Rural round-up

March 9, 2020

South Otago group buying in to idea of improving environment – Richard Davison:

Southern farmers have come in for a public bashing in certain sections of the media during recent months, as unflattering winter grazing conditions hit the spotlight. Richard Davison takes a look at a group offarmers demonstrating poor environmental practice is the exception, rather than the rule.

Taken at face value, it would be easy to believe the agricultural sector has paid no heed to governmental directives and public appeals to join the clean water revolution now gaining in momentum.

But invest even a moment to dig a little more deeply and peer through the quaggy murk, and that notion is quickly dispelled.

The award-winning Pathway for the Pomahaka agricultural catchment water-quality improvement scheme, started in 2015, has begun to expand into eight more South Otago catchments, bringing with it tried-and-tested techniques, and a spirit of experimentation that is about to be enthusiastically adopted by new stakeholder farmer groups. . .

Airport dairy training school still in limbo – Daniel Birchfield:

Plans for a dairy training farm at Oamaru Airport remain on the back-burner as visa processing delays continue to thwart the National Trade Academy’s ability to enrol international students.

Plans to establish the school, next to the academy-affiliated New Zealand Airline Academy, were announced in August last year.

It was due to open this month, but the academy was not able to fill classes.

The issue arose when six overseas visa processing offices were closed by Immigration New Zealand last year. . .

Let the harvest begin:

Kiwifruit picking is underway in Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty, signalling the beginning of the 2020 kiwifruit harvest.

The 2020 season is forecast to be another very large crop with around 155 million trays of Green and Gold kiwifruit expected to be picked in orchards and packed in packhouses across New Zealand from Northland to Motueka. This year’s crop is forecast to be well up from the 147 million trays exported in 2019.

It is predominantly the Gold variety which is first picked, followed by Green kiwifruit in late March. The last fruit is picked in June. . .

Public, media support of dairying – Hugh Stringleman:

Mainstream media organisations are not anti-dairy farming or beating up on the industry, DairyNZ communications manager Lee Cowan says.

Media items about dairying, across all forms of media, have remained more than 90% positive or neutral over the past three years of analytics, she told Farmers Forums throughout the country in the past month.

Cowan said the problem is sensitivity bias among dairy farmers who are interested in articles about dairying and who therefore read or watch them and are more likely to have an opinion. . .

Sarah’s Country | Spirulina’s for drinking, water’s for fighting – Sarah Perriam:

A favourite saying of Grandad C R Perriam was “Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting”. Nothing has changed since the fight between gold miners and farmers in Central Otago in the 1800s, till now.

We have never had so much technology at our fingertips to preserve water in human history so the fight is about the social licence for every drop.

This week in Sarah’s Country we discover the exploding future of super-foods grown from algae in water with Justin Hall from Tahi Spirulina, New Zealand’s first spirulina farm on how this diversified, plant-based market is on fire. . .

Research to explore benefits of sheep grazing on lucerne:

British farmers are to learn from their counterparts in New Zealand as new research explores the benefits of sheep grazing on lucerne.

The farmer-led field lab will look at grazing ewes and lambs on only lucerne – a legume that is widely used as forage for sheep in New Zealand.

It is valued for its high yield, drought tolerance, protein content, and digestible fibre.

Farmers taking part will assess lucerne’s potential in finishing lambs quicker, tolerating low rainfall, and reducing fertiliser inputs by fixing nitrogen in the soil. . .

 


Rural round-up

May 2, 2014

Canada, dairy and the TPP – Keith Woodford:

Canada and New Zealand are currently in serious negotiations as to future rules for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). In relation to dairy products, we sit on different sides of the debate. We want free access. In contrast, they want to retain their supply management quotas which control how much milk is produced, and hence protect the farm-gate price of milk.

The widespread assumption in New Zealand is that free trade will open up new markets in Canada. The current dairy market there is 8 billion litres per annum. To put that in perspective, our total milk production in New Zealand is about 20 billion litres per annum. So on the surface, free trade could open up exciting new opportunities.

A recent report from The Conference Board of Canada places a different perspective on matters. They agree with New Zealand that Canada should get rid of its supply management scheme. However, they see the outcome being that Canada would rapidly transform its industry and become a major exporter. . .

Dairying’s other big 2014 vote – Willy Leferink:

This year will see a general election but you have to wonder if three-year cycles are sufficient.  Let’s face it, year one is learning the ropes and doing what you promised.  Year two is fine tuning what you’ve done or running a mile from what you’ve done, meanwhile, year three is all about getting re-elected.

Many systems have four or even five year cycles and DairyNZ’s impending vote on its $61 million industry good levy fits into the five year cycle.

It isn’t appreciated by many who bemoan the lack of research and development in New Zealand, that every time my girls come in for milking, 3.6 cents in every kilogram of milksolids they produce goes towards R&D.  This money is collected by the milk processors and passed to our industry good body, DairyNZ.  It undertakes a whole host of research activities that no farmer could ever hope to do individually.  DairyNZ further leverages what it gets from us farmers in larger programmes like the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and through the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP. . . .

Westland Milk Products Registered for Infant Nutrition Products Export to China:

Westland Milk Products, New Zealand’s second biggest dairy co-operative has confirmed today that it is registered to export dairy products including infant formula milk powder to China.

The company has been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and Chinese authorities and has been notified of its registration with the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA).

“We support the Chinese moves to impose greater controls and stricter standards around the importation of infant formula. Ultimately this will benefit New Zealand exporters by giving Chinese consumers more confidence in our products” says Westland CEO Rod Quin. . .

Synlait misses China regulation deadline as it waits on factory build – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – Synlait Milk, the dairy processor which counts China’s Bright Dairy as a cornerstone shareholder, missed out in the first round of approvals under China’s new regulation of imported infant formula as it waits for the completion of its new processing and packaging plant.

The Ministry for Primary Industry expects Synlait will receive approval once the new dry blending and consumer packaging factory is built which is scheduled for completion next month, the Rakaia-based company said in a statement. Companies without the new registration won’t be able to sell infant formula produced from today in China.

A2 Milk Company, whose Platinum infant formula is manufactured at Synlait’s Canterbury plant, also missed out on registration, which includes demonstrating a close association between brand owner and manufacturer. . .

Synlait Milk confident of China registration:

The initial list of registered New Zealand companies issued by the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA) did not include Synlait Milk as an exporter of finished infant formula into China. This announcement has been anticipated by the Company for some time.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed that it expects Synlait Milk to receive registration following the approval of its Risk Management Plan by MPI for its dry blending and consumer packaging facility. Construction of this facility is scheduled for completion in June 2014. . .

FGC welcomes Nutricia’s investment:

The intended acquisition of New Zealand milk-drying and infant formula blending and packing capacity by French-owned Nutricia is a further indication of confidence in the New Zealand food and beverage industry, says the Food & Grocery Council.

Chief Executive Katherine Rich says today’s announcement is significant.

“This is great news for the industry and for New Zealand’s infant formula manufacturing capacity.

“Having such a renowned multinational company purchasing two New Zealand firms to ensure it has a major infant formula local manufacturing facility affirms once again that New Zealand’s dairy industry remains among the best and safest in the world.” . . . .

Comvita annual earnings pip 2013, meeting guidance; shares fall:

(BusinessDesk) – Comvita, which makes health products from manuka honey, said annual earnings and revenue eclipsed 2013, meeting guidance, as recent apiary acquisitions improved its security of supply. The shares fell.

The Te Puke-based company said net profit was about $7.5 million in the 12 months ended March 31 from $7.4 million a year earlier, on revenue of $115.3 million, up from $103.5 million in 2013. The company had previously said it anticipated beating 2013 profit and sales.

“When unconstrained by raw material shortages, as happened in the second six months, we clearly have growth momentum,” chief executive Brett Howlett said in a statement. “The strategy of acquiring apiary businesses is working to alleviate the supply shortage pressures.” . . .


Com Com investigationg Countdown

February 15, 2014

The Commerce Commission has received a complaint about alleged anti-competitive behaviour by Countdown towards their suppliers and says confidentiality is available.

The Commission advises that anyone who has information relevant to the allegations can request that the Commission keep their identity and/or the information provided confidential. The Commission will not disclose the identity and/or information unless consent is given or the Commission is required to by law. If confidentiality is a concern then it should be raised when first contact is made with the Commission.

Anyone who has relevant information is encouraged to contact us on 0800 943 600.

Shane Jones made accusations against the supermarket chain under parliamentary privilege and Katherine Rich CEO of the Food and Grocery Council confirmed it had received complaints:

“We’re aware of a number of incidents where our member companies have been asked for retrospective payments. We have raised our general concerns about this practice with the supermarket chain involved,” Ms Rich said.

“This is a serious issue that is new to the New Zealand grocery sector and we view it as an unwelcome development.

“We have asked members to report further occurrences.”

Countdown has rejected the accusations and says it will co-operate with any inquiry.

Consumers benefit from competition between supermarkets but not the sort of behaviour that has been alleged which would make business too tough for suppliers and put them out of business.

 

 


Rich appointed to APEC Business Advisory Council

October 4, 2013

Prime Minsiter John Key has announced that Maxine Simmons’ term on the APEC Business Advisory Council has been extended through to March 2014 and Katherine Rich will take over from her.

Ms Simmons is the Managing Director of BioCatalyst Ltd and been an APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) member since 2010.

“The extending of Ms Simmons term allows ABAC to retain her extensive skills for the upcoming APEC meeting and for the first ABAC meeting of 2014 in Auckland,’’ says Mr Key.

Mr Key also announced the appointment of Katherine Rich to ABAC from March 2014.

“Mrs Rich’s involvement in New Zealand’s food industry as well in agri-business, combined with her networks developed from her parliamentary experience, means she is well placed to contribute actively to ABAC’s and APEC’s agenda,” says Mr Key.

“Mrs Rich has extensive private and public sector experience which will prove especially useful for ABAC’s work with governments on trade facilitation and supply chain connectivity, which are both key priorities for New Zealand.”

The APEC Business Advisory Council is a network of business representatives from each of the 21 APEC economies that meet to develop business perspectives on the issues being discussed among APEC economies. . .

Fonterra has welcomed the appointment:

Fonterra Group Director of Communications, Kerry Underhill, said Mrs Rich’s extensive experience and understanding of the food industry and agri-business would serve New Zealand well on this influential international forum.

“Katherine has always been generous in sharing her expansive knowledge and networks, and providing wise counsel, with members of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.

“NZ Inc will gain a valuable advocate through her participation in ABAC,” said Mr Underhill. . .

Katherine has an impressive mix of political and business experience which will be valuable on the ABAC.

She is a very good example of someone who makes a contribution as an MP and goes on to succeed in life outside politics.


Rural round-up

September 20, 2013

Beef + Lamb New Zealand appoints Chair-Elect:

Northland farmer and Northern North Island Director for Beef + Lamb New Zealand, James Parsons was appointed Chair-Elect for Beef + Lamb New Zealand at the organisation’s board meeting today.

The position of Chair–Elect has been made to allow an orderly transition of leadership for Beef + Lamb New Zealand, following the announcement from current Chairman, Mike Petersen that he will not seek re-election when his term ends in March 2014.

“This appointment is a very important part of the governance process,” Petersen said.

“Beef + Lamb New Zealand puts strong emphasis on the development of all directors, and there has been a real focus on growing the leadership ability of the board for the benefit of the wider sector. . .

Wattie’s Starts Precision – Planting This Season’s Beetroot:

– Day One of 20 weeks of planting

– Resurgence of consumer interest in beetroot

Wattie’s has started precision-planting this season’s beetroot crop, and will continue over the next 20 weeks until a total of 350 hectares have been planted.

The first seed has been planted in the Paki Paki area of Hawke’s Bay for what will be a 20,000 tonne crop, Wattie’s second biggest annual crop behind tomatoes.

Harvesting of the first baby beets is scheduled for the second week in December. . .

Irrigators urged to check for lightning strike damage:

IrrigationNZ says farmers should exercise caution when starting irrigation systems – even if storm damage isn’t obvious – as lightening strike has emerged as a secondary cause of problems following last week’s storm.

“Just because your centre pivot didn’t blow over in the wind doesn’t mean your system is ok. We are now hearing reports of irrigation control systems fried by lightning strike, especially along the Canterbury foothills. Farmers need to check their infrastructure carefully before the season begins. Don’t start your irrigator before you’ve undertaken the appropriate safety checks,” says IrrigationNZ CEO Andrew Curtis.

“Irrigation system pre-season checks will be even more important this year as parts and labour will be in short supply due to the storm. Irrigators can not afford for their irrigator to break down due to negligence as it will result in downtime. Basic checks like ensuring the pivot tracks are free from obstructions, tyre pressures are correct and so forth are a no-brainer,” says Mr Curtis. . .

Invermay Delegation Meeting Minister of Economic Development:

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is leading a delegation to meet with Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to discuss alternatives to the proposed downsizing of Invermay in Wellington at 5pm today.

The group includes Environment Southland chair Ali Timms, former Dunedin MPs Katherine Rich and Pete Hodgson, Otago Regional Council chair Stephen Woodhead and its CEO Peter Bodeker.

Dave Cull says any reduction in roles at Invermay will have a serious economic and strategic impact.

“From Dunedin’s perspective, there is potential for smart businesses and jobs to come out of there. From a regional point of view, the expertise at Invermay is crucial to ensure the continuation of leading environmental research related to farming and other industries which contribute significantly to the Otago and Southland economies. We believe the proposal would also have serious economic implications at a national level.” . . .

Double Gold for Rapaura Springs 2013 Sauvignon Blanc:

Rapaura Springs is continuing to strike gold with its Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, with a double win at the New Zealand International Wine Show 2013.

The Rapaura Springs 2013 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Rapaura Springs 2013 Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc both won gold medals at the country’s largest wine competition.

Owner Brendan Neylon said Sauvignon Blanc was Marlborough’s flagship wine, and it was imperative that the region worked hard to continue to produce the world’s best. . .

Rockburn Wines Win At the Biggest and Most Prestigious Wine and Spirits Competition In China:

Rockburn Wines has been awarded a prestigious Double Gold medal in the 2013 China Wine and Spirits Awards for their 2009 Rockburn Chardonnay, while the 2011 Pinot Noir took out its own Gold award.

The Central Otago winery has a history of winning gold medals, particularly for its Pinot Noir, and this month alone has also collected a Gold Medal at the Bragato Wines Awards for their 2012 Pinot Noir and a Gold Medal at the New Zealand International Wine Show for their 2012 Tigermoth Riesling. . .

Marisco Vineyards wins NZ Wine Producer of the Year in China:

Marisco Vineyards has been awarded the Trophy for New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year at the China Wine and Spirits Awards. The company’s wines also won four double-gold, six gold and two silver medals in the prestigious annual competition, continuing their golden run in the rapidly growing Chinese wine market.

Chief Winemaker and Proprietor Brent Marris says the trophy and medal haul will consolidate The King’s Series and The Ned’s position as market leading New Zealand wine brands in China.

“The Chinese market is very complex. One of the challenges is that it is culturally a very status driven market so old world wines have tended to dominate. But awards like this endow enormous status on our brands, new world wines generally, and New Zealand wines specifically, and this win will build our brand profile, and help increase distribution and cement our foothold in the Chinese market,” Marris says. . .

Organics: The Future of New Zealand Wine?

Major three-year project aims to see a fifth of all Kiwi vineyards certified organic by 2020.

The oldest winery in the country, Mission Estate, is also one of the most technologically advanced and sustainable. Now, in a move that could have implications for the New Zealand wine industry as a whole, Mission Estate is into its final year of a major study on organic grape-growing – a trial that may potentially see this influential winery make a significant commitment to increasing its organics production.

The Organic Focus Vineyard Project is New Zealand’s first public trial of organic grapes grown side by side with conventional grapes. The pioneering participants are Gibbston Valley in Central Otago, Wither Hills in Marlborough, and Mission Estate in Hawke’s Bay, where the project was piloted during the 2010-11 season. Mission viticulturist Caine Thompson is monitoring 16 hectares of Gimblett Gravels vines, with half being grown in the conventional manner and half under strict organic controls. . .


Two wins for common sense

June 12, 2013

Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye has today announced changes to the Food Bill that ensure communities will be able to continue fundraising that involves the sale of food.

“The changes ensure better balance in the legislation so that high-risk food operators have the appropriate controls, while unnecessary burdens are not placed on communities,” Ms Kaye says.

“They are designed to clarify aspects of the law where people have raised uncertainty.

“Since the Food Bill had its first reading, people have expressed concerns that it could have placed unnecessary regulation and compliance on community and fundraising groups.

“We have listened to those concerns and the relevant changes to the Bill will go back to Select Committee for consideration.

“The changes relate to community activities, including swapping food in non-commercial exchanges and engaging in fundraising and ‘Kiwiana’ activities such as sausage sizzles and school fairs.

“There will also be greater transparency of fees charged by local authorities and the addition of a ‘good Samaritan’ clause to better protect businesses that donate food in good faith.

“The changes to this legislation are to provide a flexible, risk-based food safety system that will accommodate around 85,000 food premises, which account for more than 250,000 jobs.

“Some of the definitions will be important to get right and that’s why I am sending the Bill back to select committee for consideration.

“The Food Bill is comprehensive and replaces the current legislation and regulations plus at least 34 separate sets of food safety bylaws around New Zealand.

“It is challenging to draw the line in the appropriate place on how much regulation will ensure safe and suitable food for consumers when dealing with the differences in scale from a community sausage sizzle through to a multi-national food producer.

“The Bill has significant support from industry and businesses and more than 6000 businesses have adopted transitional risk based programmes in anticipation of this new Food Bill.

“I believe this legislation is critical to protect the health of New Zealand consumers, improve the integrity of our food systems and support export-led economic growth.”

Food & Grocery Chief Executive Katherine Rich says the changes are sensible and timely.

“As a country so dependent on food production, New Zealand needs a modern food law, and this will achieve that.

“It’s not before time. The existing piece of legislation is more than 30 years old and has regulations that are nearly 40 years old. A lot has happened in food technology, science, attitudes, and thinking in that time. On that basis, with food laws that are very much out of date and overdue for a revamp, it is important New Zealand moves forward in this area.

“The changes proposed by the Minister are sensible and pragmatic, and improve the clarity of the law so there is less room for ambiguity.

“Many members of the Food & Grocery Council have risk-based systems in place, and the Food Bill will provide a clearer underpinning of those systems.

“The food industry will welcome the proposed changes.”

And in other news:

Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain says feedback from event organisers and members of the public shows overwhelming support for changes to the rules around spot prize draws which will remove unnecessary red tape.

Currently when spot prizes are used at events, such as fishing competitions and fun runs, they can be classed as gambling under the Gambling Act – which means organisers have to comply with a raft of rules.

“Public consultation on our discussion document showed the rules are too restrictive and the paperwork required onerous. Gambling is not the primary purpose of these events, so all these regulations are not required,” says Mr Tremain.

“However I don’t want a blanket exemption as this would potentially allow for events to be set up for prize draws where there is no community benefit.

“So the proposal is to exempt events from the Gambling Act events if they meet certain criteria such as the prize draw being secondary to the main event, the draw being only available to people participating in the event and the event having a community benefit.

“That will mean organisers will be able to offer spot prizes, regardless of the value of the prize, without needing to apply for a licence.

“The new rules will be in place in time for summer events this year.”

That’s two wins for common sense.


Turning blue – or at least purple

December 1, 2011

One of National’s active supporters in Dunedin reckons the city isn’t so much red as purple.

The cover of the give-away paper DScene and story on the election result – National winning the party vote in Dunedin South and nearly doing it in Dunedin North – backs her up:

One of the benefits of MMP has been the presence of a National MP in the city.

Former MP Katherine Rich helped raise the party’s profile and present its softer side. She was succeeded in Dunedin North by Michael Woodhouse who has made an impressive start to his parliamentary career and worked hard for the people of city.

Conway Powell started turning the tide towards National in Dunedin South in 2005, built on that in 2008 and this year’s candidate Joanne Hayes carried on to win the party vote.

Boundary changes which included more rural areas and lifestyle blocks in the electorate, and demographic changes have helped cement the base. But it takes dedicated candidates and supporters to build on that and turn it into more votes.

There were special circumstances this time. It wasn’t just the National vote which went up, the Green vote did too and Labour’s went down.

But the result is an encouraging indication that the city could be changing from red to purple, though not blue – yet.


Allowing list or electorate only would create two classes of MPs

July 26, 2011

MMP’s party lists are designed to ensure that the number of seats a party gets in parliament is proportional to the amount of support it gets in the election.

They are used for positive discrimination to make parliament more reflective of the population.

Lists also enable people who can’t stand for a seat or who stand but don’t win, to enter, or stay in, parliament.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Some people have to resign from their jobs once they declare they are standing for parliament. Going for a list place means they’d be out of work for a much shorter time than if they sought selection in a seat.

People dont’ seem to be too exercised by people who stand in unwinnable seats and then enter parliament on the list – Katherine Rich was well regarded as an MP and Chris Finlayson and Hekia Parata, have both proved to be assets in government.

What does upset a lot of people though is the MPs who lose seats then come in on the list.

Change in that area would attract popular support but it isn’t without fish hooks.

If anyone who stood for a seat and didn’t win it could then not come in on the list the wee parties would stand in few if any electorates and just run lists.

That would be a pity because most candidates who fight an electorate campaign have to engage with voters of all persuasions and learn the practical implications of policy which they wouldn’t if they were just seeking a list seat.

It would also create difficulties for Labour and National. It would be much harder to find candidates to stand in unwinnable seats if they knew they didn’t also have a chance of entering parliament on the list.

We’d end up with two classes of MPs – electorate ones who weren’t on the list and list MPs who never stood in seats.

It would be better to apply the rule not to all who stand and fail, but to those who hold a seat then lose it.

MPs rejected by their electorate could be barred from returning on the list for that term. But their party could select them again, either for a seat or list only, in the next election and let voters decide if they wanted them.


Is politics and parenting an impossible dream?

June 25, 2010

Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard said * she made a choice to go into politics rather than be a parent. 

She was once reported as saying a mother would never be Prime Minister but she says she was misquoted

“It is not what I said, not what I meant and not what I believe,” Gillard responds fervently, adding: “I look forward to a time when a mother is Prime Minister in this country.” 

For some time, when speaking publicly about the pressures in women’s lives, Gillard has rhetorically asked the question, “Could John Howard or Peter Costello have had quite the same careers if they were women?” The question is intended to be a humorous way of getting her audience thinking. 

The point she is making, she explains, is that it is easy for some men to look at women’s choices and offer a critical view without thinking for themselves what they would have done if faced with exactly the same choices. 

“I was trying to say we need to be talking about the pressures for women,” she continues. “Not just for politicians, but for women right across the nation who live the juggle of trying to put work and family together.” 

Gillard describes the stress she sees in the life of her friend Kirsten Livermore, the Federal Member for Capricornia. Livermore is the mother of two young children and her huge electorate is based in Rockhampton in North Queensland. She regularly brings her children to Canberra, but even with her husband’s support, Gillard says, “It’s unbelievably tough to work in a highly pressurised workplace and deal with family issues at the same time.” 

It appears to be even tougher for some people than others and more of those people happen to be women. 

Does that mean politics and parenting are mutually exclusive, or at least a lot harder  for women? 

Many men manage to combine the two roles but a lot fewer women do. 

That may be because fewer women who want to be mothers also want to enter politics; or that more women who enter politics don’t want to be mothers. 

But I suspect it is also because, in spite of the gains made in gender equality, women still find it harder than men to manage demanding careers and parenthood, and politics is a particularly demanding career. 

Jenny Shipley combined motherhood and politics, but her children were at secondary school by the time she reached cabinet and young adults when she was Prime Minister. 

Helen Clark chose not to have a family. 

Ruth Richardson had a young family but in her autobiography wrote of how difficult it was to juggle pregnancy, babies and politics. 

Katherine Rich often spoke of how family-unfriendly parliament and politics were and she decided to retire at the end of the last parliamentary term because she wanted to spend more time with her family

Lots of sitting MPs, here and in other countries, are parents; some of them are women. But fewer women than men reach the upper rungs of the political ladder. 

There will be lots of reasons for that, among which is that some – like some men –  may not have the desire or ability. 

But some don’t aim for the top because they put their families first, some do by choosing not to have children, few manage both parenting and the political heights. 

The Australian says Julia Gillard’s ascension fulfils feminist dream

But at least for now it appears that the feminist dream requires women to choose between politics and parenting and that  combining politics and parenting is still an impossible dream for most women. 

* Sky TV last night, not online.


The dangers of jam

April 18, 2010

How many people have contracted any sort of illness from eating jam cooked in a home kitchen?

The question first came up several years ago when a woman approached then-MP Katherine Rich at the Upper Clutha A&P Show.

The woman had been making jam for a Save The Children charity shop in Canterbury  for years, raising thousands of dollars for a very good cause in the process. But she’d been told it would no longer be acceptable unless she upgraded her kitchen to commercial standard or shifted her jam making to a commercial kitchen.

A media fuss followed and the local body involved backed down. But now another one is waving the big stick at charity cooks.

If I eat at a restaurant or buy food from a supermarket I expect high standards and have no problem with the authorities getting involved to monitor them. But if I buy jam or baking form a charity stall I know it’s come from a home kitchen and accept the tiny risk which comes with that.

Will they follow us home to make sure we store and use the jam the correct way next?

Jam is made from boiling fruit and sugar. I’d think the danger of conrating anything untoward from it would be considerably less than the risk to your helath from batting your head against bureaucracy.

Hat Tip: goNZo Freakpower.


Lockwood vs Holmes

August 9, 2009

Lockwood Smith won this morning’s debate with Paul Holmes on Q&A .

One of the points he raised was how much, or how little, some MPs do:

One of the things that I’m actually amazed the media hasn’t focused on, is you now see who are the members in demand, who are asked to speak around the country, you can actually tell it from their travel expenses, because they’re being asked to appear in front of groups all round the country.  Some members are obviously not sought after much and therefore their expenses are only a fraction of the others.

When political commentators rate MPs it’s almost always on their performance in Wellington. That’s only a small part of the work of a good electorate MP and some of the better list MPs. Those who do the most outside Wellington obviously have greater costs for travel, accommodation meals and other out of pocket expenses.

It’s fair to ask why some MPs spend so much, but of equal concern is why some spend so little. If they’re not out of Wellington working for and with constituents what are they doing?

Another point Smith made was, unlike most jobs, there is no adjustment for length of service and experience:

PAUL I’m talking about private holidays.  I’m talking about private international travel MPs get subsidised on .

DR SMITH Well one of the reasons why that subsidy came in Paul is over the years if you take my situation prior to this last election.  Twenty four years’ service, pretty senior member, mostly on the front benches during that time, on exactly the same salary as the newest list member walking in six weeks before the election.  Now in broadcasting, is an experienced broadcaster like you on the same income as someone recruited six weeks ago?  Yet that’s the only profession I’m aware of where salaries don’t change after years of service.  The one privilege, the one privilege members get after years of service is that travel subsidy, and I think actually they deserve it.

MPs get additional pay for taking on extra roles but those who stay as back benchers with no additional responsibility get no recognition for their length of service and experience. Maybe some don’t deserve it, but some electorate MPs work very hard and their experience helps them serve their constituents better.

Then there’s the pressure on families:

PAUL  Alright, but why should we pay for the spouse?  I wouldn’t expect the companies I work for to pay for the spouse.

DR SMITH Think about it a little bit.  When you work Paul you’re mainly at home.  I got married recently, no honeymoon, my wife and I have spent very little time together since I’ve been married.  That’s the pressure on families, that is the real pressure on families.  Parliament Paul chews up, destroys and spits out families, and if you want to put more pressure on families and spouses and marriages, that’s fine, I’m not going to support you in that.

PAUL  Well Dr Smith with the greatest of respect, welcome to the real world.  Professional private business executives travel without their spouses all the time, anyone who’s ambitious and gets ahead sacrifices family.

DR SMITH Paul that’s ridiculous, the amount of time Members of Parliament have to spend away from their families far exceeds that.  If you think that’s not true, stand, Paul, stand for Parliament.  There’ve been quite a few in the media who have over recent times, and they’ve bailed out real fast, when they’ve found actually the going was a damn sight tougher than they expected.

MPs aren’t alone in having jobs which put pressure on families and marriages but few if any others have the same level of demand which is placed on MPs and it’s worse for those with big electorates. The way they are on call and in the public eye almost all the time requires sacrifices for them and their families which would be rare if not non-existent, in other jobs.

The panel of Katherine Rich, Andrew Geddis and Peter Neilson give their views on the discussion here.

Stephen Franks makes a very strong defence for allowances here. One of the points he makes is that including allowances in a higher salary would suit lazier and greedier MPs.


Nothing New in Buddy MPs

May 5, 2009

The misunderstanding by TV1 and the NZ Herald  over Melissa Lee as the List MP for Mount Albert has raised the subject of Buddy MPs.

In the old days under First Past the Post Labour and National used to assign MPs to neighbouring electorates which the party didn’t hold.

These Buddy MPs didn’t have offices, but they provided an alternative advocate from the sitting MP for constituents and also provided a focus for party members and supporters.

MMP has changed things a bit because electorates have increased in geographical size and the number of constituents and other parties have entered parliament.

The wee parties with only a handful of MPs can’t spread themselves over all the electorates in the country. But Labour and National have tried to ensure they have a presence in each electorate they don’t hold and because list MPs have an allowance for a base and staff they often set up an office.

David Parker, who lost Otago to Jacqui Dean in 2005, kept a staffed office in Oamaru and an empty one in Alexandra for the next three years and called himself the Otago Labour MP or variations on that theme.  I haven’t noticed any signage for the offices since the last election and as his party holds only two electorates south of Christchurch it may indicate the party has given up on the big rural electorate to have a presence in Invercargill and/or Timaru.

Katherine Rich had an office in Dunedin and was known as that city’s National list MP throughout her term in parliament.  Her successor Michael Woodhouse has a Dunedin base and is referred to as Dunedin list MP.

Labour kept an office in Timaru after losing the Aoraki electorate to Jo Goodhew in 2005 and regularly advertised it as the base for Labour’s Timaru electorate MP, although there isn’t a Timaru Electorate and hasn’t been one since 1996.

Buddy MPs may be motivated at least as much by a desire to promote themselves and their parties as they are by helping people but they do give people an alternative point of contact for assistance or advocacy.

They also help keep electorate MPs’ attention on their electorates and constituents because they know the Buddy MPs will take any opportunity they give them to make political capital from any shortcomings – real or perceived – in their performance.


Rich CEO

November 27, 2008

Katherine Rich, who retired from parliament at the election, is to take over as CEO of the New Zealand Food & Grocery Council next March.

Former Dunedin-based National MP Katherine Rich will bounce back into public life as chief lobbyist for the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industry, which employs some 148,000 people.

Katherine’s skills combined with her experience in marketing, agriculture and politics will make her a very effective advocate for the industry.


Public Service undervalued

September 30, 2008

The ODT editorialises on loyal service:

Public service is all too frequently derided and devalued in this age of easy individualism.

At least this is the impression one might arrive at given the pall cast over it by this country’s congenital allergy to politicians – an allergy itched raw by certain branches of the media.

The retirement from Parliament of two of Dunedin’s long-serving parliamentarians offers an opportunity to reconsider this mean-spirited and ill-considered tendency.

In their own ways, Dunedin National Party list MP Katherine Rich and Dunedin South Labour MP David Benson-Pope deserve recognition for their years of service.

One of the reasons MPs are so poorly regarded is that most of the work they do doesn’t make the headlines, and can’t, because it’s helping individuals with private problems.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.


Staying true to herself

September 25, 2008

In 1998 someone I knew, who knew my National  links, approached me about a young woman who was interested in seeking selection for the party. I made a few suggestions, said I’d be happy to speak to her if she rang and heard nothing more until I was asked if I’d be part of the pre-selection committee for a potential candidate.

The woman we were interviewing was Katherine Rich. My first impression was very positive and she more than lived up to my hopes.

She immediately attracted media interest and it helped that she was young and attractive, but there is a lot more to Katherine than a pretty face. She is intelligent, dedicated, hard working, compassionate, loyal true to her beliefs and herself.

When we lost the 2002 election National had only two MPs in the southern South Island, Bill English and Katherine, and she became buddy MP for Otago where I was National’s electorate chair. Several times in the next three years I said, and still believe now, that she was a better MP for the two Dunedin electorates and Otago than the three Labour MPs who held the seats put together.

Even though she had a demanding workload as a senior spokesperson, commitments in Dunedin and a very young family, Katherine went many extra miles, literally and figuratively, to serve the people and help the party in Otago. 

Like many others, I was sorry when Katherine announced she would be resigning from parliament at the end of this term, but I understand and support her reasons for doing so. As she said in her valedictory speech politics isn’t just a job it’s a life and she chose to put her family before her career.

While her resignaiton is a loss to National and to parliament I don’t think it is a loss to New Zealand because I am sure that Katherine will put the skills and personal attributes which made her such a good MP  to good use in other ways.

Colin Espiner’s report on Katherine is here.

 The NZ Herald’s farewell interview with Katherine is here

TV3’s report on her valedictory speech is here.

Update:

Policy Blog has the You Tube video  of her speech here.

Adding Noughts in Vein comments here.


Katherine Rich’s valedictory speech

September 25, 2008

The ODT has an edited copy of Katherine RIch’s valedictory speech. Some highlights include:

When I announced my retirement, one of the first emails received said “good riddance, you’ve said nothing, done nothing and stood for nothing.”

Harsh I thought, but typical of many political letters to MPs.

Funny thing was a week later I received another email from the same man.

It said: “Mrs Rich, my heartfelt apologies. Comments from your colleagues, the media and even your opponents seem to have been uniformly positive. I can only conclude that I’d got you mixed up with someone else. Sorry about that. Mistaken of Petone.”

It was a strange exchange, but in a way it sums up politics.

Leaving here is hard at such an exciting time and after the hard graft of opposition, but it’s the right decision for me.

Being an MP isn’t a job. It is a life.

Political service is all consuming and the New Zealand public deserves nothing less.

I leave at a time of my own choosing, positive about Parliament, my party and our democracy.

More follows the break.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rich prepares for toughest speech

September 13, 2008

It’s easy to forget that MPs are people and there is a human side to politics.  

I enjoyed this reminder that there is a personal and more gentle side to a very tough job:

National Party list MP Katherine Rich is preparing to deliver the most difficult speech she has had give in Parliament.

Her valedictory speech will be heard on September 24 and, after nine years as a Dunedin-based list MP, she had some mixed feelings, Mrs Rich said in an interview this week.

“I am leaving at an exciting time, so I have mixed feelings. It has been a difficult speech to write, because so many of the years have merged.”

When she first became an MP, husband Andrew told her not to read her press clippings, good or bad.

But yesterday, she was busy cleaning out her office and taking a look at some of the things people had written about her in the past.

That was proving to be an “interesting experience”, when she reflected on her political career.

Some of the correspondence she had received seemed funny now, but not at the time.

Former Clutha MP Sir Robin Gray had provided Mrs Rich with some sound advice when she was first elected, she said.

He wrote that an MP only had two occasions in which they could say exactly what they wanted – their maiden and valedictory speeches.

Katherine may not have always been able to say what she wanted, but she has always been true to what she believes.


Rich: feminism not an F word

August 21, 2008

I started the previous post by saying the headline was guaranteed to get media attention, so too was this one.

The slogan “Girls can do anything” needed to be reprised for a younger generation because the battle for equal rights was not over, National List MP Katherine Rich said yesterday.

Invited to speak by the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women Otago branch, Mrs Rich chose the topic “Feminism is not an F Word” before addressing the more than 70 people at the Hutton Theatre, at Otago Museum.

… The provocative title was chosen because young women often told her the battle for equal rights had been won, and the word feminism, to them, conjured up images of “hairy armpits” and “burning bras”.

Feminism should be seen neither as a dirty word, nor as a relic of some forgotten past, Mrs Rich said. She was proud to be called a feminist and “people say they are really surprised by that”.

Bringing back the “Girls can do anything” campaign was one way to encourage girls to realise their ambitions, as the world was a different place once they left school. There was “still huge progress to be made”, particularly around pay disparity, she said.

A survey carried out by Mrs Rich on policy analysts in various ministries revealed men were paid between $2000 and $28,000 more than women even when working in more senior roles.

Policy analysis is policy analysis, if people have similar qualifications and experience, are working the same hours in the same sort of job gender shouldn’t come in to it. Are women not as good at negotiating as men? What role does the Public Services Association play here? Was she comparing apples with apples, or did women have broken work histories because of taking away from the work force to have children? If not we have a problem.

 While great progress had been made in recent years, representation of women in the workforce and pay equality were still issues worth fighting for, she said.

“There is no silver-bullet solution.”

In February, Mrs Rich announced she was stepping down from Parliament to concentrate on her family and a new career direction.

“I have had a good nine years,” she said. “I leave pretty positive about the whole democratic process.

“Politics isn’t a job. It is a life, all day and every day . . . and the public don’t deserve anything less.”

Mrs Rich said she was inspired to enter politics after hearing former National Party MP Marilyn Waring speak at St Hilda’s Collegiate School.

“I was just 13 years old and I have never forgotten her speech”.

Ms Waring was one of the first people she contacted after being demoted by former National Party leader, Don Brash.

“I rang her up and said we may have some things in common.”

One highlight during her three terms in Parliament was watching the first female speaker of the House, Margaret Wilson, be received by former Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright and Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Not since she attended the Outram Brownies in 1975 had she witnessed three females in charge, she said.

“When my daughter grows up I hope she gets to see something like this again.”

In February Poneke asked, as New Zealand’s golden decade of female leadership  comes to an end, what will be the role models for our daughters? HIs 15 year-old daughter posted a response which resulted in a new post, daughter finds the “girls can do anything” refrain demeaning.

Role models are personal, and when I looked at the women in the three positions Katherine mentioned, and added Chief Justice Dame Sian Ellias and Teresa Gattung, who was then CEO of Telecom our biggest company, I noticed none had children.

I respect what they have achieved, their right to not have children and that their accomplishments may motivate others to follow them but they weren’t role models for me. I like, respect and admire Katherine far more not just for what she has been doing as an MP and how she did it, but also for making the very, very tough call to resign for the sake of her family.

[Correction – Poneke and Colin Lucas have pointed out I was wrong – Sian Ellias does have children].


They said this about the list

August 18, 2008

Even if the election result is not as favourable for National as current polls, the party list indicates the new caucus will be younger, have more ethnic representation and more women than the current caucus.

Tracy Watkins  says:

The elevation of the newcomers reflects National’s push to put up more women and elect a more ethnically diverse caucus.

Dene MacKenzie  says:

National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce could be a broadcasting minister in waiting after being ranked 16th on the party’s list, released yesterday.

… A study of National’s list shows an emphasis on areas which in 2005 cost the party the election, particularly in South Auckland.

This election, National will have candidates listed high enough in South Auckland seats to ensure they become MPs, with the prospect of lifting the party vote.

Peseta Sam Lotu-liga (standing in Maungakiekie) has been ranked at 35 and Kanwal Bakshi (Manukau East) is at 38.

McKenzie also notes:

Dunedin health manager Michael Woodhouse looks assured to enter Parliament as a National Party list MP judging from the party’s full list released yesterday.

Mr Woodhouse, chief executive of Mercy Hospital, is ranked 49th on the list, meaning National has to poll, on paper, anywhere above 41% for him to become the list MP based in Dunedin.

Several candidates ranked below him are likely to win electorate seats so to be safe, National would have to poll 43% for him to become an MP.

If he does enter Parliament, he will be the replacement for Katherine Rich, who has been the party’s list MP from Dunedin for the past nine years.

Audrey Young  says:

On current polling, the list would produce six Maori MPs, three Asian MPs and a Pacific Islander in National’s next caucus.

The six Maori would be sitting MPs Georgina te Heuheu, Tau Henare and Paula Bennett, joined by Hekia Parata, Paul Quinn and Simon Bridges. The latter may get in Parliament by winning the Tauranga seat.

Pansy Wong, a sitting list MP, expects to be joined by broadcaster Melissa Lee and Indian businessman Kanwal Bakshi.

The party’s Maungakiekie candidate, Auckland City councillor Sam Lotu-Iiga, has been given an assured place in Parliament at number 35 on the party list.

… There are many variables that determine the number of list MPs allocated to a party, including the number of electorate seats it wins, its total party vote and the number of votes cast for parties that are eventually not entitled to any seats.

But under a scenario that sees National polling 48 per cent (and, say, Labour 35 per cent, the Greens and NZ First 5 per cent, the Maori Party with four seats, and one seat each for Act, United Future and Progressives) and with National keeping the electorate seats it now holds, the party would win another 27 list seats, all the way to number 61 – Marc Alexander, a former United Future MP who will contest Jim Anderton in Wigram.

Some polls suggest there might be even more, but lessons from history and a dose of realism make that unlikely because smaller parties usually get more support during the campaign.


Peters’ fiasco shows MMP flaws

August 1, 2008

Public law specialist Andy Nicholls says the Peters’ debacle shows a review of MMP is needed.

Winston Peters’ value to both Labour and National has become abundantly clear. Both parties are pulling their punches over the donations allegations for fear of alienating him as an ally or future ally.

MMP creates hostage situations. Remember Alamein Kopu and her pull over Jenny Shipley?

In this most recent row Sir Robert Jones has unexpectedly been firing most of the bullets at Peters. He probably summed up the view of many when he said, “I belong to a different era. I don’t like it now under MMP.”

John Key has said National will, if elected, hold a referendum into MMP. Key’s referendum will first ask voters: are you satisfied with MMP? If the majority says no, then a second referendum will be held pitting MMP against some other unspecified alternative.

But is this what we need? MMP was itself born out of a referendum, and voter frustration at the unbridled power of first-past-the-post governments. First Sir Robert Muldoon, then Sir Roger Douglas proved if you could control the Cabinet you could control the country.

But one wage freeze and an unadvertised rapid economic transformation later, voters realised they wanted their leaders on a tighter leash. They wanted them to have to work harder, and more consensually, to get their own way. Which is what MMP delivers with its minority or coalition governments, its requirements to consult and its generally slower pace of change.

Referendums are very blunt instruments and support for MMP in the 1993 one came at least in part from people voting against politicians rather than for a change in the voting system.

Plus, of course, for anyone younger than 32, two-tick voting is voting. So why would we ditch it? Because MMP has flaws which undermine the legitimacy of our parliamentary system.

Nicolls gives examples such as the ability for MPs like Gordon Copeland to abandon their parties, switch allegience and still be an MP; or those like Rick Barker who lose a seat but still get back into parliament – and even cabinet – on a party list. Although this also allows MPs to enter parliament when standing in an unwinnable seat, as Katherine Rich has in Dunedin North.

If that is justified by the sanctity of the party list, then what about Mike Ward and Catherine Delahunty? Both Greens and both higher placed on the list than Russel Norman, yet both pushed inelegantly aside when Nandor Tanczos’s early retirement offered the co-leader the chance to get to Parliament in time for some pre-campaign publicity.

All these inconsistencies create unfairness, though not so much as the threshold rule itself.

Under MMP a party must win 5 per cent of the party vote or an electorate seat. A win in an electorate, where the party scores lower than 5 per cent, still gets a proportionate top-up. So Rodney Hide’s win in Epsom gave Act two MPs even though the party won only 1.5 per cent of the party vote.

By comparison, in 1996, the Christian Coalition won 4.33 per cent of the party vote, a hair’s breadth from the magic threshold. But it failed to win in any electorate – so bad luck, no MPs.

There are two issues. Firstly, is the 5 per cent threshold too high? The commission that recommended MMP preferred 4 per cent, but the two major parties argued for a higher threshold. Those fears have proved unfounded. In fact, as much as MMP has delivered a more diverse Parliament, only one new party (Act) has broken in since the switch to MMP. The others have all been created around a sitting member.

But is the electorate threshold too low? In Germany, a party must win three electorates before qualifying for list seats. Adopting a three-electorates or 5 per cent criterion at the 2005 election would have seen five parties able to get in list MPs.

United Future and Act would have been restricted to Peter Dunne and Rodney Hide. As Jim Anderton couldn’t bring in a list MP under current arrangements, the Progressives would have been unaffected. Since none of those three parties attracted more than 2.6 per cent of the party vote, is that an unfair result?

And then there is the Maori vote. Last election, the Maori Party won 2.12 per cent of the party vote and four electorates, hence it has four MPs. This coming election it may win more electorates even though polling indicates its party vote will be no higher.

Since the number of Maori seats grows in accordance with the number on the Maori roll, it is entirely possible that over time this disparity between the number of MPs elected and the party’s proportion of the party vote will grow. That will mean a larger and larger over-hang and the leading party will need to garner not 61 votes to govern, but 63, 64, 65. Is this what we want?

These are all valid issues in need of debate. But they do not fit the yes-no format of a referendum. Nor do they provide evidence that MMP itself is beyond repair.

What they point to is the need for a considered review of the electoral system. Learning the lessons of the Electoral Finance Act, this should be conducted in a non-partisan way with a clearly stated purpose of seeking greater fairness.

In the spirit of fairness, perhaps such a review should also look at the Prime Minister’s prerogative to set the election date. Or the length of the political term; four years might be more productive.

The problem is that these changes require MPs to vote against their own interest. History tells us MPs don’t do that. Which is why a simplistic question in a referendum is so appealing. It looks as if something substantive is being done, even if it isn’t.

But concerns about MMP’s peculiarities are genuine and a more considered review would be more constructive.

I agree a considered review if not instead of, at least before, a referendum would serve us better than the blunt instrument of for or against vote in isolation.


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