If not sacking AG must investigate

March 11, 2019

Shane Jones is in another spot of bother:

After declaring a conflict of interest in a proposed Northland cultural centre, Shane Jones sat through a meeting when ministerial colleagues decided on its multi-million dollar funding application, even giving reassurance about its governance.

Manea, Footprints of Kupe was among the first group of projects to be awarded cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, a $1 billion a year fund secured in coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First, which is coming under increasing criticism. . . 

He has repeatedly said he stepped back from having involvement in the project and denied advocating for it.

But documents quietly posted on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that Jones attended what appears to be the single ministerial meeting to determine the application.

“Minister [of Finance Grant] Robertson raised his concerns about the broader management and commercial operations of the project,” MBIE official Mark Patterson wrote.

“Minister Jones provided reassurance that as the project has Far North Holding Ltd, the commercial arm of the Far North District Council, involved in its governance structures, he was comfortable their presence would alleviate any concerns on the issue.”

Patterson added that MBIE would manage other concerns through milestone payments.

“Minister Robertson was comfortable to sign the briefing knowing this mitigation was in place.”

Less than a month after Davis announced the funding, Jones was asked by Act leader David Seymour whether he had held any discussions with his ministerial colleagues about Manea.

“I asked my colleagues to make the decision on that project in order to manage a conflict of interest”.

Later he said he “noted” the involvement of Far North Holdings to colleagues.

On Friday, Jones insisted he purely offered “statements of fact” in the meeting and he believed he had managed his conflict of interest, but acknowledged others would consider it appropriate to exit meetings altogether.

“You can physically exit or you can declare a conflict and let colleagues deal with the issue,” Jones said.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.” . . 

He might believe that but it doesn’t stop the perception that he used his influence when he declared a conflict of interest and ought to have not even been in the room.

[Act leader David] Seymour said the documents suggested Jones “was decisive” in seeing the funding go ahead to an organisation he had a prior association with.

“He actually provided reassurance to his colleagues, which is at stark odds with  his repeated assurances in Parliamentary questions that he’d recused himself from any role,” Seymour said, claiming Jones had breached the Cabinet manual.

“I don’t see how you can continue to be a minister when something as simple as a conflict of interest, you can’t manage.”

On Sunday morning, Seymour, called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack Jones.

“Shane Jones not only involved himself in an application in relation to which he had a conflict of interest, he also concealed this key meeting in answer to a written parliamentary question,” Seymour said.

Clare Curran was eventually sacked for a similar transgression.

National’s regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said it defeated the purpose of declaring a conflict of interest and delegating responsibility, “if a minister then engages fully in favour of a project which Shane Jones appears to have done”.

“We need a full explanation from Shane Jones of his involvement in this project from start to finish.” . . 

 Seymour and the Taxpayers’ Union have both called for the Auditor General to investigate:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Ministers have it drilled into them that when it comes to decisions that involve a personal interest, they shouldn’t be in the room, let alone provide advice and ‘reassurances’. Shane Jones’ behaviour will give taxpayers zero confidence that the Growth Fund is being spent impartially or for economic good.”

“Businesses across the country will look at this example, along with other Growth Fund handouts, and figure that the key to profitability is cosy relationships with the political class. That is the path to cronyism and corruption.”

“The Prime Minister mustn’t let her Government’s reliance on NZ First lead to an open season on taxpayer funds. She should call in the Auditor General to investigate Shane Jones’ actions, and be prepared to strip him of his Regional Economic Development portfolio if necessary.” . . 

The Provincial Growth Fund is a $3 billion fund which has been criticised several times for doling out money without the usual cost-benefit appraisal and rigour which should precede largesse with taxpayers’ money.

The Prime Minister dilly-dallied before sacking Clare Curran.

Given the sensitivities with New Zealand First, it is unlikely she will act on the calls to sack the minister over this matter so it is up to the Auditor General to investigate.


Rural round-up

July 11, 2018

Prized stock castration frustrates farmer – Andrew Ashton:

After waking up to find someone had castrated two of his bulls, a Hawke’s Bay farmer expected the police to arrest and charge the culprit. Instead he says he was advised to sell up and move.

Pongaroa farmer David Vitsky said the incident was the latest in a litany of stock rustling and rural crime stretching back several years.

But Hawke’s Bay police say they are unable to gather firm evidence to charge anyone.

“We’ve been plagued by a continuous raid of stock rustling, thefts and the police fail to get prosecutions,” Vitsky told Hawke’s Bay Today. . . 

Pagan’s shear determination on screen – Sally Rae:

She might be the South’s latest film star but Pagan Karauria is no prima donna actress.

Left in charge of  father Dion Morrell’s shearing business while he is in Japan for several weeks, the Alexandra woman  has been up every morning between 4.15am and 4.30am.

Her day is full as her mobile phone rings constantly and she ensures the smooth running of seven gangs. But, as she puts it, “I’m just cruising along doing what I love.”

Mrs Karauria’s passion for the shearing industry is undeniable –  she is both a shearer and  woolhandler and had the remarkable distinction of competing in both disciplines in the All Nations competition at last year’s World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill. . .

PGG Wrightson says “no comment” on report of possible $600M buyout – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson says it has no comment on Australian media reporting that ASX-listed agribusiness company Elders is looking to buy it for $600 million.

A column in The Australian says Elders may seek to raise A$300 million via a rights issue to help fund the purchase, with the remainder funded via debt. The PGG Wrightson board “met on Friday to discuss the sale of the business and speculation is building that Elders has already been told that it is the preferred bidder”, The Australian reported. . .

Decision made on fate of defunct Gore meat plant – Sally Rae:

Blue Sky Meats has decided to sell its Gore plant which has been non-operational since late 2016.

Last year, the company announced it was reviewing its options for the unprofitable plant. Options ranged from reinstatement of full operations to an asset sale.

When the plant was temporarily closed, Gore staff were offered secondment to the company’s Morton Mains plant.

In a statement, the company said the decision was not made lightly but the board felt it was the best course of action for the company’s ongoing financial performance.

Blue Sky Meats has released details of its annual report for the 2018 financial year which showed a much improved result with a net profit before tax of $3.7million, compared to a $2.5 million loss the previous year. . .

The science behind the Impossible Burger – Siouxsie Wiles:

Air New Zealand has just announced The Impossible Burger is now available to a minuscule number of their customers, a move described as an “existential threat” by New Zealand First’s Mark Patterson. So what is all the fuss is about?

This week, Air New Zealand announced that Business Premier “foodies” on their Los Angeles to Auckland flights would be able to try out the “plant-based goodness” that is the Impossible Burger. Lamb + Beef New Zealand, which represents sheep and beef farmers, is clearly peeved that our national carrier wouldn’t rather showcase some great Kiwi “grass-fed, free range, GMO free, naturally raised” beef and lamb instead. Mark Patterson, New Zealand First’s spokesperson for Primary Industries even went as far as to put out a press release calling the announcement an “existential threat to New Zealand’s second-biggest export earner”. Meanwhile, vegetarians on social media are left a bit puzzled as to why Patterson is so against them having a special vegetarian option for dinner. My guess is it’s because the Impossible Burger is no ordinary veggie burger. . . 

Sheepdog trialists gather for annual battle of wits against woolly opponents in Hāwera – Catherine Groenestein:

“Wallago, Dick! Wallago, Dick!”

Dick the sheepdog’s muzzle is greying but his eyes are still fixed on the sheep. He trots with purpose, rather than running flat out like his apprentice, a youngster called Jay.

After a lifetime of farm work and winning many trials, Dick, who’s 14,  can almost work the sheep around the obstacles on a course by himself. . . 

Whopping truffle from Waipara farm sets NZ record – Gerard Hutching:

Waipara’s Jax Lee has unearthed a New Zealand record of 1.36 kilograms for a black truffle, worth thousands of dollars when she exports it.

Truffle expert Dr Ian Hall said a similar sized black (or Perigord) truffle had been dug up in Gisborne in the 1990s, “but I’m sure Jax’s would be a New Zealand record.”

Truffles may not be quite black gold, but they are considered the world’s most expensive food. The equivalent weight in gold of Lee’s example is 43 ounces, worth $54,000. . . 

A tale of two expos – Post Veganism:

A couple years ago, I attended the Natural Food Expo West for the first time. The section of the main exhibit hall that I first wandered into was row after row of nutraceutical suppliers. These suppliers, including many from China, provided many of the vitamins, minerals, herbs used to supplement and fortify many of the “natural” and “healthy” foods and drinks I’d later see a plethora of elsewhere at this expo. What was less ubiquitous was real whole food, that is food that was minimally processed, well grown or raised  and that didn’t need to be fortified or supplemented to be nutrient dense.

So this past April, I returned to Anaheim once again to attend the Natural Food Expo West held at the convention center. This year the event was larger than ever, and I only had portions of two days so couldn’t cover the entire hall. Maybe I just missed it, but all the nutraceutical suppliers seemed to be organized more around the periphery rather than taking so much area on the floor this time. Though there still was plenty of “natural” and ‘healthy” junk food fortified with vitamins, minerals, herbs and- the new rage- probiotics. However, much to my surprise, there was a larger presence of real food with more fermented foods, minimally processed seaweed items, and vinegar as well as plenty of bone broth, jerkies and other grass finished meats . . 


Rural round-up

February 20, 2015

Wishing all Chinese people a happy Year of the Sheep, flourishing business, well-being, good luck and prosperity

Sheep milk conference hopes to boost interest:

Sheep’s milk yoghurt and ice-cream will be on the menu at a conference today, which aims to expand and develop interest in the sheep dairying industry.

The Ewe Milk Products and Sheep Dairying conference will be held over the next two days in Palmerston North.

Massey University business school associate professor, Craig Prichard, said the industry had struggled to establish itself as a viable alternative to traditional but there was growing potential as interest in sheep dairy products increased. . .

Come on John, give them a break!:

The last time I dared to question MIE’s desired reform of the meat industry, John McCarthy accused me of bias and warned me to watch out, if we are unlucky enough to run into each other. So this column will almost certainly result in another attack on my character and more threats to my personal safety!

But after reading his Pulpit diatribe (Farmers Weekly 26 January), I can’t resist the chance to express surprise at some of the logic expressed there. He clearly believes the two cooperatives, SFF and Alliance, are guilty of driving the market for sheepmeat down to the bottom solely because of their incompetence. The only way he says this will change is to vote more MIE endorsed candidates onto the boards.

McCarthy accuses media commentators and company executives of myopia in their industry predictions last year which have now turned out to be too optimistic. Climatic and political circumstances have changed considerably since those forecasts were made which largely explains the downward trend. Possibly we should all have forecast the closing of the Russian market to other Western exporters, the slowdown in China, deflation in the EU, port clearance delays in the USA and the drought in much of this country. But when those forecasts were made, none of these factors were as clear as they are in hindsight. . .

Otago field days focus on farm effluent management:

DairyNZ ENVIROREADY field days starting next week will bring farmers up to speed with good practice effluent management, and provide tools and information to help them meet Otago Regional Council environmental regulations.

DairyNZ water quality specialist Shirley Hayward says the events are about helping farmers feel confident in their knowledge of how they can meet council regulations.

“With the more stringent effluent and discharge rules now in place, this will help everyone understand what they need to do to ensure they comply. There is something for everyone, staff, managers and owners alike as there is a practical hands-on component as well as discussion around infrastructure decisions and investment,” says Shirley. . .

 

SFF ownership ‘important’ – Sally Rae:

An appeal has been made to Silver Fern Farms to ”not sell the goose that has the potential to lay the golden eggs”.

Speaking at the co-operative’s annual meeting in Dunedin yesterday, Meat Industry Excellence member Mark Patterson said farmer ownership of the value chain would be ”incredibly important” and the company’s proposed capital raising had the potential to dilute that. . .

Why are we so afraid of the fruit fly? :

* What is Bactrocera tryoni or the Queensland fruit fly?

A native of Australia, it is one of the most destructive of the 4500 fruit flies in the world. It is fond of fleshy fruits such as avocado, citrus, tomato, guava, feijoa, grape, peppers, persimmon, pipfruit, berryfruit and stonefruit. 

It does not breed continuously but passes the winter in the adult stage. The total life cycle requires two to three weeks in summer and up to two months in autumn. Adult females live many months and four or five overlapping generations may develop annually. 

* Why is the fruit fly so dangerous?

Hard and expensive to control, fruit flies are commonly known as the “foot and mouth” of the horticultural industry. Once established, they are hard to eradicate. . .


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