Rural round-up

August 19, 2015

Dairy price correction a confidence boost – BusinessNZ:

The uptick in dairy prices at the latest auction should put some confidence back into the economy that should never have been lacking anyway, says BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly.

Prices at the latest GlobalDairyTrade rose an average of 14.8 percent, with the all-important whole milk category rising by more than 19 percent, ending a five-month run of 10 consecutive falls.

“It’s been a long time coming, but I guess we’ve got to remain cautious,” says Federated Farmers spokesman Andrew Hoggard. . . 

Auction result welcome but industry needs to remain vigilant:

Federated Farmers has welcomed the outcome of this morning’s GlobalDairyTrade auction, but says those in the dairy industry need to remain vigilant.

Dairy Industry Chair Andrew Hoggard says “The outcome of this morning’s auction suggests there might be light at the end of the tunnel, but what the industry needs is for this to continue and hold.” . . .

Fonterra calls for a halt to having to accept all milk and supply other large entrants –  Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group, the world’s largest dairy exporter, said it should no longer be required to accept all milk from new suppliers or to have to make milk available to large processors, apart from Goodman Fielder.

In submissions to the Commerce Commission, which is undertaking a government-ordered review of the industry’s competitiveness, rival processors have said they either want the status quo or the regulations tightened.

Fonterra said it recognises part of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) continues to benefit the dairy industry and New Zealand but some parts are no longer “necessary or efficient” given significant industry changes since 2001, particularly the continuing entry of well-resourced competitors. . . 

Fonterra’s submission is here.

Auditor General to examine Saudi farm deal:

The controversial deal that saw $11.5 million of taxpayer money on a Saudi farm is to be examined by the Auditor-General.

Lyn Provost has announced she will carry out an inquiry into the expenditure of public money on the Saudi Arabia Food Security Partnership.

Mrs Provost received several requests, including from members of Parliament, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, and in a petition from over 10,000 New Zealanders, to inquire into aspects of the deal. . . 

 

Dairy prices set for ‘substantial recovery’ by mid-2016, Rabobank says – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Dairy prices, which have slumped to a six-year low, are set for a substantial recovery by mid-2016, according to agri banking specialist Rabobank.

Average dairy product prices plunged to the lowest level since August 2009 at the last GlobalDairyTrade auction a fortnight ago, amid increased supply and weak demand. Still, the factors to trigger a turnaround are now in place and a substantial improvement in prices is expected by mid-2016, Rabobank said in its dairy industry note ‘Riding Out the Storm’.

Rabobank says dairy prices are set to rise as milk price reductions in China start to choke off domestic production growth, lower New Zealand production leads to a supply-side adjustment in export regions, the collapse in international commodity prices reduces supply growth from the US and EU, and as accelerated dairy consumption growth depletes current accumulated stocks. . . 

The short, the medium and the long term for dairy – Keith Woodford:

With calving in full swing, most dairy farmers have no time to think about anything but today. Things are indeed grim and the short term focus has to be on survival. For the next few weeks, there is some logic to focusing on the simple day to day things that can be influenced. Even in the good times, these are the things that often separate out the best from the not so good.

Despite the gloom, most of the farmers I know do seem to have things well under control. Perhaps that is because most of my mates have lived through tough times before, back in the 80s and 90s. They have always assumed that at some time a storm would burst upon them and so they have not panicked. Rather, they have been quietly and sequentially battening down the hatches for more than 12 months. . . 

Meat industry shareholder groups merge to push their case for reform – Fiona Rotherham:

(BusinessDesk) – The two shareholder groups representing Silver Fern Farms and Alliance farmers have joined forces in a bid to encourage the two meat cooperatives to follow suit and work collaboratively.

Each shareholder group has separately gained the 5 percent farmer support needed to call special meetings of their respective cooperatives to try and force the boards to investigate the benefits and risks of a merger, though dates have not yet been set for either.

Alliance shareholder Jeff Grant said it is best to wait on the outcome of Silver Fern Farm’s current capital raising before holding either meeting.

“If the capital raise changes the structure of the cooperative to be a non cooperative or in foreign ownership then it would be pointless having an SGM (special general meeting) at all,” he said. . . 

 High Beef Prices Are Fueling a Revival of Cattle Rustling in the Plains States –  Michael Graczyk:

Doug Hutchison wears a badge and carries a gun but his most effective weapon in the pursuit of livestock thieves in the nation’s largest cattle-producing territory may be his smartphone.

With it, Hutchison, one of 30 Special Rangers with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, photographs suspected stolen livestock, accesses the association’s databases of livestock brands and reports of missing animals and consults with sheriff’s offices.

“I think it’s one of the greatest tools in the world,” said Hutchison, wearing a cowboy hat and jeans, his boots mired in the mud and manure of noisy auction stockyard corrals filled with nervous cattle. . .  Hat tip: AEIDEAS

Outdoors Lobby Wants Recreational Only Fisheries:

A national outdoor recreational advocacy group wants freshwater fish species such as whitebait, eels and some saltwater species ”recreational only.”

The call by the Council of Outdoor Recreational Associations (CORANZ) an umbrella group of outdoor recreational organisations, was in response to Massey University researcher Mike Joy’s call to remove whitebait and eels from commercial status and protect them by a “recreational only” classification.

Bill Benfield, co-chairman CORANZ, conservationist and author, said that commercialised species, almost without exception, struggled to be sustainable in the face of human greed. . .

 And from Kansas Department of Agriculture:
Kansas Department of Agriculture's photo.


Bring in the AG

December 14, 2013

Fran O’Sullivan is calling for the Auditor General to open a wider inquiry into Len Brown’s abuse of his position.

If he had any skerrick of honour left, Len Brown would by now have tendered his resignation as mayor to the people of Auckland.

It is absolutely clear that Brown has obtained multiple private benefits by virtue of his position as Mayor of Auckland.

It’s now time for Auditor-General Lyn Provost to open up a much wider inquiry to satisfy Aucklanders – and New Zealanders at large – just where Brown’s abuse of his position stopped.

Brown is hopelessly compromised by the Ernst & Young (EY) report, finally released after lengthy “negotiations” between the mayor’s office and Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay on just what would be made public from the review into the possible use of council resources during the mayor’s two-year affair with Bevan Chuang.  . .

Brown has clearly flouted Auckland Council disclosure guidelines and general standards. This is symptomatic of a politician who believes he is above the rules. The fact that he was a “no show” at yesterday’s press conference indicates Brown has no answers outside the carefully crafted but ridiculous spin that his bevy of well-paid mayoral office press people have been churning out in recent days to try to deflect attention from the damaging findings in the review. . . .

This isn’t just about Auckland.

The rest of the country might love to hate our biggest city but we understand its importance to the rest of the country.

A mayor whose mind – and morals – are elsewhere is not giving the job the concentration and dedication it requires.

This is not a man citizens can look up to. He is not a role model for children. His standards are not those of the leader the city deserves.

His infidelity is a matter for him and his wife. His acceptance of gifts he didn’t declare and failure to reimburse the extensive use of his work phone for private calls and texts, and other matters the Ernst & Young report didn’t cover, are public concerns.

New Zealand’s reputation for lack of corruption relies on proper investigation of any misuse of public resources and the Auditor General is the one who should do that.


Rural round-up

March 6, 2013

Bio-security thoroughly underprepared for high risk incursions – Allan Barber:

The Auditor General’s report into the current state of readiness to cope with potential high-risk threats to our biosecurity makes sobering reading. In the report Lyn Provost, the Auditor General, makes a number of recommendations for improvements, while complimenting MPI on recent progress. But the overwhelming impression is one of a disaster waiting to happen.

Beneath the carefully modulated tones of her report, which follows the public service principle of expressing any criticisms quietly, there are some worrying conclusions; the most notable being that New Zealand is not prepared for an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). It is estimated that FMD would reduce GDP by $8 billion in the first year and $13 billion by the end of year two, equivalent to more than 6% of GDP. . . .

Proactive farming – getting the wheels in motion:

Taking a proactive approach to farm business management is critical to ensure success, according to farm owner Tony Buckingham, of ‘Wainui Hills’, in the Southern Southland, who completed Rabobank’s Farm Managers Program.

Running a Perendale-Coopdale fat lamb enterprise across three properties in the Waimahaka region, Tony was seeking the opportunity to set some strategic goals for his family business to help them step things up to the next level.
Tony said the Rabobank program helped set the ‘wheels in motion’ for their business planning, motivating him to address key issues for the family business – rather than reactively.
“The program really highlights things you know in the back of your head you have to address at some stage – like succession planning – but motivates you to take a head-on approach so you’re not caught behind the eight-ball,” Tony said. . .

Farmers seeking fairness on PGP – Annette Scott:

Sheep farmers agree their industry needs new direction. As they consider options they spell out a clear message – they will settle for nothing short of a fair deal. Annette Scott talked to farmers.

Pressure is building as a farmer vote set to give the go-ahead for Beef + Lamb New Zealand to spend industry reserves on a Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme moves closer.

The $65 million red-meat sector Collaboration for Sustainable Growth programme, which could turn the industry on its ear, has been marked by meat-industry players agreeing to put aside their differences and lift their game to ensure stronger co-ordination in an attempt to pick up the ailing sheep-meat industry. . .

Drought effect may be reduced – Catherine Harris:

Worsening drought in the upper North Island will slow economic growth over the next few months but the country is expected to shake off those effects later this year.

Infometrics economist Matt Nolan said parched growing conditions this summer would put a sizeable dent in the country’s milk production, but its effect would not be as bad as the drought four years ago.

This was largely because the extended sunny spell had come later, and farmers had had time to build up their feed, putting more than two-thirds of their normal production under the belt. . .

New Centre pig genes leader – Tim Cronshaw:

The newest boar stud, with some of the most sophisticated genetic collecting technology in a bio-filtered facility to ensure they are in good health, has opened in the small Canterbury township of Hororata.

The Gene Transfer Centre is set to become the largest pig semen collection and processing facility for the pork industry.

Centre facilities carry the latest semen diagnostic technology and computer-assisted analysis. . .

Wild insects better than bees:

Well publicised risks to the health of managed honeybee hives may be less of a threat to food production worldwide than a decline in wild insect pollinators, new research suggests.

Carried out around the world, including New Zealand, the latest work found wild insects were better at pollination than honeybees, raising fears that a continuing loss of wild pollinators will lead to lower agricultural yields.

The study published today and led by Lucas Garibaldi from the National University in Río Negro, Argentina looked at 41 crops from 600 field sites on six continents. The sites studied included three in this country, where onions, kiwifruit and turnip rape were being grown. . .


Councils should stick to knitting

December 10, 2012

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule has welcomed  comments  from Auditor General Lyn Provost on local authority Long Term Plans:

It notes councils’ financial strategies in their Long Term Plans (LTPs) are characterised by:

  • reducing or deferring spending
  • stabilising or reducing overall debt.

Regarding rates, it is noted that “the year-on-year movement is on average five per cent (for Auckland Council the average is 6.1 per cent and for all other local authorities the combined average is 4.3 per cent).

“The findings are in stark contrast to the justification for the recent Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, which has just received the Royal Assent. The Bill was introduced in response to a perceived crisis in the way councils manage their finances,” says LGNZ President, Lawrence Yule.

“The sector continually seeks efficiencies and savings and the audit process will always focus a Council’s attention on this approach. This report shows that these improvements are being made.”

Although the report also highlights the challenges facing councils in funding infrastructure, it states “overall, local authorities are planning to live within their means.”

Debt when used wisely can be a way of spreading the costs of infrastructure over a period of time.

Debt  used wisely can be a way of spreading the cost of infrastructure which has inter-generational benefit over its lifetime.

But that doesn’t mean that the LGA 2002 didn’t require amendments because Ms Provost said:

However, a question remains about what specific information in the LTPs (and in the audited annual financial statements) is most helpful for informing judgements about the financial prudence and long-term financial sustainability of an individual local authority or the sector as a whole.

What constitutes prudence and long-term financial sustainability is a matter of judgement, and there are currently few agreed methods of analysis. As a result, it is difficult to be definitive about the state of an individual local authority or the sector. . .

The AG points out that some capital expenditure is often associated with the need to upgrade systems to meet new standards which reinforces the justifiable complaint from councils about the burden imposed on them by successive governments.

The AG concludes:

As part of the Better Local Government initiative, the Local Government Efficiency Taskforce is considering the nature of planning, accountability, and decision-making of local authorities. We have offered our insights (consistent with those outlined in this report) to the Taskforce. We have also suggested that local authorities present a more strategic focus on the main issues (including prospective financial information and level-of-service intentions), and provide access to supporting data and policies through the local authority’s website.

I continue to encourage local authorities to consistently invest in preparing shorter, clearer, and more informative LTPs, so the community is able to take part in more informed and effective consultation on a local authority’s intentions.

The future sustainability of local government services such as roads, water, libraries, and rubbish disposal are critical to our communities. Delivering on these LTPs in an effective and efficient manner is the next challenge.

The report says:

1.14
In the last two years, local authorities have been good at budgeting for their operational expenditure, but overestimated their likely levels of capital expenditure. We consider this under-expenditure indicative of the challenges of delivering a diverse range of projects each year. However, there is scope for the sector to improve reporting in this area so that it is easier for the users of local authorities’ annual reports and LTPs to understand whether forecast projects have been delayed, whether there is a tendency for conservative overestimating, or whether cost savings have been achieved. In the LTPs, capital expenditure for 2012-22 is forecast at $37 billion. Of this, 59% is to meet increasing demand (often as a result of growth) or to improve levels of service.

1.15
The overestimation of likely levels of capital expenditure in the past two years raises questions about the realism of local authorities’ longer-term assessments of the cost of their asset renewal and expansion programmes, as forecast in the LTPs. This emphasises the importance of robust asset management plans (AMPs) as the foundation of every LTP. . . .

1.18
However, we are concerned that a small number of non-metropolitan local authorities are planning large increases to their debt levels. We assessed these local authorities as financially prudent, but they face greater risks in the accuracy of their forecasting, growth patterns, and ability to deal with the unexpected as their capacity to respond to shocks reduces.

1.19
Conversely, a number of mostly smaller local authorities are planning for little or no debt during the 10-year period. If these local authorities are carrying out large capital projects, this raises some questions about the appropriateness of their financial strategies and equity between ratepayers in paying for long-term infrastructure projects. These two contrasting approaches demonstrate the importance of a clearly described financial strategy that enables the community to understand the current and long-term implications of the local authority’s forecast use of debt, particularly in the context of asset condition and forecast capital expenditure levels. . .

My interpretation of that is that councils need to stick to their knitting, and ensure the patterns they use are simple and easily understood by ratepayers.

Hat Tip: Credo Quia Absurdum Est.


AG to investigate Jones’ immigration decision

May 31, 2012

Auditor General Lyn Provost is to carry out an inquiry into the decision by the former Associate Minister of Immigration, Shane Jones, to grant citizenship to Yong Ming Yan (also known as Yang (Bill) Liu).

It will be led by Francis Cooke QC.

The link above will take you to an explanation of the background of the case and the scope of the inquiry which will examine:

  • the policies and practices of the Department of Internal Affairs when advising the Minister on applications for citizenship, in particular where the applicant’s ‘good character’ is in question;
  • how and why the Minister decided to grant citizenship to Mr Yan; and
  • any other matters the Auditor-General considers it desirable to report on.

Looking at not just how the decision was made but why is important.

When Labour leader David Shearer requested the AG look at the case he referred to the process but that is far too narrow for an issue of this seriousness.

New Zealand has a very good reputation for lack of corruption in high places. The AG has a very  important role in safeguarding that reputation and any inquiry she undertakes must range as widely as it needs to be in order to get to the bottom of what happened, how and why.

That is not in any way pre-judging the outcome. A full and comprehensive inquiry is just as important if it clears the then-Associate Minister’s name as if it doesn’t.

Hat tip: Keeping Stock


Robust politics or personal persecution? UPDATE: Pansy resigns

December 14, 2010

A media advisory gives notice that Botany MP Pansy Wong will be holding a press conference this morning.

Could it possibly have anything to do with the Pansy Facts website launched by Labour?

Labour has said the investigation into the use of travel subsidies by Pansy and her husband Sammy wasn’t thorough enough and that it should be investigated by the Auditor General.

Auditor General Lyn Provost is expected to announce this week whether or not she will do anything.

Had the call for an investigation been ignored or turned down there might be a case for Labour’s continued attacks on the MP.

But when an investigation is still under consideration the efforts they’re going to look more like personal persecution than robust politics.

Hat Tip: NBR

UPDATE: The media release form the conference says:

Pansy Wong, MP for Botany, has today announced her intention to resign from Parliament following 14 years of public service.

 “This was my decision. I have not taken it lightly but I feel now is the right time for me to step down,” Mrs Wong says.

 “Over the past month, I have felt that the allegations directed at me have been a distraction to the Government and have put undue pressure on my family and friends. I strongly refute these allegations and do not want to tie-up the Government’s and my time continuing to do so.

 “I want to ensure the National-led Government can progress its agenda without unnecessary distractions.”

 Mrs Wong said it was a privilege to be the MP for Botany and she thanked her constituents for their support and patience.

 “I believe Botany is the best electorate in the country. They deserve an MP who is able to fully focus on their needs.

 “The past 14 years have passed without me having time to stop and reflect. But the past three weeks have given me the opportunity to do so, and it will forever weigh on my conscience that my continuing political pursuit has placed huge demands and constraints on my husband. I have decided this will no longer be the case.

 “It is also time for me to turn a new page in my life’s journey to focus on personal and family priorities.”

 Mrs Wong’s resignation is effective from 17 January 2011, but she has made the decision not to receive any salary or personal entitlements from 20 December to the effective day.

 “I have timed my resignation to ensure that the by-election will not impact on the holiday break of my Botany constituents, and I have also taken into account the work agenda of the National-led Government,” Mrs Wong says.

 “I am looking forward to spending more time with my husband Sammy, and my extended family, who have been a great support to me during my career in Parliament.”

 Mrs Wong wishes to deliver her valedictory speech this afternoon, subject to the leave of the House.

I am very sorry about this and admire the way she has put her constituents and the government first.


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