Rural round-up

25/11/2020

Biotech sector report calls for genetic modification rules review :

The biotech sector wants the government to review the rules around genetic modification saying the restrictions are holding the industry back.

A landmark report on the sector predicts the industry could be worth as much as $50 billion.

However, the Aotearoa Boosted by BioTech report pulls together a raft of constraints and challenges identified over the last decade, that need to be overcome before this can happen

A burgeoning part of the wider technology industry, BioTech mainly innovates out of the primary sector but is also popular in health, industrial and environment. . .

Moeraki’s indomitable slow fish legend :

Fleurs Place, in Moeraki, is one of New Zealand’s best-loved restaurants, and many people call it the best seafood restaurant in the country. However, Fleur Sullivan never even wanted to start a restaurant when she first came to Moeraki nearly 20 years ago. That’s just how things ended up after she started trying to help people out.

Thinking this month about Slow Fish – which is about preserving traditional fishing communities and connecting people more directly with the fish they eat, as much as it is about protecting marine reserves – Moeraki is an interesting case study. It illustrates just how vulnerable such fishing communities in Aotearoa have become in recent decades.

Ask most people what it is they like about Fleurs Place and, in addition to the beautiful setting and homely atmosphere (not to mention Fleur herself, who personally greets nearly every guest as if they’re old friends), a common answer will be its simplicity and honesty.

Fleur serves wholesome, simple, delicious food made with high quality local ingredients – including fresh fish caught by local Moeraki fishers, landed right on the dock beside the restaurant door. It seems like a simple enough model: put a restaurant by the jetty of a sleepy old fishing village, and serve fish straight off the boats. But as anyone who knows anything about commercial New Zealand fisheries will know, this “simple” set up is anything but simple. . .

Hunt scoops leadership award – Sudesh Kissun:

Southland drystock farmer Bernadette Hunt has scooped the 2020 primary industry’s leadership award.

The award, presented last night at the 2020 Primary Industries conference dinner in Wellington, recognises Hunt’s commitment to advocating for farming, particularly given her efforts to highlight the challenges farmers face nationwide measuring up to the government’s new freshwater regulations.

“Bernadette has the rare combination of having a clear vision of what’s right and wrong, being able to articulate a strong message and bring others on the journey. She absolutely leads by example,” Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland said.

The Outstanding Contribution award, sponsored by Massey Ferguson and presented by chief executive Peter Scott, went to Beef and Lamb’s Rob Davison. . . 

Kiwifruit orchard wins inaugural award for excellence in Māori horticulture :

A kiwifruit orchard in the Eastern Bay of Plenty has taken out the inaugural Ahuwhenua Trophy for excellence in Māori horticulture.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy competition, which is in its 87th year, celebrates excellence by Māori across the farming sector.

For this first time this year the award was focused on recognising excellence in horticulture.

The award went to Te Kaha 15B Hineora Orchard, a 11.5 hectare freehold block of Māori land at Te Kaha, 65km east of Ōpōtiki. . . 

Training targets farm freshwater plans:

As farm freshwater plans are set to become part of industry requirements following the Government’s Essential Freshwater reforms, Massey University has created short courses to meet what will be a growing demand for training in the area.

As a result of changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, almost all farms in New Zealand will need to have a freshwater plan.

One of the concerns voiced by the industry about that, is there are not enough people with the necessary training to make that requirement a reality.

Massey dairy production systems professor Danny Donaghy says the new short courses are designed to fill that gap and move away from the traditional “hours and hours of online lectures,” and will instead focus on flexibility, new technologies and case studies. . . 

Constellation Brands NZ enters agreement  with Giesen Group to sell its Riverlands Winery:

New Zealand’s largest exporter of New Zealand wine to the US, Constellation Brands New Zealand, has sold its Marlborough-based Riverlands Winery to family-owned Giesen Group.

One of three Constellation-owned wineries in New Zealand, the Riverlands Winery has been part of the company’s portfolio since 2006. While the facility is no longer suited to Constellation’s ambitious growth plans, its capacity for smaller production runs ensured a great fit with Giesen’s production plans. Its location across the road from Giesen’s existing Marlborough winery cemented the extension as a logical and exciting strategic move for the innovative New Zealand-owned brand.

The sale of the winery is planned to settle in mid-December this year, in time for the upcoming 2021 harvest. Giesen is hopeful all current Riverlands employees will join the their team and be part of their future growth plans for the winery. . . 

Primary producers set to crack into nut producing orchard up for sale:

One of New Zealand’s biggest commercial macadamia nut orchards and associated macadamia nut processing and manufacturing operations have been placed on the market for sale.

The 8.1-hectare Top Notch Macadamias operation at Patetonga on the Hauraki Plains near the base of the Coromandel produces more than 15 tonnes of the high-value hand-harvested nuts annually – all of which are processed on-site and marketed through an established retail network, and directly via on-line sales.

Among Top Notch’s vast product catalogue range are salted nuts, roasted nuts, chocolate-coated macadamia nuts, honey caramel nuts, macadamia muesli, sweet macadamia brittle, macadamia butter, and macadamia dukkha. . . 

Classic country pub with mini golf course has buyers teed up:

A modern country pub operating in one of New Zealand’s premier year-round outdoor adventure and tourism regions – coming complete with its own 18-hole mini-golf course – has been placed on the market for sale.

Schnapps Bar in the centre of the North Island is located near the pivotal junction of State Highways 47 leading into and out of Tongariro National Park, and the north to south routed State Highway 4.

With World Heritage status, nearby Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park. Situated just a few hundred metres from National Park’s only petrol station and grocery store, Schnapps Bar is one of only a few licensed hospitality premises operating in the area. . . 

 


Foot in mouth outbreak at Massey

02/11/2020

A Massey University professor is suffering from foot in mouth:

National and ACT have become “vanishingly irrelevant” in Parliament following the Greens’ acceptance of the cooperation agreement offered by Labour, a politics professor believes.

The deal has locked in a political arrangement that will see Labour and the Greens “monster the Parliament” for the next three years, according to Massey University’s Richard Shaw, with a combined 74 of 120 seats held by the parties. . . 

“The National Party, ACT, and the Māori Party – assuming that the specials mean they keep Waiariki – are vanishingly irrelevant to what occurs in the Parliament,” Shaw told Newshub on Saturday.

He says the agreement – which the Greens will sign in a ceremony on Sunday – marks the largest political alliance in New Zealand’s parliamentary history.

It is the first time under MMP one party has gained more than 50% of the vote. But the political alliance isn’t very much bigger than the 2008 National-led government with 58 National MPs plus five each from Act and the Maori Party and one from United Future.

“It’s really hard to overstate how much the legislative agenda and the executive agenda will be driven by Labour with some support from the Greens, it’s a really remarkable state of affairs,” Shaw says.

Oh dear, it’s really hard to overstate what a very ill-informed remark that is. How can a professor of politics not understand how parliament works?

Unless it’s a minority government, the government has a majority as a result of which it passes the legislation it wants to. This one doesn’t have to negotiate with partners, but the major parties in previous governments could use their confidence and supply agreement to get their allies to support their Bills.

“And if you’re a National or ACT MP, you would be sitting there thinking, ‘Shit, what am I going to do for the next three years? I’m going to be surrounded by Opposition members in all of the select committees’ – it’s just dominated by Labour’s policy.” . . 

Yes it’s dominated by Labour policy and Act and National will be surrounded by government MPs. But good Opposition MPs won’t be wondering what they’ll be doing for the next three years. They’ll do what they’re paid to do – work very hard to to get better legislation, not by opposing for opposition’s sake, but by working with and against other members of select committees as appropriate, and on some, albeit rare, occasions they might even support government legislation.

If they hold a seat, they’ll also be very active in their electorate supporting and advocating for their constituents, and  a good list MP will also be doing electorate work.

They will be drawing up Members’ Bills in the hope they’ll be drawn out of the ballot too.

National MPs will be working very hard to be loyal members of a united caucus that doesn’t leak and will be contributing to policy development that is consistent with the party’s principles and philosophy unless they want to contribute to an even worse result for the party in three years time.

If they have spare time, they might also,  in an act of public service, help to extract the foot from the mouth of the professor of politics, and educate him on how the political system works and the essential democratic role a hard-working opposition plays in that no matter how outnumbered its members might be.


Rural round-up

19/10/2020

Rural stakeholders meet over Mackenzie fires – Annette Scott:

Federated Farmers and the Forest and Rural Fire Stakeholders Forum are calling for urgent action following two major fires in South Canterbury’s Mackenzie district.

The embers had barely cooled on the most recent, the Ohau fire, before the debate turned to causes and Feds and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage crossed swords on what degree fire fuel loads on Department of Conservation (DOC) land were a factor.

“We definitely need some answers sooner rather than later,” Feds high country chair Rob Stokes said.

At a rural stakeholders meeting, including farming and DOC representatives, Stokes said it was a matter of absolute urgency to start planning now before the next fire. . . 

Ag Uni staff facing job cuts – Colin Williscroft:

Staff cuts at Lincoln University and Massey University’s College of Sciences have raised concerns about the impact they could have on future teaching and research of agricultural and horticultural science.

Earlier this month, Massey science staff received a discussion document that says the college’s expenses urgently need to be cut, with most of its curriculum affected by unsustainably low enrolments as a result of New Zealand’s border closure to overseas students.

The document set out two options to address the situation, with both requiring changes to the curriculum, along with a reduction in staff numbers of around a third – which equates to about 100 jobs. . . .

Shareholders Council review – final report out– Sudesh Kissun:

Fonterra Shareholders Council chairman James Barron says the council supports the recommendations of a review into its role and functions.

A steering group delivered its final report to the council today.

Barron says the council is committed to actioning the recommendations.

He says councillors will be meeting farmers in their respective wards next month “to get a greater understanding of their views and expectations”. . . 

Don’t fence me in :

Three New Zealand farms are now using electronic cow collars that use sound and vibration to guide and contain individual cows without the need for fences.

The collars are designed by the Kiwi agri-tech company Halter. 

Basil the Friesian cow munches calmly in the paddock.

As she moves there’s a quiet beep emanating from a collar around her neck. . .

Gisborne sheep shorn after five years producing record-breaking fleece :

A Gisborne sheep that evaded capture for five years has finally been shorn, producing a record-breaking fleece.

Gizzy Shrek was shorn at the Poverty Bay A & P show this morning, producing a 13kg fleece, said its owner Rob Faulkner.

“It’s a hell of a lot of wool to carry around.”

It broke the record for the world’s longest fleece, measuring in at 58 centimetres. . .

Women’s work in agriculture set to take leading role – Andrew Marshall:

Women working in agriculture are increasingly likely to be better educated than their male peers and are on course to make up about half of the industry’s managers in 10 years.

More women than men are now studying and graduating from tertiary degrees in agriculture and environment-related courses according to research by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

The analysis, which covers the entire agribusiness service and production sector, noted a 23 per cent jump in the number of women who completed post school education qualifications in ag-related subjects between 2011 and 2016. . . 


Rural round-up

22/09/2020

Water and labeling high on hort sector’s election wish-list – David Anderson:

New Zealand’s horticulture industry has set out its wishes for the upcoming election campaign, covering water, climate change, country of origin labelling and labour issues.

Industry body Hort NZ is asking that any future government ensures the horticulture sector can develop “within a supportive framework that enables sustainable growth”.

It says the sector currently contributes more than $6 billion to NZ’s economy, is the country’s third largest export industry and employs approximately 60,000 people.

“What horticulture needs in order to continue its success in producing fresh and healthy food for New Zealand and export markets is quite simple.” . . 

Rural environment grows ideas just fine – Mary-Jo Tohill:

Two years ago when he was playing for the Southland Sharks, Clinton man Lydon Aoake struggled to stay motivated.

The now 30-year-old was in the team that took out the 2018 New Zealand Basketball League. That year he juggled training, a full-time job at Danone Nutricia, and fatherhood.

“When I was working out trying to get fit for the Sharks, I wanted to get a personal trainer, but Clinton was pretty rural,” Mr Aoake said.

“So I had a little bit of a fitness background, I knew what I needed to do — it was just the PT motivation that I wanted.” . . 

Fonterra’s dividend – my five cents – Elbow Deep:

It has been quite the year for Fonterra, the co-operative not only won unanimous parliamentary support for the changes they sought to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, they also returned to profit after last year’s first ever financial loss. That profit, a stunning $1.3 billion turnaround from the previous season, saw Fonterra pay suppliers their fourth highest payout in the Co-op’s history; $7.14 per kg of milksolids and a 5c dividend on shares.

As dairy farmers we have been pretty well insulated from the worst financial effects of the pandemic, it has been business as usual thanks largely to Fonterra’s ability to navigate the strict requirements of operating under various levels of lockdown and to quickly react to changes in demand caused by Covid-19.

It struck me as curiously ungrateful, then, that the first response I saw on social media to Fonterra’s excellent result was a complaint the dividend was too low. This, it turns out, was not an isolated expression of that sentiment. . . 

Fonterra stabilises finances with back to basics model, selling assets and retaining profits – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra has stabilised its finances with more asset sales forthcoming. It now operates a conservative model supported by its farmer members. But the model will not create the ‘national champion’ that the Labour Government has always hoped for

Fonterra’s annual results announced in 18 September for the year ending 31 July 2020 indicate that Fonterra has made good progress in stabilising its financial position. A key outcome is a reduction in interest-bearing debt by $1.1 billion, now down to $ 4.7 billion. This has been brought about through asset sales and retained profits.

Chief Financial Officer Marc Rivers told a media conference immediately after release of the results that further debt reductions were desired.  The key measure that Fonterra is now using for debt is the multiple of debt to EBITDA, which now stands at 3.4. The desired level in the newly conservative Fonterra is between 2.5 and 3. . . 

Self-shedding sheep study:

Massey University is examining the economic impact and the production consequences of crossbreeding with Wiltshire sheep to a fully shedding flock.

Coarse wool sheep farmers are struggling with the cost of shearing in relation to the value of the wool clip. Many are considering if changing to a self-shedding flock, such as a Wiltshire, is a better way forward.

However, the cost of purchasing purebred Wiltshires – and the limited numbers available – means this is not a viable option for many. However, there are examples of farmers successfully grading up to Wiltshires by continual crossing.

But there is a general lack of accurate recorded information on the costs, benefit and pitfalls from doing so. . . 

Plug pulled on 2021 Marlborough Wine and Food Festival – Tracy Neal:

Organisers of next February’s Marlborough Wine & Food Festival have pulled the plug early.

It is the first time in the event’s 36-year history it has been cancelled, but the potential lingering challenges over Covid-19 posed too much risk.

Marlborough Winegrowers Board Chair Tom Trolove said it had been a really tough decision that would impact businesses in our community.

“But the board was clear that in these unprecedented times, it had to prioritise the safety of the harvest. . . 


Rural round-up

01/07/2020

Regenerative ag’s mythology questioned – David Anderson:

The “mythology” of regenerative agriculture and lack of scientific evidence has prompted two renowned plant scientists to write to Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

In the letter, Lincoln University’s Professor Derek Moot and retired plant scientist Professor Warwick Scott, express their concerns about the increased profile of regenerative agriculture in New Zealand media and farming sectors.

They have called on the minister to convene an expert panel of scientists to review all the claims made about practice.

“It is important that sound science drives our agricultural systems,” they say. “We believe such a panel should provide a robust critique of the claims made about ‘regenerative agriculture’ to ensure the public, industry and policy makers have a balanced and scientifically informed view of the ideas promulgated.” . .

Rachel Stewart on the Green Party and farmers:

To say Rachel Stewart isn’t backward in coming forward is somewhat of an understatement.

The self-described “ex-media, ex-farmer, ex-train driver” falconer has often ruffled feathers with her forthright opinions – especially when it comes agriculture.

So Stewart’s’ recent Twitter activity, criticising the Green Party and coming out in support of farmers, caught the attention of The Country’s Jamie Mackay, who invited her to talk on today’s show.

The Greens are moving away from their environmental roots and becoming too urban, Stewart told Mackay. . . 

Seeking new markets in the West – Keith Woodford:

Neither Europe nor the USA are going to do us any trading favours. It is all about self-interest

In recent weeks I have been exploring and writing about some of the challenges in finding new markets that would allow New Zealand to stem its increasing reliance on China. My focus in the last three trade articles has been first on North East Asia, then the ASEAN countries of South East Asia, then South Asia and Iran. This week I look further west to Europe and the Americas before completing the circle.

First to recap a little.

The emergence of China as the most important trading partner of New Zealand has been a function of natural alignment between what New Zealand produces and what China wanted, complemented by New Zealand also wanting what China has been producing at lower cost than anyone else. . .

Tomato red spider mite pest discovered in New Zealand for first time – Maja Burry:

A pest known for damaging tomato plants and other crops has been detected in New Zealand for the first time

Biosecurity New Zealand said two populations of the tomato red spider mite (Tetranychus evansi) were found near Auckland Airport and in Pakuranga as part of routine surveillance several weeks ago.

Tomato red spider mites are the size of a full stop and are very difficult to identify. The mite’s main hosts are plants in the Solanaceae family, including tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants. They also attack beans, kumara and some ornamentals – roses and orchids. . .

Juniper hunt seedlings could grow New Zealand’s first gin berry plantation – Robin Martin:

New Zealand is one step closer to establishing the country’s first plantation of Juniperus communis – whose berries are the key ingredient of gin – following a nationwide search for the elusive conifer.

About 40 trees were discovered as part of the Great New Zealand Juniper Hunt, and seedlings are now being nurtured at Massey University and at two locations in Taranaki.

Egmont Village lifestyle block owner Marlene Busby had aspirations of making gin herself when she snipped a bit of juniper bush at a garden centre some 30 years ago.

“At the time I sort of took a little bit. They were going to pull them out anyway so it didn’t really [matter] any way. . . 

Waitaki’s geological wonderland – Mike Yardley:

Crossing the border dividing Canterbury from Otago, the Waitaki River, is like a pathway into another world. A region built on the remains of prehistoric creatures from a vanished world. The wondrous Waitaki District has always been proud of its rocks, lustily exemplified by the creamy pure texture of Oamaru Stone that underpins the classic good looks of the historic town’s Victorian Precinct. But before hitting town, I ventured west into the heart of the Waitaki Valley, to delightful Duntroon, with its pending designation as a Global Geopark by UNESCO. As Australasia’s first Geopark, it threads together the spell-binding natural landforms, abundant fossil finds and rich cultural history of the Waitaki Valley, which was under sea when Zealandia drifted away from Gondwana. Seismic forces later thrust the ancient seabed upwards, at the same time that the Southern Alps were formed.

Robert Campbell, the wealthy land-owner and runholder established Duntroon in 1864, naming it in honour of his Scottish birthplace. This cute-as-a-button village is home to the Vanished World Fossil Centre, but before heading there, don’t miss Duntroon’s assorted trove of evocative landmarks. . .


Rural round-up

16/03/2020

Rural people show their support – Colin Williscroft:

Hawke’s Bay farmer Mark Warren has posted a call for help on social media in an attempt to let other farmers who are finding life tough know that it’s okay to ask for help.

Warren, who owns Waipari Station in Central Hawke’s Bay, says after a sleepless few hours of the 2am churn and trying to be sensible and realise that his Ts and Ps (temperatures and pressures) are in the red zone, he realised he needed help.

“Although I keep hoping to be back to 12 volts, after a weekend wading through waste-deep mud and pulling lambs out of dams I realise my volt meter is struggling to stay in the safe zone. . .

It was all done on a handshake – Neal Wallace:

Stud breeding has enabled the Robertson family from Southland to settle family members onto farms. But Neal Wallace discovers that is only part of the formula for successful farm succession. Being a tight knit, focused and strong family unit also helps.

It might be dismissed as a cliche but the adage that an apple never falls far from the tree is applicable to the Robertson family from Southland.

The Robertsons farm Duncraigen Farm at Mimihau near Wyndham and the cornerstone of their business are stud Hereford cattle, Romney and Dorset Down stud sheep and various crosses of those breeds. . .

 Attracting more ag students – Peter Burke:

The numbers of students taking up agricultural degrees at Massey University is not really increasing, according to Professor Peter Kemp – head of the School of Agriculture and Environment at Massey.

He says there are isolated areas such as animal science that have gone up. However, in horticulture and general agriculture the numbers are lower than they were a few years ago.

Kemp says this is despite the industry, at the same time, having more jobs. He says it’s really hard to unpack the reasons for this. . . 

Blade shear champ looks to 2022 – George Clark:

South Canterbury world champion blade shearer Allan Oldfield is training strategically in an attempt to retain his title at the next shearing and woolhandling world championships in Scotland in 2022.

Mr Oldfield, who is a finalist in the rural sportsman of the year category in this year’s Rural Games, started competing when he was 16 years old in New Zealand’s intermediate blade shearing grade . .

Business is blooming – Toni Williams’s:

Turley Farms Chertsey, in the heart of Mid Canterbury, is among a growing number of farms turning to sunflowers as a rotation crop to use between plantings.

Sunflowers are good for high oleic sunflower oil, which is high in oleic (monounsaturated) acid (at least 80%), and good as a frying oil. It also has a good shelf life and is used in infant formula.

The farm group, which has properties scattered throughout Canterbury, has planted more than 40ha of sunflowers at the Chertsey site. There are 62,000 sunflower plants per hectare. . .

Aussie flock hits 116 year low – Sudesh Kissun:

Prolonged dry conditions in rural Australia are taking a toll on its national sheep flock.

The latest forecast from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) says sheep numbers will fall 3.5% this year.

According to MLA’s 2020 Sheep Industry Projection, stock numbers have been dropping due to drought in key sheep producing regions. . .


Planet before people

07/01/2020

Some hospitals are forgoing science in putting the planet’s health before that of their patients:

Patients’ health will suffer if hospitals cut down on meat and dairy in meals, the country’s former chief education health and nutrition adviser warns.

However, another researcher has backed the push for plants to replace meat and dairy in meals, saying our meat consumption seriously harms health and the planet.

New sustainability guidelines for the health sector include a recommendation to reduce meat and dairy, including by developing new hospital menus and encouraging plant-based diets. Some hospitals have brought in “meat-free Monday” trials.

The environment can and does impact on health but thinking that a little less meat eaten in hospitals will have an impact on climate change is ridiculous and the health and welfare of patients must be hospital’s first priority.

The guidelines have been criticised by Grant Schofield, professor of public health at Auckland University of Technology.

“We are talking about our most vulnerable, sickest people, and food is an important part of that, and we take meat and dairy out – it just utterly beggars belief,” he told the Herald.

“Hospital food is generally of a pretty poor quality anyway, it is generally pretty highly processed. If you wanted to improve hospital meals you would look at the quality of the food, and meat would be my last possible target, because it is one of the best sources of nutrition, protein, good-quality fat and vitamins and minerals. To take that out of it seems objectionable.” . . .

My experience of hospital food is that it is high on stodge and low on protein, roughage and vitamins, of which meat can be a valuable source.

Vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy but it takes a lot of care, and usually higher cost, to replace the nutrients lost from going meat-free.

Schofield, who advocates a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet and quit his Government advisory role over a lack of action on obesity, said cutting meat and dairy in hospital meals to counter climate change was “nonsense”.

“I think we have unfairly demonised meat and got it into our heads that it is somehow ruining the planet.”

The Ministry of Health’s sustainability guidelines were released in July, and note that agriculture accounts for almost half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Sigh, a repeat of the half-baked argument that doesn’t take into account either nutrient content of what agriculture produces nor that most of the produce is exported to feed people in other countries so eating less here will have no impact at all on production.

After the guidelines were released Dieticians NZ, the professional body for dietetics, labelled the meat and dairy recommendation disappointing and not appropriate for those in hospital, who are often malnourished.

People in hospital are there to be treated for what ails them, not to be used for virtue signalling.

Not everyone agrees.

That position drew a response from Professor John Potter, of the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University, who wrote in a blog post that even if some patients needed more protein, this could be sourced from plants. . .  

It could, but not as easily and probably at a greater cost.

A nutritious diet is an important part of healing and good health.

Decisions on what people in hospital eat should be made on the basis of the science that determines what’s best for them, not that of the planet, especially when emotion rather than science often guides the anti-meat dogma of the dark green who put the health of the planet ahead of the health of people.


Rural round-up

13/11/2019

Banking pressures and Fonterra position prompt low dairy farm sales – Sam Kilmister:

Dairy farm sales are plummeting towards record lows as the sector faces uncertainty and a financial squeeze.

Banking pressures and the financial position of dairy giant Fonterra have been cited as the main factors for another drop in farm sales, which are down 6.7 per cent over the past 12 months. 

Despite an 8 per cent increase in the three months to September, the number of farms sold continues to drop as farmers come to grips with compliance laws, freshwater proposals and frugal banks. . . 

Meet the huntaway – the dog New Zealand calls its own – Jendy Harper:

Hamish Scannell doesn’t have a favourite dog. The Mt White Station shepherd says it “depends on the day”.

He’s certain about one thing, he couldn’t do his job without them. Like most New Zealand shepherds, Scannell and his dogs are a package deal. He owns a mix of heading and huntaway dogs.

Heading dogs are typically border collies, a breed of Scottish origin. The huntaway though, is uniquely New Zealand, acknowledged by the national Kennel Club as being the country’s only indigenous dog breed. . . 

Tree protest this week:

The protest group ‘50 Shades of Green’ is organising a march on Parliament this week to try and stop good farmland being covered in pine trees.

Asked why we they are marching, organisers say the answer is simple.

“Farmers love the land. Many farms have been nurtured for generations to feed not only New Zealand but 40 million people internationally as well.

“We’re now seeing that land gone forever, often to overseas based aristocrats and carbon investors.” . . 

Native planting tailored for better survival – Sally Rae:

Fonterra has announced a partnership between Farm Source and ecological consultancy Wildlands to reduce the cost of on-farm native planting.

Speaking at the dairy co-operative’s annual meeting in Invercargill last week, chairman John Monaghan said Fonterra understood the significant uncertainty and frustration farmers felt when it came to the likes of climate change and freshwater.

The co-operative was putting more energy and resources into developing on-farm tools, research and solutions to help farmers continue to run healthy and sustainable businesses. . . 

Bringing bacon home in south – Sally Rae:

American-born veterinarian and epidemiologist Dr Eric Neumann has made his home in the South while continuing to work around the globe. He speaks to rural editor Sally Rae.

He’s an international expert in pigs who has ended up living in Otago.

Dr Eric Neumann has an impressive list of credentials, having been involved in livestock production, aid and development projects, infectious disease management and research, controlled experimental trials, international project management and collaboration, government-sector biosecurity policy development, and one-health training around the world.

He is an adjunct associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Massey University, and also holds positions as adjunct research associate professor at the University of Otago, Centre for International Public Health, and as affiliate Associate Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology, Iowa State University. . . 

Cowboy’s last frontier: Rancher is a rare breed in O.C. raising cattle in the traditional way – Brooke E. Seipel:

From head to toe, Frank Fitzpatrick looks the part.

With a large, black cowboy hat tilted over his forehead, the 68-year-old cattle rancher casually propped a cowboy boot – fitted with spurs – on a post of a corral with about 20 bulls inside.

“I decided on my 8th birthday I wanted to be a cowboy, and I haven’t changed my mind since,” he said, looking at the herd of red Barzona cattle.

Fitzpatrick tends almost 600 head of cattle between ranches in Indio and Trabuco Canyon – the latter just miles from his home in Silverado, the same home he moved into on his 4th birthday. He attended Orange High School, where he joined the Future Farmers of America. By his senior year he had about 20 bulls. . . 


Why wouldn’t the Herald print this?

17/10/2019

Speak Up for Women has the column by Rachel Stewart the NZ Herald wouldn’t print:

It seems far-fetched that the mere hiring of a Massey University venue by a feminist organisation could cause so much indignation and rage, but these are not typical times.

A bunch of females getting together within a public space to discuss the issues currently affecting them is far from new, and very far from radical.

Yet, the idea that ‘Feminism 2020’ would dare to congregate at a venue on Massey’s Wellington campus saw a number of students stage a sit-in, which culminated in the handing over of a petition calling on the university to cancel the event.

What is so threatening about women coming together and talking? According to the protestors and petitioners, the organisers of the event – Speak Up for Women – are essentially devil incarnates.

Petition organiser Charlie Myer said the university shouldn’t be “facilitating this kind of discussion”. Feminism 2020 “could have [the event] anywhere” but it wasn’t appropriate for them to hold it at a university, which was supposed to support transgender students.”

Last time I looked universities were required to respect and uphold the quaint, old-fashioned tenet of free speech too. And Massey has, thus far, held out against the pressure of every thrown guilt trip known to mankind. You know, we don’t feel “safe”.

Myer also disputed the group was feminist and simply meeting to discuss women’s issues. “If your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t feminism.”

Don’t you just love it when men tell women what feminism actually is? I find it adorable. Like a possum in my pear tree. So endearing.

Another endearing move was to then see the spokesperson for diversity and inclusion accreditation business Rainbow Tick Martin King say that if Massey did not cancel the event it was likely it would trigger a review of its accreditation.

The spectre of losing their Rainbow Tick must be downright scary for them. I mean, since students are now their financial customers, Massey naturally wants to keep the client happy at all costs.

But back to ‘Speak Up For Women’ and their apparently devilish ways. Why do some students so feverishly want them cancelled lest they be “harmed” by their words? Of course, you’d think simply not attending would put paid to that, but I’m being far too logical.

No. These students believe that no one should be allowed to discuss, debate, or hear the reasons why many women are concerned about an amendment (currently on hold) to the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Bill that would allow a person to change their legal gender by simply signing a declaration.

The group formed because they were legitimately concerned the amendment would prevent women from excluding men from changing rooms, bathrooms, women’s prisons, women’s shelters and any other women and girls-only space. In a nutshell, they don’t agree that trans women are women just because they say they are.

The group supports the current law, which allows a person to change the sex on their birth certificate if they go through certain steps – specifically applying in writing to the Court and obtaining a medical sign-off from a doctor.

They also make it clear they support the rights of transgender people to live without violence and discrimination.

However they don’t agree that trans women should be allowed to compete against natal females in sport. In their view, it’s not a level playing field.

Now, what’s so heinous about that? Why does holding such views mean they should be de-platformed, cancelled, and marginalised?

Eerily, many of the organisers and some of the speakers are lesbian so why would the ‘L’ part of the LGBTQ be considered such a threat to organisations such as Rainbow Tick? Is the imperative of ‘diversity’ no longer extended to lesbians? Or feminists – regardless of their sexual preferences? Good ol’ intersectionalism strikes again! It’s a conundrum.

And therein lies the problem with intersectionalism. The manic race to win the title of ‘most oppressed and marginalised group’ sets up a spiralling vortex of ever-tightening circles of meaninglessness.

Will there be protests if the event goes ahead? Will the protestors consist mainly of male activists telling those women to shut up? Because that’s the rub for me. Seeing men shouting women down via megaphone, rattling windows, banging doors and generally screaming at them, reminds me why I’m a feminist all over again.

Tactics like these are being employed in Britain and the U.S. and where they go, we tend to go. If similar methods are on show at the ‘Feminism 2020’ event, it’ll be quite the statement.

Ask yourself this.

Why is it that some men are angry, abusive, and disruptive around such incredibly important issues to some women? What’s driving their need to shut women up? Why is free speech good for the gander, but not so welcome from the goose?

When did an open discussion by women about women’s rights become so threatening?

Actually, more to the point, when didn’t it?

What is in here that would stop it being published?

No-one is being defamed.

No-one is being incited to harm anyone or do anything illegal.

It’s a point of view with which some may agree or disagree, in part or in whole.

Why wouldn’t the Herald publish it?

 


Thugs’ veto wins again

17/10/2019

Massey University hasn’t learned from the Don Brash deplatforming debacle:

Massey University has advised Speak Up For Women to find an alternative venue for its Feminism 2020 event. The University has received external advice on its health, safety and wellbeing obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and its duty of care to the University community, and has made the decision on these grounds.

The legal advice we have received is that cancellation of the event, as concluded by the report, is the only way to eliminate the risk to health and safety and to ensure that the University would not be in breach of its health and safety obligations.

Massey University is committed to the values of academic freedom, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression, as values that lie at the very heart of the tradition of a university and academic inquiry. However, this event has created significant disruption to our students, staff and University operations, and we cannot accept any further risk or issues, or any risk of potential harm that may impact upon a particularly vulnerable community.

When health and safety is used as an excuse, it’s the thugs’ veto winning again.

Who’s Speak Up for Women?

Speak Up For Women is a diverse group of ordinary New Zealanders who initially came together to campaign against the sex self-ID amendment being pushed through as part of the BDMRR Bill.

We found each other on social media, at political party events, through our work, and through friends.

We began with a shared concern about the impact of transgender politics (including self-ID) on the rights of women and girls, but now realise that there is no one advocating for women across the board. Traditional women’s groups now focus heavily on gender identity and what is left is a void of services and advocates for women. . .

A lot of people will share these concerns.

Some might be threatened by this but the answer is to use logic and facts provide a counter-argument, not to use the thugs’ veto to shut down those espousing them.

A media release from Melissa Derby who was to speak at the event says:

In September, Massey said it would host the Feminism 2020 despite objections, and that it was ‘committed to free speech as a fundamental tenet of a university’. It looked like Massey had learned from the public backlash against its cancellation of last year’s event with Don Brash.”

“Yet, as of today, Massey has shut down the event, seemingly due to pressure from a vocal group of activists. Today’s announcement reveals the University’s true position is one of absolute weakness. Massey says it values free speech while its actions prove the opposite.”

“Not only has the University refused to uphold its stated commitment to free speech, it is being deliberately vague about its reasoning. Massey cites health and safety concerns, but it’s completely unclear whether this refers to threats of protest, or concern over ‘harmful’ speech. This is the most feeble use of a ‘health and safety’ excuse we’ve seen at a university yet.”

“Whoever thought we’d see the day when feminism is on the banned list at a New Zealand University? Ironically, I was going to speak at this event on the dangers of identity politics and the need for people to talk to one another.”

“If a University’s default response to ‘any risk of potential harm’ is the cancellation of speech, then it ought to shut up shop. Universities have traditionally been a space for free expression, protest, and the contest of ideas. Massey has disgraced this tradition.”

A woman who planned to speak on the need for people to talk to one another, has been deplatformed by threats from people too scared to hear what she has to say.

 

 


Rural round-up

16/05/2019

Tool for assessing water quality not reliable – scientists – Eric Frykberg:

A group of scientists have gone public with claims that the widely-used Overseer water quality system for farms might not be reliable.

They are the former Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group director Martin Manning, Massey University’s professor emeritus of industrial mathematics, Graeme Wake, Massey agricultural senior scientist Tony Pleasants and a retired associate professor of mathematics, John Gamlen.

Overseer is an online software model which was originally designed as a commercial mechanism for farmers to minimise the amount of fertiliser they used relative to their economic output from their farm. . . 

Looking after the people and the land  – Toni Williams:

Pencarrow Farm is a unique property just minutes from an urban shopping centre. Not only is it picturesque but it is a highly productive and environmentally sound enterprise.

It must be, as it has just won five awards in the 2019 Canterbury Ballance Farm Environment Awards – the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the DairyNZ Sustainability and Stewardship Award, the Environment Canterbury Water Quality Award, the Synlait Climate Stewardship Award and the Norwood Agri-business Management Award.

It is acknowledgement that owners Tricia and Andy Macfarlane, and contract milkers Viana and Brad Fallaver, are doing the right things. . .

Government’s targets for methane reduction are unrealistic:

Deer Industry New Zealand is disappointed by the government’s announced emissions reduction targets for agriculture. 
Dr Ian Walker, Chair of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ), says that under current conditions these targets would result in significant reductions in stock numbers. Even if tools and technologies were available to reduce methane and nitrous oxide in the future, the level of reduction would effectively mean that the agriculture sector was being asked not just to cease its own contribution to global warming, but also offset the contribution of other sectors. 
“The deer industry as part of the pastoral sector is prepared to play its part in climate change mitigation. We do not deny human-induced climate change nor our responsibility to mitigate. The pastoral sector is willing to target net zero global warming impact from agricultural gasses.  But the targets for methane announced by the Government go beyond net zero global warming impact. DINZ cannot support these targets,” he says. . . 

Rural Equities sells second-largest property – Gavin Evans:

(BusinessDesk) – Rural Equities, the farming group majority-owned by the Cushing family, has agreed to sell its second-largest property as it rejigs its portfolio.

Puketotara, a beef and sheep finishing operation near Huntly, covers 1,146 hectares and typically carries 12,000 stock.

The company, which trades on the Unlisted exchange, said it expects about $11.7 million from the sale including livestock. The deal will settle on June 20. . . 

YTD tractor and farm machinery sales steady:

Sales of tractors and farm machinery are currently steady compared to 2018 but there are a few challenges facing the sector, says Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA) president, John Tulloch.

TAMA year-to-date figures to the end of April showed a total of 1104 sales across all HP categories compared to 1111 in 2018: a drop of 0.6%. North Island sales decreased by 4.7% with 713 sales compared to last year’s 748 but South Island sales increased by 7.4% with 390 compared with 363. . . 

Established blueberry orchards placed on the market for sale:

The land, buildings and orchards sustaining one of New Zealand’s quality blueberry growing and processing operations has been placed on the market for sale.

The portfolio encompasses three separate properties in the Central Waikato areas of Rukuhia and Cambridge – the hub of blueberry production in New Zealand. Some 80 percent of New Zealand’s blueberry crop is grown in the Waikato region, with its nutrient-rich peat-based soils. . . 


Real Time GDP

18/12/2018

Massey University has launched a real-time gross domestic product (GDP) tracker, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

Called GDPLive, the online portal uses machine learning algorithms and the most up-to-date data possible, including live data sources. It allows users to instantly see estimates of how the New Zealand economy is performing on a daily basis, and provides GDP forecasts.

“GDP measures all market-based transactions, so it’s a very good indicator of how well an economy is performing,” says Professor Christoph Schumacher from Massey University’s School of Economics and Finance.

“GDPLive has been developed with the most up-to-date data from government sources and a diverse range of partners, including PayMark, KiwiRail and PortConnect, so we can get a sense of how the New Zealand economy is tracking in real time.”

Professor Schumacher says GDPLive’s use of cutting-edge machine learning technologies provides informed forecasts, making it a valuable supplementary decision-making tool for businesses. He says it will be a significant improvement on government reporting, which currently releases national GDP figures quarterly and regional figures annually. . . 


Rural round-up

23/11/2018

P kicking out dope in the provinces – Richard Rennie:

Rural New Zealand is playing host to a wave of methamphetamine (P) lab production and consumption that has knocked cannabis off its pedestal as the recreational drug of choice in the provinces.

Research by Massey University associate professor Chris Wilkins has highlighted that contrary to popular belief it is rural New Zealand, not large metropolitan centres, where P’s availability has resoundingly surged.

His research work has revealed small towns and rural areas where gang influence predominates are targeted specifically for P use to maximise gang drug revenue. . . 

Heading for a TB-free future – Barry Harris:

Ospri Chairman Barry Harris says New Zealand farmers can be proud of the progress of the TB Plan towards eradicating the infectious livestock disease bovine tuberculosis.

Among the most important challenges facing New Zealand agriculture is managing and eradicating diseases that threaten our dairy and meat exports. 

While Mycoplasma bovis has hogged the headlines recently, the progress of the TBfree programme to eradicate bovine tuberculosis has been quietly progressing as planned.

TB, caused by the similar-sounding Mycobacterium bovis, has been a problem for farmed livestock since they arrived in the 19th century.  . . 

Push for authorities to subsidise farmers’ use of dung beetles to help reduce environmental impacts – Gerald Piddock:

A company that grows and supplies dung beetles to farmers wants to partner up with local government to lift the insect’s uptake across New Zealand.

The insects are another tool to help pastoral farmers mitigate their environmental impact, according to Dung Beetle Innovations director Shaun Forgie​.

Forgie, along with business partner Andrew Barber and Peter Buckley, outlined to Waikato Regional Councillors at a recent committee meeting why it would be economically and environmentally beneficial for landowners and local government to include the beetles in steps for improving water quality and soil health. . . 

Stud stock agent judge of qualities – Sally Rae:

Among the hordes of exhibitors and visitors through the sheep pavilion at the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch last week, there was a familiar face.

Stud stock agent Roger Keach is a well-known figure within the New Zealand stud stock industry and  regular show attendee for many years.

This year, he was tasked with judging the Hampshire sheep section and  all-breeds wool ram hogget class. . . 

Getting in behind – Rebecca Harper:

A lack of practical experience made it hard for Ashley Greer to get a foot on the career ladder in the sheep and beef industry, but she refused to take no for an answer. After years of trying, she has landed her dream job shepherding on a progressive sheep and beef farm near Masterton. Rebecca Harper went to visit her.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. It’s an old proverb, but one that is particularly relevant for 28-year-old Ashley Greer.

Ashley set her heart on a career in the sheep and beef sector and began studying towards her Bachelor of Science, majoring in agricultural science and minoring in animal science, at Massey University. In her holidays, she needed to obtain placements on farm. . .

North Otago meat plants ‘flat out’ – Sally Brooker:

North Otago’s two major meat processing plants are working flat out.

Alliance Group Pukeuri plant manager Phil Shuker said the site just north of Oamaru was operating three chains, processing both beef and sheep.

”Lamb is continuing to come through strongly, with the plant having just completed a very busy period processing chilled Christmas orders for the important United Kingdom market. . . 

Thriving horticulture sector behind new degree at Massey University – Angie Skerrett:

A booming horticulture industry has prompted the introduction of a new degree course at Massey University.

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) quarterly outlook figures for New Zealand’s primary sector estimates growth in the horticulture sector for the coming year will be 13.1 percent, a $0.7 billion increase on the previous year.

A three-year Bachelor of Horticultural Science degree is set to begin in February to cope with the expected growth. . . 


Rural round-up

15/11/2018

Wool cells used for new material – Sally Rae:

Deconstruction of coarse wool fibre to create new materials has been described as a ‘‘major breakthrough’’.

Researchers at Lincoln Agritech Ltd have broken down coarse wool — which  comprises about 75% of New Zealand’s wool clip — into its cellular components, creating new materials that are not wool but contain wool attributes.

The work was part of a $21 million seven-year research programme into new uses for coarse wool, co-funded by the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ) and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment. . . 

Fonterra must learn to be driven by profit not volume – Point of Order:

Fonterra chairman John Monaghan sought to cheer up the co-op’s farmer-shareholders by telling them at what was reported to be a “packed” annual meeting that “For a time this year, NZ farmers were paid this highest milk prices in the world.”

He insisted there has been a structural change in the co-op’s milk prices since Fonterra was formed. . . 

Using collaborative science to unlock our potential:

Enhancing the production and productivity of New Zealand’s primary sector, while maintaining and improving the quality of the country’s land and water for future generations. That’s the mission of the ‘Our Land and Water’ National Science Challenge.

National Science Challenges emerged from The Great New Zealand Science Project, which in 2012 invited New Zealanders to talk about the biggest science related issues for them.

The project resulted in 11 Challenges, set up by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in early 2016.

They are designed to ensure that science investment focuses on areas that matter most to New Zealanders. . .

Luxury cashmere produced here in NZ – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s fledgling cashmere industry, which has its roots in South Otago, has reached a significant milestone, as Sally Rae reports.

Production of the first pilot New Zealand-grown cashmere garments is being heralded as a milestone in the country’s fledgling cashmere industry.

In January, New Zealand Cashmere — formed by Clinton farmers David and Robyn Shaw — announced a partnership with Christchurch-based sustainable lifestyle fashion brand Untouched World and Wellington-based Woolyarns to commercialise a market for New Zealand-grown cashmere.

This week, Untouched World is launching a  retail store in Wanaka and those first garments will be on display. . . 

Dairy is not evil – Sudesh Kissun:

Irrigation New Zealand chief executive Andrew Curtis believes there will always be a place for dairy.

“I keep saying it: it’s not about too many cows, but how the land is managed,” he told Rural News. Curtis, who is leaving the helm of Irrigation NZ in March, says he knows some “very, very good” dairy farmers with good environmental footprints and some “very, very bad” dairy farmers with horrible footprints – and the same with good and bad cropping farmers.

“So, let’s stop going on about the land use thing because it’s all about land management practices,” says. . . 

Mycoplasma communication team needs to play with straight bat – Keith Woodford:

MPI is currently reporting a positive story about Mycoplasma bovis eradication. There is indeed good news to report. But in cricket terminology, the communication team needs to play with a straight bat.

I found myself to be a topic in MPI’s latest announcements. According to an anonymous MPI spokeswoman, I have made claims questioning the time of arrival that I have declined to back up, despite multiple requests. That is a falsehood. The MPI bat is not straight. I will return to that topic further down, but first the big picture.

Over the last six weeks, there have been four new infected farms detected and three new trending-positive (RP) farms. Some of these are large dairy farms and they have led to a new string of traces. Accordingly, active trace farms have increased from 208 to 245. There are also many hundreds of surveillance farms. . .

Waikato Innovation Park to build new spray dryer for growing sheep milk industry :

Plans are underway for a new spray dryer at Waikato Innovation Park to cater for the burgeoning sheep milk industry.

The $50 million dryer will sit alongside the Park’s existing dryer, but will have 2.4 times its capacity. It will be built by Tetra Pak with construction expected to start this month.

It is due to be on line by November 2019 and once completed, is expected to more than double employment at the plant from 17 to 35 staff. . . 

Novel plumbing for Massey research farm:

Massey University’s sheep and beef research farm is to begin nutrient leaching research using underground water and nutrient collection.

Keebles Farm (287ha), near Massey’s Manawatū campus, now has water collection under each paddock to allow all water to be collected and studied.

Deputy head of the School of Agriculture and Environment Professor Paul Kenyon says the farm will be the first to use a collection system of this type for sheep and beef research in New Zealand. . . 

A sensible decision to support safe crop protection options – Tim Burrack:

Their names almost make them sound like the villains in an old John Wayne movie: Palmer Amaranth, Tall Waterhemp, and Giant Ragweed.  

In reality, they’re among the worst invaders in a farmer’s soybean fields—prolific weeds that rob our food crops of moisture and nutrients, depress our yields, and resist many forms of herbicide. 

To fight them, we need the best technology available—and on October 31, the Environmental Protection Agency tossed us a lifeline.  . . 


Rural round-up

12/11/2018

Fonterra hopes for collaboration in review of regulating law – Jeremy Rees:

Fonterra has welcomed the review of the law which governs it and urged farmers and shareholders to work with the government to get it right.

At its annual meeting, Fonterra chairman John Monaghan told the 360 farmers in the audience that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), which regulated the company was a complex piece of legislation but it was important to get any changes right.

“Let’s be clear. Fonterra’s performance, good or bad, is not driven by DIRA,” he said.

“But an updated DIRA can deliver our shared vision for the future of the New Zealand dairy industry.”

The government began in May a review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001 which sets the parameters for Fonterra, the co-operative dairy giant. . . 

Fonterra is under attack from all sides, and now from within, as it grapples with issues that date back to 2001. These restraints allow its competitors to pick away at its good bits. China holds a tariff lever over NZ policymakers – Guy Trafford:

A busy week for Fonterra with the appointment of the two new directors and one still to come. Later today comes the result of the asset review instigated after the poor results from last season.

One of the new directors, Leonie Guiney has made her position plain in September she was quoted saying she wants the company to shift its whole strategy away from investments, like Beingmate and China Farms, which she says are “beyond our capability”.

If Fonterra thought they may get an easier path in the future through a revamp of the DIRA, the indications coming out are any thing to go by they are going to be disappointed. In fact, some are suggesting that the goal posts have been moved further away with a 70% mark as the point which is more likely to trigger a freeing up of some of the constraints the Coop is required to operate under. . .

New directorate to run M bovis programme – Annette Scott:

The new Mycoplasma bovis Response Directorate will provide a more robust model for the ongoing response to the cattle disease.

The directorate has been established after the decision by the Government and industry to try to eradicate M bovis and in consultation with Ministry for Primary Industries staff.

MPI response and readiness director Geoff Gwyn has been appointed to lead the new body.

Gwyn has headed the M bovis response since the cattle disease was found in July 2017. . . .

Swarmstorm design to benefit beekeepers:

Hobby beekeepers could have an alternative product to recollect swarms and maintain bee reproduction rates thanks to the work of Massey University industrial design student Liam Brankin.

The 22 year-old has devised a prototype backpack he calls the Swarmstorm that uses a suction hose, similar to a household vacuum cleaner, to suck and capture bees into a cardboard container before they are transferred to hives to continue the reproduction and honey-producing process.

His design is part of the Exposure graduate exhibition of final year work by design, art, creative media and music students from the College of Creative Arts, which opens at the Wellington campus on Friday.  . . .

Commission authorises extending restrictions on infant formula marketing ;

The Commerce Commission has authorised members of the Infant Nutrition Council Limited to extend the advertising and marketing restrictions in their Code of Practice to cover infant formula products for children aged up to 12 months of age.

Currently, the restrictions only apply to infant formula products for children aged up to six months of age. The INC asked the Commission to authorise the extended advertising and marketing restrictions, as the extended restrictions may lessen competition. . .

Nursery industry congratulate Young Hort 2018 runner-up:

Runner up Young Horticulturalist of the year, Devin Westley, is an extraordinary young man with a huge passion for his work as a nurseryman and innovator in the industry.

His employer, Southern Woods Nursery and the NZ Plant Producers’ Industry are delighted with his placing in the New Zealand Young Horticulturalist 2018 competition.

Devin also took home awards for best practice, practical activities and best speech on the night at the award’s dinner in Auckland last night. . . 


Rural round-up

06/10/2018

Acquifer scheme off and running – John Keast:

A switch was flicked, Rangitata River water bubbled in a basin, then slid along a man-made creek bed in the dry South Hinds riverbed.

It is there it will do its work: increase flows in the Hinds River – often dry in its middle reaches – replenish underlying aquifers, feed newly planted native plants, enhance a wetland and, it is hoped, enhance bores used to supply water to Mayfield.

The water was released last week as part of the work by the Managed Aquifer Recharge Governance Group’s project to boost aquifers, dilute nitrates and lift river and stream flows. . .

Alliance backed on long term approach – Sally Rae:

Alliance Group management has received a strong message from suppliers to keep investing in the company’s longer-term strategy, rather than take a short-term approach, chairman Murray Taggart says.

Mr Taggart and fellow directors and management are travelling the country, attending the co-operative’s annual roadshows.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, he said feedback from shareholders and suppliers had been “pleasantly positive.” . . .

Where once was gorse, blackberry and bracken are fields of lush grass, vegetables, and sprightly calves – Marty Sharpe:

Over the course of his 36 years Hemi Robinson has watched the area he calls home slowly decay.

Rust and algae-covered car bodies litter paddocks, once-loved weatherboard homes crumble quietly into the dirt and wave after wave of blackberry, gorse and bracken encroach and consume once fertile and productive land.

This is Raupunga, between Napier and Wairoa. Population 250-ish and falling. . .

Benevolent history repeats – Ross Hyland:

The Duncan, Perry and Howard families have a long connection with farming.

They were instrumental in setting up Smedley, Taratahi and Massey University and the latest generation is doing it again with a group of farms in Rangitikei, particularly Otiwhiti and Westoe, providing a start on the land for cadets from all round the country.

Much has been said and written of the Duncans of the Turakina Valley but the transformation that has been happening on Otiwhiti Station deserves some focus of its own.

The farm cadet training school was established at Otiwhiti by Charles and Joanna Duncan and Charles’ parents, David and Vicky, in 2006. With the addition of Jim and Diana Howard’s Westoe Farm near Marton it could well be the premier farm cadet training establishment in the region. . .

Farmers have choice of five candidates to fill three seats

Fonterra is conducting a wide-open contest among five nominees to fill three vacancies around its board table, which consists of seven farmer-directors and four independents.

The retirements of former chairman John Wilson through ill-health and of long-serving director Nicola Shadbolt mean Ashley Waugh is the only sitting director seeking re-election.

Because the co-operative recently reported its first loss in 17 years of operations Waugh is exposed to a possible backlash through the ballot box from disgruntled shareholders. . .

An innovative lamb product is vying for two of New Zealand’s top food awards:

Alliance Group’s Te Mana Lamb has been announced as a finalist in two categories of this year’s : Frozen, which is offered in association with Palmerston North City Council; and the NZ Food Safety Primary Sector Products Award.

The Primary Sector Products Award looks for single ingredient foods – those sold in their purest form, with minimal processing – where producers, researchers and manufacturers have added-value to primary products through introducing new varieties, cultivars or breeds.

Te Mana Lamb has been produced as part of the Omega Lamb Project – a Primary Growth Partnership led by Alliance, in association with farming group Headwaters New Zealand Ltd and the Ministry for Primary Industries. . . 


Keep left, obey speech limit

09/08/2018

Nominating Garrick Tremain for Cartoonist of the Year on the strength of this:

You can see more of his cartoons here.

 

 


365 days of gratitude

08/08/2018

The furore over Don Brash being banned from Massey isn’t all bad.

It’s brought the importance of free speech to the fore and showed that people can put aside political bias to stand up for a principle.

I’m grateful for that.

 


Thugs’ veto working

07/08/2018

When the Free speech coalition withdrew its urgent application for a  judicial review of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s claim to ban Molyneux/Southern from Council-owned venues,  coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin said it would turn its focus to the thugs’ veto:

“The second issue remains – will officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech now manufacture “safety concerns” to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act, and the Human Rights Act?”

“All fair-minded New Zealanders will be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the Thugs’ Veto in this case. It may have been against a Council whose Mayor was happy to be threatened, but it has implications throughout New Zealand.”

The need for such action has been confirmed by news that the thugs’ veto is already working at Massey University:

“Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas should resign after cowardly barring Don Brash from speaking at the University”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“After veiled threats from a left-wing thug in a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, she capitulated this morning and prevented Dr Brash from speaking on ‘security’ grounds.

“A student wrote to the Vice-Chancellor: “I look forward to hearing what your thoughts are on this matter and steps you will take to ensure the safety of those attending. Remember in light of their type of “Free Speech” does not come Free of Consequences.’”

Brash, a former Reserve Bank Governor and Opposition Leader, was due to speak to the Politics Society tomorrow.

“I have long feared that American-style anti-intellectual, violent intolerance would come here.

“It has appeared at Massey this week and the university has completely failed to the test.

“Education Minister Chris Hipkins should follow the British and defund universities that do not protect freedom of speech in their campuses.

“Universities exist to promote robust debate, educate, and search for the truth.

“They do not exist to coddle students and protect them from views they might disagree with. . . 

Dr Cumin adds:

In blocking former Leader of the Opposition and Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash from speaking on campus tomorrow, Massey University disgraces an important tradition of free speech on university campuses and a fundamental tenet of a liberal democracy.

Massey University’s Vice-Chancellor appears to have capitulated to the veiled threats of protesters, cancelling the event for ‘security’ reasons.

Free Speech Coalition spokesman Dr David Cumin says, “Publicly-funded universities in New Zealand and across the western world have a proud tradition of upholding freedom of speech. If we allow the ‘heckler’s veto’ to shut down contentious speech at a university, a place that should be a bastion of free expression, what hope can we have for free speech anywhere else?”

“Hecklers and thugs have been emboldened by Auckland Council’s recent capitulation on similar grounds. That’s why the Free Speech Coalition is pressing ahead with court action to prevent a dangerous precedent where a minority can shut down any speech by threatening violent protest.”

“The Police need to put their hands up and restate their commitment to protecting freedom of speech from would-be violent protesters.”

“Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas must reverse her decision *and ensure that she works with authorities to provide a safe environment for the expression of ideas on her campus. The fundamental role of universities is to foster dissenting views, debate, throw light on and challenge the establishment, but certainly not shut down speech. This is a disgraceful act from a university leader.”

Would the vice-chancellor give in to threats from a hard-right group should the speaker be , for example, advocating Maori sovereignty or special treatment for refugees? Would she let right to life activists silence proponents of abortion or euthanasia?

If she didn’t she’d be guilty of political bias, if she did she’d be allowing the thugs’ veto again.

That’s the danger that follows what she wrote about constraining free speech and her decision to ban Dr Brash.

She is setting herself up as an arbiter of what is a permissible view and what’s not; which opinions can be aired and which can’t and she’s setting a very dangerous precedent which let hecklers and thugs silence people with whose views they disagree.


Let some knowledge flourish?

06/08/2018

Then-vice chancellor of Massey Chris Kelly provoked outrage after making comments about women vets:

Kelly told Rural News that 75 to 85 per cent of vet students were women and in the first year when there was a high ‘cull’, it was the female students who continued because the work was largely academic.

“That’s because women mature earlier than men, work hard and pass,” he told Rural News. “Whereas men find out about booze and all sorts of crazy things during their first year.” . . 

When I went through vet school, many years ago, it was dominated by men; today it’s dominated by women. That’s fine, but the problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a fulltime equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family, which is normal. So, though we’re graduating a lot of vets, we’re getting a high fallout rate later on.” . . 

Shortly after the outrage, he stepped down.

He apologised yesterday and said the information he gave in the article was incorrect.

He told the university today that he intended to step down from his position, effective immediately.

In a statement, Mr Kelly said his decision followed media coverage of his comments.

“Having had time to carefully consider the views of many staff, students and stakeholders, I believe that it is in the interests of the university that I step aside,” he said. . .

Martin van Beynen wrote at the time that the chancellor’s point was lost in the silly vet sexism fracas:

 . . But there is a wider problem with jumping from a great height on a man like Kelly.

Kelly spoke his mind giving a view which was not hateful or disrespectful. Essentially he was saying the taxpayer gets more bang for their buck by training male vets because of the nature of the job and the fact women, due to an unfortunate quirk of biology, have babies and want to spend some time with them.

It sounds like a defendable view which should prompt some debate. There might actually be a problem brewing away in vet education due to the dominance of female graduates. That won’t be talked about now because no-one will be brave enough to raise it.

The danger is that due to the sensitivity of the issue and possible ramifications of expressing a view, the wrong decisions will be made, not because people don’t know the facts or what to do, but just because to raise the difficult matters is a career wrecker.

The last and important point is that it’s quite healthy for people to shoot their mouths off now and again. It’s much better to know what people think than to have their views massaged by public relations or communications staff into nothingness. People censoring themselves is far more dangerous than saying what they really think.

Exactly. It is far better to know what people think than to have their views and opinions, whether they be right or wrong, silenced.

The importance of free speech is not something the current Massey vice chancellor Jan Thomas appears to believe in:

The right to speak freely is a bedrock principle of democratic society. This includes the right to hold opinions and express one’s views without fear and the ability to freely communicate one’s ideas.

History is littered with examples of tyrants who have sought to stymie this freedom of expression and, conversely, reveals the tragedy of those whose voices have been silenced under such oppression.

So far so good but then she writes:

Freedom of expression is one thing, but hate speech is another. As a concept that has now entered common parlance, hate speech refers to attacks based on race, ethnicity, religion, and increasingly, on sexual orientation or preference. . .

But not all religions are equal when it comes to criticism. I’ve yet to read or hear anyone attacking Christianity accused of hate speech.

Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. . .

She’s right that hate speech, however, it’s defined, isn’t free speech.

But the point that free speech would permit people to indulge in hate speech appears to have escaped her.

. . . Academics have a responsibility to engage with the communities we serve, to correct error and prejudice and to offer expert views, informed by evidence, reason and well-informed argument.

Given the current dominance of wall-to-wall social media and the echo chambers of fake news, universities are in many ways obliged to make positive societal interventions.

Universities support our staff and students to push boundaries, test the evidence that is put to them and challenge societal norms, including examining controversial and unpopular ideas.

This also obliges our institutions to support staff if and when they are attacked for engaging in such debates.

In this regard, I am guided by the University of California’s former President Clark Kerr’s oft-cited maxim that “the role of universities is not to make ideas safe for students, but to make students safe for ideas”.

And as I regularly remind our graduates, with rights come responsibilities.

Public universities have an obligation to uphold our civic leadership role in society and our first responsibility, I would argue, is to do no harm.

Universities are characterised by the academic values of tolerance, civility, and respect for human dignity.

All of that is reasonable.

And that is why it is important to identify and call out any shift from free speech towards hate speech. The challenge we face is to clarify when that shift occurs and to counter it with reason and compassion.

While I have concerns about what exactly hate speech is, I can’t argue against countering it with reason and compassion.

But then she concludes:

Hate speech has no place at a university. My university values our commitment to ideas and scholarship and free expression. . .

Spot the contradiction: a commitment to free expression and the exlusion of hate speech.

A university of all places ought to be able to counter the misguided, misinformed and mistaken by reasoned and reasonable debate, not by shutting them up and shutting down their right to express their views, however wrong or revolting those views are.

Karl du Fresne writes we should be very suspicious about claims of “hate speech”:

. . . My first concern is that much of what is emotively described as hate speech isn’t hateful at all. Too often it simply means opinions and ideas that some people find distasteful or offensive. But merely being offended is no justification for stifling expressions of opinion in a liberal, open democracy that depends on the contest of ideas. 

More worryingly, accusations of “hate speech” can be used to intimidate people into silence and put discussion of certain issues and ideas off-limits. In fact I believe that’s the over-arching aim.

Anyway, who defines hate speech? The term is bandied around as if there’s some agreed definition. But there’s not, and freedom of expression is too precious to leave it to an aggrieved minority or an academic elite to define it and therefore determine what the rest of us may say.

It’s also an infinitely elastic term. In Britain, where police have the power to prosecute for hate speech, there have been some frightening cases of overkill and heavy-handedness. 

Better to set the legal bar high to allow plenty of space for free speech, as the courts have tended to do in New Zealand. By all means, draw the line at harmful acts, direct threats to people’s safety or incitements to violence against minorities. But the law already allows for criminal prosecution in such cases.

We have far more to fear from people who want to suppress speech than we do from those who say things that others find objectionable. The real issue here is language control – because if you can control the language people are allowed to use in political discourse, you can control the range of ideas people are permitted to articulate and explore. . .

No, language is the latest battleground in what is known as the culture wars. The mounting clamour for tougher laws against so-called hate speech is an outgrowth of identity politics, in which minority groups are encouraged to see themselves as oppressed or disadvantaged because of their colour, ethnicity, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation. 

Hate speech makes some colours, ethnicities, genders, religions and sexual orientations more equal than others.

This has generated a demand for protection from comments that might be seen as critical or belittling – hence the frequency with which we hear people being accused of xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia and misogyny.

No one likes to have these labels pinned on them, so people keep their heads down. Accusing someone of hate speech has the same effect. It’s a quick way to shut down debate. . .

It’s so much easier to accuse someone of hate speech than it is to debate and counter what they say with facts and reason.

Journalists, of all people, should be ardent advocates of free speech because they have the most to fear if it’s abolished. In totalitarian regimes, journalists are often the first people to be imprisoned (as in Turkey) and even risk being murdered (as in Putin’s Russia).

But the most illiberal pronouncement I have read on the supposed dangers of free speech came from a university vice-chancellor who clearly thought that ordinary New Zealanders can’t be trusted to form their own sensible conclusions about contentious issues.

This pompous academic thought we needed guidance to keep us on the right path. And where from? Why, from universities.

We can infer from this that universities see themselves as having taken over the Churches’ role as moral arbiters. God help us all.

That the academic is vice chancellor of the same university the former-chancellor resigned from for saying something which got the crowd baying intrigues and concerns me.

Kelly wasn’t criticised for saying young men mature later and drink too much. He didn’t say that women don’t make good vets. He did say women work shorter hours than men.

He got his numbers wrong – saying women vets worked two-fifths of the time men did when younger vets work similar hours and after 30 women vets work an average of 37 hours a week and men an average of 45.

He might also be accused of not wording what he said better.

But over-egging the numbers and wording what he said somewhat clumsily ought to be a minor transgression.

A vice chancellor of a university, which is supposed to be a bastion of free speech, declaring that hers won’t  be ought to be a major one.

Kelly’s comments provoked an outrage, lots of media coverage and led to his resignation. All I’ve come across in response to Thomas’s declaration that Massey won’t uphold free speech are a very few well reasoned opinion pieces arguing against her.

Liam Hehir didn’t refer to Thomas’s remarks but he highlights the value of free speech and the danger in silencing it:

. . . New Zealand has developed a similar free-speech culture.

And the value of that culture isn’t that it protects racists and crackpots. It’s that it protects the humane and decent, who will not always hold the reins of power. The re-emergence of authoritarianism in continental Europe, where free-speech rights are less embedded, may well provide a warning here.

So should we accord liberal free speech rights to those with deplorable views? Yes. But it’s not to protect them from us. It’s to protect us from them.

Kelly stood down as chancellor for speaking freely, if what turned out to be unwisely in these politically-correct times. Vice chancellor Thomas declared Massey a free speech-free university and hardly raised an eye brow.

The uiniversity’s motto is floreat scientia – let knowledge flourish.

It isn’t qualified as some knowledge but if free speech can’t flourish there, can all knowledge?


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