“The fund has supported projects as diverse as reducing nutrient run off on lowland farms, reducing use of antimicrobials when managing mastitis, and increasing the market share for New Zealand olive oil,” Mr Guy says.

Ms Upston says much of the success of the fund is due to its grass-roots nature. . . 

Commonsense prevails on firearms recommendations says Feds:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see that Police Minister Paula Bennett has listened to the concerns of the rural community on the Parliamentary Select Committee report into the illegal possession of firearms.

Minister Bennett rejected 12 of the 20 recommendations made by the committee that would have significantly impacted on licensed firearms owners- but done little to stop firearms getting into the hands of criminals. . . 

Vegetable prices up 31 percent in year to May:

Higher lettuce prices helped push vegetable prices up a record 31 percent in the year to May 2017, Stats NZ said today. Overall, food prices increased 3.1 percent in the year.

“Our wet autumn has pushed vegetable prices to their highest level in almost six years in May, with the largest annual increase to vegetables on record,” consumer prices manager Matthew Haigh said. “The increase was more pronounced because warmer-than-usual weather in the 2016 growing season resulted in cheaper-than-usual vegetable prices in May last year.” . . 

NZ agriculture needs to latch onto tech faster:

New Zealand’s primary industries need to latch on to technology faster to support the economic growth of its agri sector and become a world leader in a fast growing agritech market, NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says.

NZTech members have joined hundreds of other firms at Fieldays in Hamilton this week as technology becomes increasingly important for the New Zealand agri sector.

A growing awareness of the value of technology in agriculture can be seen by the number of farmers looking into technologies such as IoT, drones, sensors and robotics, Muller says. . . 

Smaller NZ wine vintage is full of promise:

The 2017 grape harvest has come in smaller than expected according to New Zealand Winegrowers.

The 2017 Vintage Survey shows the harvest totalled 396,000 tonnes, down 9% on last year said Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers. “Given strong demand in overseas markets wineries had been looking forward to a larger harvest this year. With the smaller vintage however, export volume growth is likely to be more muted in the year ahead.”

Mr Gregan said the smaller vintage was due to weather conditions. “Generally summer weather was very positive but there were some challenges as the season progressed.” . . 

Bellamy’s to pay Fonterra A$28M to change supply contract as it struggles to crack China – Sophie Boot:

 (BusinessDesk) – ASX-listed Bellamy’s Australia plans to raise A$60.4 million from shareholders and will pay nearly half of that to New Zealand’s Fonterra Cooperative Group in order to change their milk supply contract in its quest to comply with Chinese import regulations.

The two companies have been in negotiations this year after announcing changes to their take-or-pay organic powder contract. Fonterra and Bellamy’s first entered into a five-year, multi-million dollar deal to manufacture a range of baby nutritional powders at the Darnum infant formula plant in south-east Victoria in November 2015. . . 

Wrightson warns wet autumn will weigh on annual earnings Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson, whose chief executive yesterday signalled his departure at the end of the year, warned a wet autumn sapped the performance of its seed and grain business and will weigh on annual earnings.

The Christchurch-based company said it expects operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to be in the bottom half of its earlier guidance for earnings of between $62 million and $68 million, while net profit will be near the low end of its previous forecast for between $46 million and $51 million. . . 

Rural sector stabilises despite challenges:

Rural businesses show signs of improvement despite facing constrained business environment

However, 1-in-5 rural businesses expecting no change from technology a “cause for concern”

As Fieldays 2017 kicks off, a new survey by accounting software provider MYOB reveals rural businesses are showing strong signs of economic improvement despite a constrained environment. . . 

Fieldays an opportunity for careers advice:

More than 500 students will be offered advice on careers in the primary industries as they pass through the Careers and Education Hub at Fieldays this week.

Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Louise Upston says that with strong growth in the primary sector anticipated over the next few years, the Government was encouraging more young people to consider careers in primary industries.

A number of schools, totalling more than 500 students, have registered to visit the Careers and Education Hub at Fieldays at Mystery Creek. Careers NZ will be among those offering advice to young people considering such a career. . . 

Plenty to celebrate for Zespri at Mystery Creek :

Kiwifruit’s growing importance to the rural economy is being celebrated at Fieldays 2017 at Mystery Creek this week, together with the 20-year anniversary of the Zespri brand.

The kiwifruit marketer has a large presence at the biggest agricultural and horticultural event in the Southern Hemisphere, hosting growers and industry stakeholders at its hospitality site over the four-day event. . . 

Wrightson boss Mark Dewdney to leave at the end of the year – Paul McBeth

 (BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson chief executive Mark Dewdney will leave the rural services firm at the end of the year, by which time a new leadership team is expected to be in place.

Dewdney will end three-and-a-half years in charge of the Christchurch-based company at the end of 2017 “to pursue private interests”, and will help the board install a new leadership group by 2018, Wrightson said in a statement. Chairman Alan Lai said Dewdney had done an “excellent job” in building staff engagement and targeting growth in certain areas of the business.. . 

Vodafone calls on rural Kiwis to check their coverage at this year’s Fieldays:

Thousands of rural Kiwis are within reach of better broadband and Vodafone is on a mission to end their ‘buffering blues’ at this year’s Fieldays.

The company is challenging visitors to use its brand new interactive coverage wall to see if they can get a faster and more reliable broadband connection where they live.

In addition to super-fast wireless broadband, Vodafone has a range of coverage solutions on display to help rural New Zealanders improve their connection to the world. . . 

BEC Feed Solutions expands to meet growth:

BEC Feed Solutions has expanded its New Zealand operation with the appointment of Rhys Morgan as South Island Sales Representative. The new position was created following substantial business growth after a successful three years in business, and the desire to expand BEC’s presence in the South Island.

Reporting to BEC Country Manager, Trina Parker, Mr Morgan will be accountable for growing the business via the sale of ingredients, solution-focused feed additives and premixes within the South Island. He will also have responsibility for developing the company’s presence in the dairy sector, in addition to account managing a number of existing clients across New Zealand. . . 


One in a million

11/05/2017

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says more than one million doses of this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine have now been distributed.

“A recent New Zealand study showed that most people infected with influenza in 2015 didn’t experience any symptoms, but could still have spread the virus without realising it,” says Dr Coleman.

“By being immunised, we not only protect ourselves, but we help to ensure we don’t pass on influenza to our families, friends and colleagues.

That’s a point people who think they don’t need to be vaccinated often miss.

“This is the sixth year in a row where more than a million doses have been distributed. Most influenza immunisation takes place in late autumn, as such we expect to reach our target of 1.2 million doses by early August.”

It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to start providing protection, so immunisation is recommended before the beginning of winter. . .

I am one of those in the million plus who have had the jab, so’s my farmer and most of our staff for whom we reimburse the cost.

We encourage our staff to get vaccinated for their own sakes and that of the rest of us.

Flu is a serious illness. Vaccines aren’t 100% effective but they’re more effective than any other anti-flu measures.

 


Cabinet changes

18/12/2016

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.


366 days of gratitude

08/12/2016

The left and the more excitable of the commentariat have been acting like Chicken Little.

Prime Minister John Key has announced his resignation but the sky isn’t falling and the National caucus is not falling apart.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English has more than enough support from his colleagues to become party leader and PM when they meet on Monday.

Minister Judith Collins and Jonathan who were keen for a contest have withdrawn and pledge their support for the PM in waiting.

The leader of the party and the country is changing but stable government, focussed on the issues that matter, maintaining careful management of finances to enable better public services will continue.

I’m very grateful for that.


Would you overrule dead’s wishes to not donate?

08/06/2016

This morning’s Paul Henry poll asks would you overrule a dead family member’s wish to donate their organs?

Of course I wouldn’t and 87% of respondents agree with me.

I am listed as a donor on my driving licence and have discussed this with my family who are happy to abide by that.

If any of my family wanted to be a donor I wouldn’t dream of going against their wishes.

If they hadn’t made their wishes clear then I would be prepared to permit organ donations.

A more troubling scenario would be if I knew they didn’t want to be a donor but their organs could help someone else.

I would really struggle with that decision.

I wouldn’t necessarily follow all a dead family member’s wishes. If he or she wanted a private funeral, for example, I might not keep to their instructions.

Funerals are about the dead but for the living and my preference is, with a very few exceptions, for public celebrations of people’s lives.

Making a decision against someone’s wishes about a funeral like that wouldn’t worry me.

However, the idea of going against someone’s wishes to not donate organs is harder. That thought does trouble me but so too does the idea of failing to make a decision that could make a huge difference to someone else’s quality, and/or length of life.

The poll was prompted by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman’s announcement of consultation on organ donation.

“Organ transplantation is a life-saving treatment and for people with organ failure it’s often the only option available,” says Dr Coleman.

“While we already have many of the elements of an effective organ donation and transplantation service in New Zealand we can do better.

“The consultation document sets out a number of changes which could increase our deceased organ donation rate.

“This includes raising awareness, standardising the way hospitals identify potential donors and how donation is discussed with families.

“A suggestion as to how we could better support the hospital team is to improve the driver licence system so medical staff are informed if someone has indicated they would like to become a donor.”

Demand for transplants in New Zealand, particularly kidneys, continues to rise while our rate of deceased organ donation remains comparatively low at 11.8 donors per million population in 2015.

The Government has invested $8 million in a variety of initiatives aimed at increasing organ donation and transplantation. These included support and education for hospital staff, work to help overcome cultural barriers and donor liaison co-ordinators. 

The consultation document follows a Ministry of Health-led review of deceased organ donation rates. The proposals are based on international best practice, local evidence and advice from an expert advisory group.

You can find out more on the issue and how to make a submission at the Ministry of Health.


You don’t think you need a flu jab?

02/05/2016

It’s Immunisation Awareness week:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says immunisation week is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of immunisation. This year’s immunisation week theme is – ‘protecting baby begins at pregnancy.’

“Expectant mums are encouraged to enrol with a Lead Maternity Carer, be immunised during pregnancy, and immunise their baby,” says Dr Coleman.

“Getting immunised against whooping cough and influenza when you’re pregnant are two of the most important ways you can help protect your baby for their first few weeks of life.

“Babies are vulnerable to whooping cough until they have completed their six week, three month and five month immunisations.

“Pregnant women are more likely to suffer from complications from influenza that can put their health, and their baby’s health, at risk.” . . .

It’s not only pregnant women who are at risk from the flu.

Polly Gillespie writes on losing her sister to the flu.

If you’re likely to be upset by graphic details of what the illness did to her body, don’t read on.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rural round-up

13/11/2015

Alliance profit takes $4.28m hit – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group’s profit has taken a dive and operating profit was down $4.28million in the year ended September.

The company released its key financial results yesterday, which showed operating profit of $9.19million, down from $13.47million last year.

Turnover lifted slightly, from $1.45billion to $1.49billion, while reported profit was down from $6.21million to $4.62million. . . .

Alliance taps in to online traffic through Chinese partner – Tim Cronshaw:

The Alliance Group’s closer partnership with a big red meat player in China will position it better to take advantage of the quick uptake by Chinese internet users to online buying.

Online sales are huge in China with US$9.3 billion of transactions going through Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba.com on November 11 (11/11) last year . This is known as  Singles’ Day when students graduate and has been popularised in the internet era. Much of the online retail went through Tmall.com, a platform for Chinese and international businesses to sell brand name goods to consumers in mainland China and owned by China’s richest man, business magnate Jack Ma.

Meat processor Alliance’s main sheepmeat buyer into China, Grand Farm, plans to step up online sales which will tie in with the companies’ joint strategy to increase their co-branding in the Chinese marketplace. . . 

Farming in the land of the hobbit – Gerald Piddock:

The Alexander family had never heard of Peter Jackson when in 1998 he first knocked on the front door of their Matamata farm.

The movie maker had spotted their 560ha sheep and beef farm from the air and thought the site could make an ideal set for what was to be The Lord of the Rings movies.

Unfortunately, Jackson chose the wrong time to call in on Ian Alexander, his son Craig told a large crowd of international farming journalists in Waikato for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Congress in Hamilton. . . 

Broadband rollout to rural hospitals complete:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Communications Minister Amy Adams have announced that all rural public hospitals and integrated family health centres now have access to high speed broadband.

The 39 hospitals and integrated family health centres identified by DHBs as candidates for the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative are now all able to connect to fibre capable of peak speeds of at least 100 Mbps.

“Faster broadband enables healthcare to be delivered in new and innovative ways. These e-Health solutions offer better, safer, more efficient healthcare closer to home,” says Dr Coleman. . .

Transtasman Company Named NZ’s Fastest Growing Agribusiness:

Agricultural consultancy and rural investment management company Compass Agribusiness, has secured the title of New Zealand’s fastest growing agribusiness in the latest Deloitte Fast 50 Index.

The company, which has offices in both Arrowtown (New Zealand) and Melbourne (Australia), also placed 18th on the overall index ranking the 50 fastest growing businesses in New Zealand.

New Zealand based company director Guy Blundell says the ranking caps off a big year for the business. . . 

Non seasonal dairy – Keith Woodford:

Recently, I have been writing about what we need to do in New Zealand to climb the agri-food value chain. I have been emphasising the importance of China – there really is no alternative – and the associated need for an integrated ‘NZ Inc’ approach to online selling direct to consumers.

The products we need to be selling through this dedicated and integrated ‘NZ Inc‘ portal (but also linked into the major Chinese online portals) include dairy, meat, wine, fruit, jams, biscuits, chocolate, and bottled water. Indeed almost anything else we manufacture for ourselves that has a shelf life of more than a few days, we can also manufacture for China. . . 

Commission approves Cavalier’s application to acquire NZ Wool Services:

The Commerce Commission has issued its final determination approving Cavalier Wool Holdings’ (Cavalier) application to acquire New Zealand Wool Services International’s (NZWSI) wool scouring business and assets.

Today’s decision follows on from the Commission’s draft determinations, released in March and October, which indicated it was likely to approve the application because of the public benefits of the acquisition.

Chair Dr Mark Berry said the Commission had considered and tested all the submissions and evidence presented to it since the application was lodged in October 2014 and was satisfied the acquisition should be permitted. . . 

James Wong's photo.

Despite all our accomplishments, we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains.


Rural round-up

24/08/2015

Increased focus on rural depression:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have today announced increased training for rural health professionals and community leaders to tackle depression in rural communities.

The commitment is the second part of the one-off $500,000 funding boost for mental health initiatives targeted at rural communities announced at Fieldays.

“Raising awareness of mental health issues in rural communities is important, but you also need the professional support with the right skills to help those who are at risk,” says Dr Coleman. . . 

TPP deal to free up world dairy trade would reduce volatility:

DairyNZ chairman John Luxton writes that major TPP players are holding their dairy consumers to ransom

The news that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal has not been agreed because of differences over autos, dairy and intellectual property is no surprise to anyone.

Some of the major players have sought to maintain trade protection rather than to reduce it.

It seems incredible that the US dairy industry has so far convinced the US negotiators that they need to be protected from any increase in New Zealand dairy imports into the US. . . 

Back to basics – Annette Scott:

Dwindling demand from dairy has forced cropping farmers to readjust their businesses in a return to traditional practices and markets.

Dairy industry destocking would result in reduced demand for off-farm feed supplies and that would mean greater demand for store lambs, Federated Farmers arable industry chairman Guy Wigley said.

With tongue in cheek he suggested now could be a good time to buy sheep. . . 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand pleased with health and safety changes:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand says sheep and beef farmers will be pleased to hear that most farms are not going to be classed as high risk work places and won’t have to have a health and safety representative, following changes to the proposed Health and Safety Reform Bill.

Responding to suggestions that farmers are getting getting off lightly, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman James Parsons said sheep and beef farms average fewer than two full time employees per farm.

“Can you imagine the farm manager and the shepherd standing on a hill and electing the health and safety representative? Not classifying farms as high risk doesn’t exempt farm businesses from any liability under the Health and Safety Reform Bill. But the amendment does recognise some basic practicalities of implementing the legislation on farms.” . . 

A2 Milk eyes infant formula for sales growth after ASX listing costs result in loss – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – A2 Milk Co sees more upside for infant formula, which underpinned full-year sales growth for the specialty milk marketing company, although costs for a secondary listing on the ASX resulted in an annual loss. The shares dropped 9.1 percent.

The Auckland-based company reported a net loss of $2.09 million in the year ended June 30, compared to a profit of $10,000 a year earlier. That included a $1.68 million charge relating to its ASX listing. Revenue jumped 40 percent to $155 million and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and one-time costs rose 35 percent to $4.18 million, reflecting a record performance in Australia.

The shares sank 7 cents to 70 cents, the lowest level in a month. . .

Rural Infrastructure needs to be a priority:

The government appears to be on the same page as Federated Farmers, with their announcement of their 30 Year Infrastructure Plan today.

Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers Infrastructure Spokesperson says “Rural infrastructure will need to be a priority in looking at addressing the inefficiencies in infrastructure investment and planning.”

Federated Farmers supports the intent to better understand where the critical demands are and to make better decisions from that knowledge, but remain wary of what that strategy means for rural communities. . .

Water New Zealand welcomes Government’s 30 year infrastructure plan:

Water New Zealand welcomes the Government’s initiatives for better developing and maintaining New Zealand’s 3 waters infrastructure announced today as part of the 30 Year Infrastructure Plan 2015.

Water New Zealand is a strategic partner of the Treasury’s National Infrastructure Unit which produced the report*.

“New Zealand’s urban centres are rapidly growing and it is very encouraging to see that Central Government is facing the infrastructure challenges head on with an increased focus on developing a better understanding of water related infrastructure assets,” said John Pfahlert, CEO of Water New Zealand. . .

Science turns to sheep for answers on human health –  Sarah Stewart:

If you’ve ever tried to lose a few kilos you probably know all about fat and carbs.

But did you know you can learn a lesson or two from sheep?

A group of Kiwi scientists are finding they have much more to tell us about our health than we might think.

The saying ‘ you are what you eat’ has been around for years.

But there may in fact be a chance your health is actually determined by what your parents or even grandparents ate.

There is also a chance what you eat could affect what illnesses your kids get. . . 

Collaboration Key for Canterbury Dry Land Farmers:

In the last couple of months over 250 farmers and their advisors have attended a range of workshops, field events and presentations across four sub-catchments in the Hurunui Waiau Zone – which fits within the area of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

The workshops included initial work around developing, designing and forming a ‘Collective’ for dry land farmers, linked to the Beef+Lamb NZ Farm Environment Plan and broader environmental programmes. Under the Hurunui Waiau River Regional plan, ‘for farmers to continue to farm without a consent from 1 January 2017,’ they will be required to be a member of a Collective or Irrigation Scheme. In addition, the Collective will need to develop an approved Environmental Management Strategy. . . 


Rural round-up

05/08/2015

More hands-on support for rural communities@:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy say around 100 more people will be trained to help farming families across the country access the support they need.

The commitment is the first part of the one-off $500,000 funding boost for mental health initiatives targeted at rural communities announced by the Ministers at Fieldays.

“We recognise that some farmers are under considerable stress. The physical isolation as well as the uncertainties of being reliant on the land creates different pressures to those living in an urban setting,” says Dr Coleman. . .

 Overseas Investment Office penalises investors:

Investigation and enforcement action by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has resulted in two south Canterbury farming syndicates being penalised $173,400 for breaches of the Overseas Investment Act.

Both syndicates involve UK investors Andrew and Paul Turney, while one also involves US company Schooner Agribusiness LLC. The farming syndicates are two of six established by the late Alan Hubbard that were investigated by the OIO. The other four syndicates have disbanded and sold their properties.

OIO Manager Annelies McClure said the six syndicates, or their investors, had breached the Overseas Investment Act 2005 and Overseas Investment Act 1973 multiple times since 2001. . . .

 

NZ wool exports jump to the highest in more than a decade in June, helped by low kiwi, Chinese demand – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand wool exports jumped to their highest level in more than a decade in June, aided by a lower currency and strong demand from China, the nation’s largest market.

Wool exports rose 19 percent to $75 million in June from the same month a year earlier and reaching the highest level for a June month since 1994, according to Statistics New Zealand data. Exports to China, which account for two thirds of the total, jumped 34 percent to $50 million.

“The main driver of the increase in value is the weakened New Zealand dollar,” said Georgia Twomey, a commodity analyst at Rabobank. The New Zealand dollar averaged 71 US cents through May and June of this year, down from about 86 cents in the same period last year, she said. It recently traded at 65.60 US cents. . . .

NZ unions oppose RSE expansion:

 Unions in New Zealand say they oppose any expansion of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

The RSE allows Pacific workers into New Zealand on short term visas to work in the horticulture sector.

The criticism from New Zealand’s Council of Trade Unions comes as talks on the PACER Plus regional trade deal resume in Samoa, with more seasonal work a critical element in getting the island nations onboard.

The CTU’s Bill Rosenberg says the RSE scheme is threatening to make Pacific workers a dominant source of employees in the industry. . .

Foresters to discuss a better future:

Over 100 forest sector stakeholders are gathering in Wellington next week to discuss developing a national forest policy. They want the policy to be accepted and used by the forestry sector — and for it to guide the Government’s thinking on forestry.

“We believe New Zealand needs a comprehensive long term forest policy, to recognise the long term nature of forests and the many benefits forests provide to society. Many services provided by forestry are not provided by other land uses, and forestry is too often undervalued. This is the reason many other countries have national forest policies,” says Garth Cumberland, chair of the project. . . .

Makeover for OVERSEER®:

The owners of OVERSEER® are establishing a new not-for-profit company to manage, develop and license OVERSEER.

OVERSEER is jointly owned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand (FANZ) and AgResearch Limited.

The Chief Executives of the owner organisations have committed to a business plan which will significantly enhance OVERSEER over the planned transition phase of three years and ensure a sustainable funding base. . .

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Launches Referendum Proposal to Farmers:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has launched the 2015 Sheepmeat and Beef Levy Referendum proposal, outlining activities for the next levy cycle between 2016-2022. Sheepmeat and beef producers, including dairy farmers through their cull cows, will have the chance to continue funding activities and programmes for the next six years when voting opens on 8 August.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman, James Parsons said the Commodity Levies Act requires farmers to vote to continue new levy orders every six years and a ‘yes’ vote will enable Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s activities to carry on. A ‘no’ vote would mean that Beef + Lamb New Zealand would be wound down and all the programmes would end. . .

Six DairyNZ spots up for election:

Nominations open this week for farmer-elected directors on the board of DairyNZ, with one spot vacated by long-serving chairman John Luxton, who is standing down from the industry body.

This year, three farmer positions are open for election to the Board of Directors and another three positions are up for election on DairyNZ’s Directors Remuneration Committee.

Nominations open on August 5 and close on August 28, with voting held from September. . .

 

 

 

 


Commissioner for SDHB

18/06/2015

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has appointed a commissioner to replace the Southern District Health Board.

The financial problems at Southern DHB are longstanding. I do not have confidence that the current governance arrangements are suitable for delivering on the changes required in Southern DHB,” says Dr Coleman.

“Southern is forecasting a final deficit of $27 million for the current financial year. That figure has effectively doubled in the last six months.

“The DHB has also forecast that its deficit position will further increase in 2015/16 to between $30 million and $42 million – this accounts for over half the combined deficit of all 20 DHBs. This situation of fluctuating forecasts and progressively worsening deficits cannot continue.

“The Government is committed to the redevelopment of Dunedin Hospital and the provision of high quality health services to all the people of the Southern region.

“All DHBs are funded according to the same population-based funding formula. This formula includes adjustments to recognise rural populations, age and other demographic issues.

“In a tight fiscal environment, all DHBs need to use available funding effectively. No other DHB has failed to control its finances in the way that Southern has.”

Kathy Grant has been appointed Commissioner and takes up the role on 18 June 2015. After discussions with Mrs Grant, she has indicated that she intends to appoint Graham Crombie and Richard Thomson as deputies. A third deputy with a strong clinical background will be appointed by the end of the month.

“Mrs Grant is from Otago and brings significant local knowledge. She has significant business and governance experience and a proven track record in turning around struggling organisations,” says Dr Coleman.

“The team will bring together a mix of strong financial, governance and clinical skills.

“I would like to thank the Board members for their work to date. My decision is not intended to devalue their efforts and achievements. However, a new approach is now necessary.

“My decision is based on the need for a new approach to the DHB’s longstanding financial issues, and to help move the DHB to a more sustainable position over time.”

This is a good move by the minister and the commissioner has made a very good start in the appointment of her deputies:

Kathy Grant bio
Kathy Grant was born in Otago and has spent most of her life in the region.

Mrs Grant currently works as a consultant in the legal practice of Gallaway Cook Allan in Dunedin. She has significant governance experience. Mrs Grant holds several current directorships including Chair of the Otago Polytechnic Council (appointed 2010), a trustee of Sport Otago (appointed 2007), and a director of Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (appointed 2012), Dunedin City Treasury Ltd (appointed 2013), and Dunedin International Airport Ltd (appointed 2008). She was also a member of the Anglican Family Care Board (2009-2013).

Mrs Grant has been on the Board of Trustees for several schools and colleges, and a previous member of the University of Otago Council (2007-2010). She was also previously Chair of the Dunedin College of Education Council (2001-2006).

Graham Crombie bio
Graham Crombie is a Dunedin local. He attended Bayfield High School and Otago University. Mr Crombie has a strong background in accountancy, with a proven record in high level assessments of the sustainability of health organisations. He was President of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (2008) and went on to become chair of the organisation (2009-2014).

Mr Crombie also has lengthy governance experience. He is currently chair of Dunedin City Holdings (appointed 2012), Dunedin City Treasury (appointed 2013), Otago Museum Trust Board (appointed 2011), Dunedin Venues (appointed 2015) and director of Surf Life Saving NZ (appointed 2013). He was also the independent chair of South Link Health (1999-2009).

Richard Thomson bio
Richard Thomson was born in Invercargill and attended Otago University. After specialising as a Clinical Psychologist he took up a lecturer role at Otago Medical School. He is now a successful businessman.

Mr Thomson has key insights into Southern DHB. He was chair of Otago DHB (2001-2009) and became a Board member after Otago DHB merged with Southland DHB (2009-2015).

Mr Thomson is currently serving his second term on the Dunedin City Council.

They have a difficult job to do but it must be done to secure health services in the south.

All DHBs have population based funding which takes into account a variety of factors.

Advocates in the south have long-argued that the formula doesn’t take enough account of the costs of servicing a smaller population, which isn’t growing much and is older than the average, spread over a large area.

The ODT editorialises:

. . . The fairness of the opaque population-based funding model again has to be questioned. The South failed to attract the increases of other areas in recent times and for various reasons could be seriously disadvantaged.

If the appointment of a commissioner is the signal for a fresh start then everything should be on the table, including how funding is calculated with an analysis of its fairness. After all, the South has to cope with the largest geographic area, the extra costs for teaching and many – and usually more costly – older patients. . .

The commissioner and her deputies will have to make the formula work or prove the advocates right.

 


Rural round-up

13/06/2015

 Farmer Wellness Big Breakfast – Nathan Guy

The title of my speech today is “Managing Through Tough Times”.

I came up with the idea of this function when I was out running about six weeks ago and felt the time was right for the Government to communicate two very important messages to our farming families and communities.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge that these are challenging times for many farmers and the wider rural community, particularly in the dairy sector, but that we expect much improved conditions in the longer term.

Secondly, I wanted to reinforce the message that if farmers are struggling, or have concerns about how things are going, you are not alone and help is out there.

We know there are plenty of challenges this year, as there always is with farming. . .

$500,000 boost to help rural mental health:

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy have announced a $500,000 funding boost to support mental health initiatives targeted at rural communities.

“Rural depression is a significant issue. The physical isolation as well as the uncertainties of being reliant on the land creates different pressures to those living in an urban setting,” says Dr Coleman.

“The Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industries have each contributed $250,000 to the one off funding boost. . .

Federated Farmers Fielday Seminars: “The essence of farming: water, land, capability”:

Agribusiness expert, Jaqueline Rowarth, has told a Federated Farmers seminar at the Mystery Creek Fieldays this afternoon that investment is necessary for ensuring supplies of sufficient farm water, but meanwhile maintaining water quality.

She said this investment is only possible if primary produce meets the huge challenge of attracting good prices.

Professor Rowarth told the 50 odd people at the seminar New Zealand has both water quantity and quality, which farmers are capturing and using responsibly. . .

 

Greenhouse gas study tour winners announced:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced the two winners of the 2015 Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) – World Farmer Organisation Study Tour in Argentina later this year.

Doug Avery and Zach Mounsey have been selected as winners by a panel including Mr Guy and Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew after giving presentations at Fieldays this year.

“The purpose of this study tour is to increase global understanding and engagement on agricultural greenhouse gas research. These two winners will have an important role as ambassadors for New Zealand in sharing environmental management practices that support sustainable productivity. . .

Breeder confident of sheep’s safety:

A Canterbury sheep breeder with stock on board a major shipment to Mexico says she has been in touch with the destination farm and has no concerns about the animals’ safety.

Penni Loffhagen, who is one of the biggest Suffolk stud breeders in the country, has sold 15 young pedigree sheep to a Mexican farm for breeding.

Her ewes and rams are among 50,000 sheep now at sea on the way to Mexico. . .

They’re not ‘our’ sheep – Kiwiblog:

Newstalk ZB reports:

Labour wants assurances that tens of thousands of sheep and cattle being shipped to Mexico won’t be killed when they get there.

The shipment leaves Timaru today.

Leader Andrew Little told Newstalk ZB’s Rachel Smalley the regulations are clear – you can export live sheep for breeding purposes, you can’t for slaughter. . .

PGG Wrightson lifts annual earnings outlook for a second time, warns of weak farmer confidence – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson, the rural services firm controlled by China’s Agria Corp, lifted its annual earnings outlook as second-half trading comes in ahead of expectations, but warned weak farmer confidence may weigh on future sales.

The Christchurch-based company expects annual operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to be between $66 million and $69 million in the year ending June 30, above the February forecast for earnings between $62 million and $68 million. That in itself was an upgrade from previous guidance to beat last year’s earnings of $58.7 million. . .

New Zealand Avocados Achieve Record Sales Volume:

New Zealand’s largest ever avocado crop has been successfully harvested, packed and marketed with a massive 7 million trays sold during the 2014-15 season.

Jen Scoular, Chief Executive of NZ Avocado, today announced the new record volume which was 43 per cent higher than last season, and up from a previous industry high of 6.1 million trays sold in 2011-12 and a great industry return.

“Growth in the consumption of avocados in our key markets continues to be very impressive. . .

Best Young Butchers in the Region:

Two of New Zealand’s top young butchers have been named following the Alto Young Butcher & Competenz Butcher Apprentice of the Year Lower North Island regional final yesterday.

Havelock North local, Justin Hinchco from New World Havelock North took out the Alto Young Butcher category and Vernon Atutahi from New World Marton finished first place in the Competenz Butcher Apprentice category. . .

 

Body condition score to become a breeding trait:

Body condition score (BCS) is to be included as a new trait in Breeding Worth (BW) from February 2016.

Breeding Worth provides farmers with an economic measure of genetic merit (profit per five tonne of dry matter) and is calculated for all dairy cattle. During a National Breeding Objective Review in 2012, BCS (particularly late lactation BCS) was identified as an important trait with economic value to farmers. . .

 

Wool values ease:

New Zealand Wool Services International Limited’s General Manager, Mr John Dawson reports that the North Island offering this week, made up predominantly of short coarse Second Shear wools compared to the more varied South Island longer selection last sale on 4th June, saw prices ease despite the weakening New Zealand dollar.

The weighted indicator for the main trading currencies came back by 1.95 percent with a 98 percent clearance of the 9,400 bales on offer. . .

NIWA’s Fieldays stand a winner:

NIWA’s Fieldays team is today basking in the glory of winning the Best Indoor Agribusiness Site awarded by the National Agricultural Fieldays organisation for the 2015 event.

Dr Mark Bojesen-Trepla, NIWA’s manager of marketing and industry engagement, said the win was a great endorsement for the team who had worked extremely hard to put together a space that would be eye-catching and relevant to farmers.

“We are delighted our efforts have been formally recognised but are also looking forward to meeting more farmers during the rest of Fieldays and showing them how we can help.” . . .

 

 


Commissioner for SDHB?

09/06/2015

The Southern District Health Board may be replaced by a Commissioner:

The board has until Thursday to respond to Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman’s proposal to consider appointing a commissioner under the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act, it was revealed yesterday.

A commissioner would have the powers and functions of the board, except for procedural aspects relating to meetings, a letter from Dr Coleman to chairman Joe Butterfield says.

”Based on the board’s previous history of failure to deliver on its annual plan expectations, I do not have confidence that the current governance arrangements are suitable for overseeing the strategic plan or delivering on the changes required in Southern DHB,” he wrote. . .

The SDHB might not like this but the boards of the smaller hospitals it funds will be relieved.

The proposed action follows months of uncertainty after Dr Coleman confirmed in February he wanted to replace Mr Butterfield with a new chairman, but no appointment was made.

In the meantime, proposed cuts to head off a projected $42million deficit in 2015-16 met opposition and put pressure on Dr Coleman and local National MPs.

About 1700 people attended meetings in Central Otago last month to protest against possible reductions to Dunstan Hospital services.

George Berry, chair of Waitaki District Health Services said the proposed cuts would result in a serious downgrade of Oamaru Hospital.

The cuts to funding of Oamaru, Dunstan, Balclutha and Gore hospitals would be serious for them and make only a small difference to the SDHB’s deficit.

They’d also add to costs in Dunedin Hospital when patients unable to be treated locally were transferred to the city.

I was deputy chair of WDHS from its formation in 1998 until 2005.

It and the boards of the other rural hospitals have had an on-going struggle to get their fair share of funds and the financial situation of the SDHB has deteriorated.

Sacking the board and replacing it with a commissioner is a serious step but one which must be taken for the security of health services in the south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


New Cabinet announced

06/10/2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced the Cabinet for his third term:


“There is a lot of work ahead to continue implementing our plans to build a stronger economy, reduce debt and create more jobs,” Mr Key says.

“The new Ministry builds on the experience of the past two terms in office, and combines experience with some fresh talent.

“A number of Ministers have had significant portfolio changes, reflecting the need to give Ministers new challenges as well as providing a fresh set of eyes in some portfolio areas.”

Mr Key says a number of Ministers have been promoted either to the front bench, or further up the front bench, to reflect their strong performance in recent years and their promise for the future.

“Paula Bennett has been promoted to number five in the rankings, and picks up State Services, Social Housing and Associate Finance in addition to retaining her Local Government portfolio.

“Dr Jonathan Coleman becomes Minister of Health, and also picks up the Sport and Recreation portfolio, which will link nicely together.

“Amy Adams and Simon Bridges are promoted to the front bench, both with significant new responsibilities. Ms Adams becomes Justice Minister and Mr Bridges Transport Minister.

“Christopher Finlayson remains Treaty Negotiations Minister and Attorney-General, while picking up significant new responsibilities in the intelligence area. He becomes Minister in Charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service and Minister Responsible for the GCSB, working closely with me in my new role as Minister for National Security and Intelligence.

“In this role I will continue to be responsible for leading the national security system, including policy settings and the legislative framework. Mr Finlayson will operate within the framework I set and exercise ministerial oversight of the NZSIS and GCSB, including approval of warrants.

“Officials have examined models used overseas and what we are adopting is very similar to what is seen with our closest partners.

“Housing continues to be a key area of focus for the Government, and a Ministerial team of Bill English, Paula Bennett and Nick Smith has been assembled to lead that work. Mr English will have direct responsibility for Housing New Zealand; Ms Bennett will focus on social housing, while Dr Smith will work on housing affordability and construction issues. The Social Housing portfolio will have responsibility for the government’s social housing functions, and for its relationship with the social housing sector.

Other changes include:

Gerry Brownlee becomes Minister of Defence, while retaining the role of Leader of the House and his Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and EQC portfolios.

Anne Tolley becomes Minister for Social Development.

Dr Nick Smith becomes Minister for the Environment.

Nikki Kaye becomes Minister for ACC.

Michael Woodhouse becomes Minister of Police. He also becomes Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety – a new portfolio title to reflect the modern focus of what had previously been the Labour portfolio.

Jo Goodhew becomes Minister for Food Safety.

Mr Key says, in announcing his new line up, three new Ministers will be appointed. Maggie Barry is to go straight into Cabinet as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Minister of Conservation and Minister for Senior Citizens. Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith will be Ministers outside Cabinet holding a variety of portfolios.

“Two ministers previously outside Cabinet have been promoted to Cabinet. Todd McClay will be Minister of Revenue and Minister for State Owned Enterprises, while Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will be Minister of Corrections, Minister for Ethnic Communities and Minister for Pacific Peoples.

“Craig Foss remains a Minister, but will now serve outside Cabinet as Minister for Small Business, Minister of Statistics and Minister of Veteran’s Affairs.

“Chester Borrows will not be appointed to the new Ministry. He will, however, be National’s nominee for Deputy Speaker, and I want to thank Chester for his service as a Minister,” Mr Key says.

A number of Ministers continue largely in their current portfolio responsibilities. These include Steven Joyce in Economic Development, Hekia Parata in Education, Murray McCully in Foreign Affairs, Nathan Guy in Primary Industries, Tim Groser in Trade and Climate Change, and Nicky Wagner in Customs.

“The support party Ministerial and Under Secretary roles have already been announced, but I want to acknowledge again their contribution to the formation of a strong, stable National-led Government.”

Mr Key says the National Caucus will meet tomorrow (Tuesday 7 October) to elect its three whips for the coming parliamentary term.

The new Ministry will be sworn in at Government House in Wellington at 11am on Wednesday morning.

The list of names, positions and rankings is here.

 


Better Public Services better sooner

21/08/2014

Two of the Better Public Services targets National set have been met ahead of schedule:

Better-than-expected progress in reducing crime and having more young people attain higher qualifications means these two Better Public Service targets will be made more challenging if National is returned to government after the election.

The two targets are among 10 this Government has set to ensure the money invested in public services actually delivers demonstrable gains for New Zealanders, National Party Finance Spokesman Bill English and State Services Spokesman Jonathan Coleman say.

“For too long, governments have considered that spending more money equates to fixing problems, even when the evidence shows that simply isn’t the case,” Mr English says.

“That’s why our Government considers results rather than more spending as the best measure of the effectiveness of public services.

“In 2012, we set measurable targets in 10 challenging areas to improve the lives of New Zealanders, particularly the most vulnerable, and it’s pleasing that our six-monthly updates show good progress.

“In two targets, the results have been so much better than anticipated that we’re lifting the bar so we aim for even more improvement.”

The new targets are:

• Raising the proportion of 25 – 34-year-olds who will have advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees by 2017 to 60 per cent – up from 55 per cent in the current target.

• Reducing the total crime rate by 20 per cent from June 2011 to June 2017 – up from the current target reduction of 15 per cent.

 “We’re lifting our sights because there has already been significant progress on each of these targets and we want to keep them challenging,” Dr Coleman says.

Other targets in the BPS programme include reducing the number of people who have been on a working age benefit for longer than 12 months, reducing the number of assaults on children, reducing the incidence of rheumatic fever and increasing the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification.

“Our focus on results, and being accountable for achieving them, is changing the way the public service is thinking and operating,” Dr Coleman says.

“We’re open to new ideas and new ways of people working together so we get more children immunised and ensure fewer children are assaulted.

“Our primary objective is to make a difference that improves the lives of New Zealanders and we expect that over time this will also reduce cost pressures on the government.

“That’s our aim and a third term National government would continue to work for better returns from the billions of dollars that taxpayers spend to help and support their fellow New Zealanders.”

When you get a government with the courage to set targets and which understands it takes quality spending rather than quantity spending to make a positive difference you get progress.

These targets and the policies supporting them are working for New Zealand and we need another National-led government to ensure they keep working.


BPS working for NZ

22/07/2014

National set targets for its Better Public Services programme which are showing positive results.

Long-term welfare dependency is reducing and more young people are achieving higher qualifications under the Government’s Better Public Services initiative, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman say.

The Government today published the July update of BPS targets, which confirms more good progress in tackling some of the most challenging issues facing New Zealanders, however making headway in other areas is slower, Mr English says.

“The Government is committed to making progress on the really difficult issues that affect our communities and families, and particularly the most vulnerable,” he says.

“Taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year on public services to help their fellow New Zealanders and this Government is determined to ensure they get what they pay for. Our focus on reducing welfare dependency, increasing achievement in schools and reducing crime require government agencies to find better solutions and to work with others to implement them.

“We are prepared to spend money on effective programmes which change lives, because what works for the community also works for the Government’s books.”

Dr Coleman says the ambitious goals set by the BPS initiative were chosen to make a real difference to the lives of New Zealanders.

“We have always said some of the targets will be challenging and require determination and teamwork to achieve, and it’s pleasing to see agencies working co-operatively.

“The latest update shows we are making good progress overall. We have now met the targets for reducing total crime and youth crime. There has been good progress in reducing long-term welfare dependency, increasing Level 2 NCEA pass rates and those with New Zealand Qualifications Framework Level 4.

“Progress in the past 12 months towards our target of reducing long-term welfare dependency is encouraging, with 6434 (8.5 per cent) fewer people continuously receiving jobseeker support for more than one year. We are also seeing people stay in employment for longer.

“In other result areas, more work is being done to reduce rheumatic fever, reduce assaults on children, and improve online business transactions.”

Dr Coleman says that because of the BPS programme, agencies are working together more effectively and delivering results through collaboration and innovation.

“Agencies are making better use of data to drive better services and to meet the needs of local communities. Agencies are also learning about what works through research and evaluation,” he says.

“There is a greater focus on chief executives doing what is best for the system as a whole, rather than just looking at the short term interests of their department, and that is supporting the changes needed to achieve results.”

The BPS programme began in 2012 when the Prime Minister announced goals and measurable targets in 10 challenging areas, including reducing long-term welfare dependency, supporting vulnerable children, boosting skills and employment, reducing crime, and improving interaction with Government.

The Better Public Service Results July update is here.

Money is being spent where it will have a positive impact.

This is often more expensive in the short term but it will pay off with both social and financial dividends in the medium to longer term.

Behind these numbers are individuals whose lives and outlook are better than they would have been had National not introduced targets and policies that are working for New Zealand.

We’re committed to tackling some of the most challenging issues facing New Zealanders. You can check out our good progress here: national.org.nz/better-public-services #Working4NZ


Rural round-up

26/04/2014

Future farm staff needs a big priority:

To be considered world leaders, the dairy industry needs to lift its game to attract and retain quality staff, says DairyNZ.

As dairy farms get bigger, demands on farm staff are getting greater, says DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader for people and business, Mark Paine, a key speaker at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum, May 7-8. Farmers are encouraged to register now to attend the forum.

“We need to ask ourselves if we’ve got an industry geared up to accommodate the growing demands,” says Mark. “We have a range of initiatives in place and we’re working hard on all fronts – but is it enough? I’ll be keen to hear from farmers attending the forum about their priorities.

“Our research suggests that for on-farm roles, we need 1000 graduates every year at diploma level and above, and another 250 a year for rural professional and science roles. . .

Crop losses ‘in millions’ – Annette Scott:

Unprecented weather is proving a cropping farmer’s nightmare as Canterbury arable farmers face crop losses in the millions of dollars.

“We are at the tough end of a relatively tough season and the toughest part is we can’t do anything about it,” Federated Farmers national grain and seed chairman and Mid Canterbury arable farmer Ian Mackenzie said.

“It’s worse than frustrating and what hurts most is that it’s the more-valuable crops that are still standing out in the paddocks.”

Ground conditions were very wet, he said. Autumn wheat should be planted but radishes were still in the paddock. . .

Cropping farmers encouraged to seek support:

Federated Farmers is encouraging farmers to help each other as cropping farmers in Canterbury and North Otago seek respite from a prolonged wet spell which is threatening specialist crops and cereals ahead of harvesting.

“Already sodden fields have been shown no mercy from a succession of passing cyclonic fronts” said Mid-Canterbury President, Chris Allen.

“This will have the same impact on cropping farmers as one metre of snow during lambing would have on sheep farmers, it’s very serious.

“Now into autumn with shorter days and less heat, there will be limited opportunities for farmers to recover their crops.  Due to the wet ground conditions, crops aren’t suitable for harvest and when they are, there will be a big demand on resources. . .

Farmer grateful for army help:

Federated Farmers is appreciative of the efforts of the New Zealand Army to help southern Westland clean up the mess caused by former tropical Cyclone Ita.

“Given it is Anzac Day, we are moved to have the New Zealand Army on the ground here in Westland to help us to recover,” says Katie Milne, the organisation’s Westland provincial president.

“It feels like the cavalry has arrived but more accurately, it’s the sappers.”

On Thursday Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said nine New Zealand Defence Force personnel were already in Whataroa and a team of 16 engineers and support personnel from Burnham would arrive on Thursday afternoon. . . .

FMA investigates whether banks breached financial markets laws on interest rate swaps to farmers

(BusinessDesk) – The Financial Markets Authority, New Zealand’s markets watchdog, is investigating whether the sales and marketing of interest rate swaps by major banks to rural customers may have breached financial markets laws.

The FMA is working with the antitrust regulator, the Commerce Commission, to see if the banks have breached laws including the Securities Act 1978 and the Securities Markets Act 1988, the watchdog said in a statement. It declined to comment further while the investigation is ongoing. . .

NZ infant formula makers likely to get all-clear from China – Andrea Fox:

Nearly all New Zealand’s 13 infant formula manufacturers look likely to pass muster by Chinese authorities to continue exporting to China, which has introduced tough new regulations after food-safety scares.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kay said based on advice from Chinese officials in the past 24 hours following their audits of NZ manufacturers, most, if not all, were expected to achieve registration.

However, one unnamed manufacturer would have to make some changes before registration would be complete, the ministers said.

The Chinese audit was conducted last month. . .


70 years on

21/10/2012

He was 29 when he took part in the battle of  El  Alamein as a soldier in the 20th Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

He never spoke about it much.

He returned to Egypt with the New Zealand contingent to the 50th anniversary commemoration.

He never spoke about that much either and now it’s too late  to ask him because he died 13 years ago.

But if Dad was here I am sure he’d appreciate the words of Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman at the 70th anniversary commemoration:

. . . To the New Zealand veterans who are with us today I know this is a very poignant return to El Alamein. You have all lived a whole lifetime in the seven decades since your service here in the flower of your youth. I know that the experiences of the North African campaign will have shaped those years in ways that only your fellow comrades could truly appreciate.

Subsequent generations of New Zealanders are forever indebted, to you and those who rest here in North Africa. We look at you in awe, because you left ordinary everyday life in the streets, in the workplaces and on the farms of New Zealand, and farewelled your loved ones to serve. You made sacrifices which have meant that we who have followed have been able to live in prosperity and peace. You and your mates were ordinary Kiwis who became the greatest of Kiwis. Your country is very, very proud of you.

We will always remember and honour those New Zealanders who fought and died here, and we will continue to defend the values they upheld with such valour.

Dad would also note with the irony of the anniversary commemorations coinciding with the desecration of Jewish graves in Auckland.

This is the sort of ignorance and intolerance against which the men at El Alamein fought.

It shows that 70 years on some idiots neither share nor appreciate the values the soldiers upheld.


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