Quote of the day

October 8, 2015

FTAs aren’t solely about tariff elimination. They are also about the ability to trade with as few impediments as possible. In this respect, TPP looks comprehensive at first glance, with the promise to breakdown compliance and non-tariff barriers across the Pacific Rim. These benefits are significant, especially for smaller economies and companies. . . .

Closer connectivity with the major players on the trade and investment scene adds another string to our bow. The likes of the United States, Japan and Canada have some of the highest incomes and thus purchasing power of all countries. New Zealand isn’t the lowest cost producer in many sectors anymore and needs access better market access to wealthy consumers to capture margin, and to deliver on the “value-add” strategies that many sectors are pursuing. . . 

There is a raft of empirical evidence suggests trade liberalisation benefits overall welfare and lifts nationwide GDP, particularly for open trade dependent economies like New Zealand. Studies by the Peterson Institute suggested that the gains to New Zealand from TPP would cumulate to around 2% of GDP by 2025. Some of the numbers being bandied around by Government officials look a little on the high side, but considering the surge in two-way trade between New Zealand and China following the signing of the FTA less than a decade ago it leaves little doubt as to benefits on overall trade (and GDP) from increasing trade liberalisation. . . ANZ

Hat tip: Kiwiblog

Rural round-up

August 3, 2015

Ballance delivers cash to shareholders up front:

. . . Farm nutrient co-operative Ballance Agri-Nutrients has fast-tracked its 2014/15 rebate and dividend payment to get much-needed cash to farmers early.

On 31 July, the co-operative will begin its distribution of an average $60 per tonne, seven weeks ahead of its normal payment schedule. The rebate, averaging $55.83 a tonne along with a 10 cent dividend per share will see a total distribution to shareholders of $76 million – equating to 94 percent of its $81 million gross trading result.

Chairman David Peacocke said today that the co-operative’s solid performance meant it could support its shareholders and move quickly to do so. . .

Mixing style, substance and ambition – Sally Rae:

Chanelle Purser is possibly the most stylish calf rearer in Crookston.

Her fur jacket might usually remain in the wardrobe while she is in the calf shed, but brightly painted fingers dispense milk to hungry charges.

Mrs Purser (42) is somewhat of a dynamo, farming with her husband Phil in West Otago and running a successful retail business in Gore, but she takes it all in her well-manicured stride. . .

Strong demand for good farm dogs – Diane Bishop:

A shortage of good working dogs pushed prices up at the Gore dog sale.

PGG Wrightson Gore livestock manager Mark Cuttance said the top heading dogs fetched $5500 to $5700 while the top huntaways made about $5600 at the sale on Wednesday July 29.

Cuttance wasn’t surprised.

“We expect that sort of money for the top end dogs,” he said.

Cuttance said there was a shortage of good working dogs, because of less shepherds on the land, and vendors saw the Gore dog sale as the perfect opportunity to achieve market value for their dogs in a competitive environment. . . .

Mid Canterbury farmland sold to foreign-owned Craigmore Farming – Jack Montgomerie:

A company associated with a South Canterbury rich-lister has bought more Canterbury farmland.

An Overseas Investment Office decision released on Friday stated the 95 per cent foreign-owned Craigmore Farming NZ Limited Partnership had received approval to buy 83 hectares of land.

Craigmore planned to incorporate the cropping land on New Park Rd, located about 15 kilometres southwest of Ashburton, into its Wairepo dairy farm operation. . .

End the squabbling over free range – David Leyonhjelm:

TO scramble the metaphors, various thin-shelled types are running around like headless chooks over free-range eggs, proclaiming the sky will fall if the law doesn’t tell us all what the term means.

Facts and evidence are as scarce as hen’s teeth, while market forces are disappearing faster than a randy rooster.

The cause is the fact that consumers are increasingly choosing free-range eggs over cage eggs. There are no health, welfare, nutritional or environmental advantages to this. Cage and free-range eggs are no different, although free-range eggs are more likely to be contaminated by chook poo. . .

 Pretty Woman protecting soils:

JULIA Roberts is getting dirty with the aim of helping agriculture.

The Academy Award winner and star of such films as Pretty Woman and Mystic Pizza, has become the latest in a line of international VIPs to call for action to protect soils.

The Hollywood actress has become the newest face of the Save Our Soils initiative, following in the footsteps of several dedicated environmentalists including the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, activist Vandana Shiva and conservationist Douglas Tompkins. . .

Green dilemma – a GE rice that reduces greenhouse gas emissions – Kiwiblog:

This will pose a dilemma for the Greens. Scientists have developed a genetically engineered rice crop that has significantly reduced methane (the most powerful greenhouse gas) emissions over normal rice.

So if the Greens truly believe their rhetoric that greenhouse gas emissions are the biggest threat to Earth today, surely this means they will drop their opposition to genetically engineered crops and welcome this GE rice?

Nature Magazine reports:

Atmospheric methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and is responsible for about 20% of the global warming effect since pre-industrial times1, 2. Rice paddies are the largest anthropogenic methane source and produce 7–17% of atmospheric methane2, 3. Warm waterlogged soil and exuded nutrients from rice roots provide ideal conditions for methanogenesis in paddies with annual methane emissions of 25–100-million tonnes3, 4. This scenario will be exacerbated by an expansion in rice cultivation needed to meet the escalating demand for food in the coming decades4.  . .

Apropos of which with a hat tip to Utopia:

Racism risks trade backlash

July 16, 2015

BNZ economist Tony Alexander joins the discussion on Auckland housing and the part played by foreign buyers:

. . . So we remain in the dark about the extent to which Auckland’s housing market is truly being driven by offshore buying. But as emphasised previously, there are three key points which I shall keep repeating regarding Auckland housing and house price pressures.

1. The fundamental cause of rising prices in Auckland is a shortage of supply and until that gets addressed prices will stay highly elevated and perhaps keep rising out to late-2017 this cycle.

No matter what tinkering is done to reduce demand by restricting foreign buyers won’t change the fact that there is a shortage of supply.

2. Whatever the true magnitude of Chinese buying has been these past few years it will get much greater. Chinese families are growing wealthier, so naturally they will seek offshore assets. Chinese people wish to get assets off the mainland and this week’s massive intervention in sharemarkets by the Beijing authorities illustrates why people have high distrust of the environment on the mainland in which they would hold assets. And Chinese authorities have yet to relax hefty restrictions on people getting their funds offshore. When they do, well then you will see something entirely new hit the world’s residential property markets.

3. We should as soon as possible adopt Australia’s rules restricting foreign buying of anything other than new housing unless resident for 12 months.

But here is the fourth point which to date I have not emphasised but now will do. Adopting Australia’s rules as they stand won’t be the panacea many are hoping for. In Australia’s case people have been able to get around the restrictions quite easily. The regime is now being enforced more rigorously, but that does not necessarily alter what is being seen as a huge problem – something which people in Hong Kong have been seeing more and more of in recent years.

Many Chinese who buy properties never, or rarely, occupy them. They sit empty. This applies even to newly built apartments sold to Chinese buyers. Chinese simply want an asset away from any control by the CCP. There was an article on this in The Australian newspaper this weekend, page 6.

What this means is the following. As Auckland very slowly goes vertical in areas like New Lynn, developers will find they can very easily get offshore financing for their projects and hefty sales off the plan to Chinese investors (we Kiwis prefer to touch and feel before buying). These investors may never occupy or even rent out their investment. Thus while on the face of it the Aussie rule that a foreigner may only buy a newly built house or apartment sounds like a grand idea, it could leave the housing supply situation unchanged from a no-rule regime.

Thus, were we to adopt the Aussie regime we would need to add in an extra clause along the lines of apartments having to be made available for rent, actually rented, or something like that.

When might we see the adoption of some form of restriction on foreign home buying in New Zealand? Maybe within two or three years. About three years ago I recommended that we adopt the Australian regime. That was/is not because I feel Chinese buying is currently the big buying force people believe it is, but because the buying will grow and the eventual popular backlash against such buying and introduction of legislation in that heated environment would risk a backlash. The Chinese leadership may feel we were targeting them and getting above our station. Trade retaliation would be likely.

That is still the position I hold and the earlier we adopt Australia’s rules with the extra twist noted above, the better for everyone, including exporters to China wanting good access for many years who may feel nothing needs to be done on foreign home buying. You are the ones most at risk should this situation turn bad in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years time.

If there needs to be restrictions on foreign non-resident buyers they must apply to all foreign non-resident buyers.

Over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar points out that Labour’s policy of treating Australians more favourably than Chinese would contravene the free trade deal which that party signed when it was last in government.

Even if it didn’t, putting higher hurdles in the way of those from one or more countries while applying less restrictive rules to others is discriminatory and could lead to tit for tat repercussions which would endanger trade.

That would impact on the whole country when the housing problem is essentially Auckland’s and the solution to it lies not in restricting demand but increasing the supply.



Rural round-up

June 13, 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.” . . .



Judges’ decision

January 30, 2015

Miriama Kamo, convenor of judges for the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014 responds to Eleanor Catton’s criticism:

Esteemed academic Peter Munz once said to me, “The wonderful thing about the humanities is the lack of one answer to any issue, there is always debate, there must always be discussion and there may not ever be consensus.”  

 I’m reminded of this as I watch, with a mix of admiration and dismay, the debate fuelled by Eleanor Catton’s comments about the political state of our nation and her feeling that she is a victim of a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. I am interested in listening to all of it, but wish only to comment, as the convenor of the judging panel of the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014, on the continuing conversation surrounding our decision-making.

The New Zealand Post Book Awards is a multi-category, multi-genre competition. It is quite unlike the Man Booker competition, which considers only fiction. The Luminaries won the Man Booker competition, a thrilling achievement. Last year it went on to win the New Zealand Post Book Awards prize for fiction.  In doing so, it won New Zealand’s equivalent of the Man Booker. It then went into contention for the supreme prize against three other exemplary finalists of different genres.  It did not win that supreme prize; Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer did.  

I’m as impressed as I am bemused by Eleanor Catton’s belief that The Luminaries should have won the supreme prize. I’m impressed because we don’t have a proud history of owning our achievements, of proudly proclaiming our talents. Perhaps this is a by-product of a nation that did suffer a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. Comments like Eleanor’s make me believe that this is changing. But I’m bemused because, putting aside that it diminishes the achievement of the supreme prize winner, Jill Trevelyan, it betrays a belief that our judging panel should have fallen into line with an international panel of judges. This is at odds with Eleanor saying that she grew up with the erroneous view that Kiwi writers, and by extension Kiwis generally, were somehow less than British and American ones; that we did not, and perhaps do not, back our own opinions or our own talent.

There was no sense on our judging panel that it was ‘someone else’s’ turn to win. We made a literary judgement, not a political statement. Given that our opinion did happen to align with the Man Booker judges and we did award The Luminaries our top fiction prize, it is at least churlish and, at most, mischievous to suggest that The Luminaries did not win its due in New Zealand.  

But then, that’s the beauty of the humanities. Such decisions rightly inspire debate. Like the Man Booker judges, we were a group of individuals making a collective decision. We worked hard at the task in front of us and, in my view, we made wise and well-placed decisions. I was proud to honour Eleanor’s incredible work, The Luminaries. I was proud to award prizes to all the finalists that night of the New Zealand Post Book Awards, and to crown, as supreme winner, Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer.  It deserved to win.  But in the grand tradition of debating and discussing the arts, I urge you to read all of our finalists before making up your own mind.

Well said and isn’t it good that she says it by way of addressing the criticism and not criticising the critic?

David Farrar also responds to Catton reasonably at Kiwiblog and Trans Tasman opined:

Catton . . . 
illustrated the old wisdom “artists are children,” and it is a little baffling why people seem to expect profundities about politics from them.  In Catton’s case, she is only the latest in the long tradition of NZ literary types who feel their country is too grubby and philistine for them to bear for too long.

It is one of the most tiresomely adolescent aspects of the Kiwi arts scene, and it gets more intense whenever their fellow NZers are so uncouth as to elect National Govts.

Catton isn’t a “traitor” though, despite what talkback host Sean Plunket – increasingly resembling a retired Rotarian – called her on his programme. It is just another case of artists being a bit silly. There is no need for this sort of over-reaction.


2014 blogging in review

December 31, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 450,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 19 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Among the stats are most viewed posts:

The top referring sites:

  1. nominister.blogspot.co.nz
  2. keepingstock.blogspot.co.nz
  3. kiwiblog.co.nz
  4. twitter.com
  5. lindsaymitchell.blogspot.co.nz

No Minister is consistently the site from which most visitors come.

Keeping Stock is still a top referrer even though, sadly, it has gone into recess.

And the five most active commenters:


  • 1 robertguyton 1286 comments
  • 2 TraceyS 1197 comments
  • 3 Dave Kennedy 1045 comments
  • 4 Mr E 984 comments
  • 5 Andrei 645 comments

Thank you all for reading and even more for contributing to conversations.

I’ve been blogging much less since late September. Readership has dropped as a consequence – I’m hoping that’s a case of less quantity and more quality. :)

P.S. Thanks to WordPress and its staff who provide the platform for this blog, give prompt and helpful assistance when it’s required and provide such good service.


Foulers cry foul

September 14, 2014

Internet Mana  is complaining about Prime Minister John Key’s decision to declassify documents which will prove accusations against him are baseless.

. . .In a joint statement, Mr Harawira and Ms Harre say the reported intention of the Prime Minister “to arrange the selective declassification and release of documents for his own political purposes” represents an abuse of the Prime Minister’s authority in his capacity as the Minister in charge of the GCSB and the SIS. . .

If the PM didn’t release documents they’d accuse him of hiding something but when he says he will release documents they’re still complaining.

This is a case of the foulers crying foul.

They’re the ones who’ve allowed themselves to be bought by Kim Dotcom who is doing his best to interfere in the election.

The PM not only has the right to release this he has a duty.

This isn’t just about him. It’s about New Zealand, New Zealanders and our security.

Those who don’t understand that should read Charles Finny’s excellent guest post at Kiwiblog:

. . .  The Labour Government that saw us through World War II, and those from 1957-60, 1972-75, 1984-90 and 1999-2008 have not sought to change our position in “five eyes” because the leaders and senior Ministers of those Governments have realized how lucky we are to be part of this agreement and knew how fundamental the intelligence derived from it was to the security of New Zealand.  Ultimately the most important function of government is to protect the people.  “Five eyes” plays a very important role in our ongoing security.  There was a wobble under Lange which saw New Zealand denied access to some processed intelligence from the US, but access to the raw communications intercepted by the four allies continued throughout.  Under Helen Clark the full flow of processed intelligence resumed.

I cannot believe what I have just heard saying about today.  What we now call is as much a creation of Labour as it is the National Party.  It is crucial to our continuing security.  It protects us against the hostile actions of foreign governments, terrorist organizations, and international criminals.  Of course the same foreign governments, terrorist organizations and criminals hate the ‘’fives eyes agreement” and want it dismantled because it stands in their way.  I can’t believe that a Labour Leader would align himself with these forces and put this agreement and our position in it so much at risk.  If his senior colleagues do not call Cunliffe on this, shame on them too.  Our national security is too important to be put at risk by short term political opportunism.

Even when Helen Clark thought we lived in a benign strategic environment her government didn’t short-change  or subvert our security the way the left is now attempting to.




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