Rural round-up

17/03/2021

Ministry accused of stealing Taihape farm – Phil Pennington:

Government officials are being accused of stealing a farm bought by a central North Island town for their schoolchildren to learn agriculture.

Taihape people established the teaching farm on 12 hectares next to Taihape College 30 years ago but the Ministry of Education has taken it and put it in the landbank for Treaty settlements, and the school can now only lease it.

The Ombudsman is looking at whether to investigate.

“It’s very unfortunate. I think you could effectively say that the community asset has been stolen by the Education Ministry,” Rangitīkei National MP Ian McKelvie said. . .

New tax rules are flawed – Neal Wallace;

New taxation rules will create uncertainty and compliance costs to virtually every farm sales, warns Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ).

The association’s NZ tax leader John Cuthbertson says the new legislation coming into force on July 1, is designed to reduce government revenue loss by forcing parties to sale and purchase agreements to agree on the allocation of sale proceeds to particular types of assets for tax purposes.

Cuthbertson says this is known as purchase price allocation.

“If they had just stopped there that would have been acceptable, but they have gone further, impacting the relative negotiating positions of the parties and adding uncertainty and compliance costs,” he said. . . 

A change for the better – Ross Nolly:

A Taranaki farmer has turned his entire farming operation 180 degrees and is loving the change.

When farmers change their farm system, it’s often just a case of making minor changes to streamline the operation. However, when Taranaki farmers Adam and Taryn Pearce decided to make changes they didn’t do things by halves.

The Pearces operate a 60-hectare, 180-cow farm at Lepperton. When they decided to change their farming system, it was not going to be just a small tweak for them to achieve that goal. . .

Few takers for safety subsidy – Country Life:

Of the 35,000 farmers and businesses eligible to access a subsidy for crush protection devices for quad bikes, only 270 have taken it up.

ACC injury prevention manager Virginia Burton-Konia says agriculture is a high risk area and quad bikes create significant costs to the scheme and therefore significant injuries for farm workers.

She says it’s not just farmers, but sometimes farm workers, whānau or manuhiri who are on farms.

“Last year ended up with $80 million worth of cost to the scheme focusing on injuries in quad bikes, you know we ended up with 566 I think injuries in 2020.” . .

A side hustle in saffron – Country LIfe:

Haley Heathwaite was looking for something “a bit different and a challenge” when deciding on a crop of her own to grow.

The former outdoor instructor is production manager with a Gisborne seed company and for the past four years she has also had a side gig growing saffron on eight hectares in Tolaga Bay.

The precious spice comes from the stigma of the crocus sativus – a pretty purple flower which blooms for just a few weeks in the autumn – and Haley says it sells for $57,000 a kilo at the moment. The painstaking autumn harvest is, however, counted in grams.

Haley says there are many challenges extracting the brightly coloured stigma during harvest including keeping bees away and dealing with morning dew. . . 

Location not size fuel reduction burns most effective within 1km of houses – Jamieson Murphy:

LOCATION is far more important that size when it comes to fuel reduction burns, a new study by the Bushfire Recovery Project has found.

The expert review of 72 peer-reviewed scientific papers about bushfires and infrastructure loss found fuel reduction burning was most effective at reducing housing loss when done within one kilometre of the property.

The Bushfire Recovery Project is a joint initiative between Griffith University and the Australian National University to inform the public about what the peer-reviewed science says about bushfires. . .

 


Rural round-up

17/01/2020

Meat industry pans climate-change teaching resource that recommends cutting meat, dairy – Dubby Henry:

A recommendation that students eat less meat and dairy to take action on climate change has raised the ire of New Zealand’s meat industry.

The new resource – Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow – is from the Ministry of Education and is aimed at Level 4 teachers teaching children aged 7-10 about climate.

Suggestions for taking action include talking more about global warming, reducing electricity use and driving and flying less.

But it’s a short blurb that suggests reducing meat and dairy intake that has riled the meat industry’s lobby group, Beef + Lamb NZ. . . 

The problem with veganuary – Jacqueline Rowarth:

As people are encouraged to take part in “Veganuary” in the New Year, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth investigates the problems with the idea of eating less meat to save the planet.

Veganuary – the northern hemisphere initiative involving becoming vegan for a month – will not solve climate change.

Becoming vegan forever will likewise do little, despite the calls to “give up meat to save the planet”. . . 

New Year’s Honour a family achievement for Nelson farmer and conservationist – TIm Newman:

Nelson farmer Barbara Stuart says her New Year’s Honour was a recognition for her whole family’s work for the environment.

The Cable Bay resident has been awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in the 2020 New Year’s Honours list, for services to conservation. 

Stuart said she was very privileged to receive the award, but it had been an effort made by her whole family. 

“You don’t feel you deserve it, but I sort of see it as award for the family for the work that earlier generations have done – I feel it’s a recognition of all of those things.” . .

Central Otago shearer on the benefits of Tahi Ngatahi

Shearer Tamehana Karauria works in Central Otago. He’s one of 800 shearers, wool handlers and farmers who’ve signed up for online, video-based learning platform Tahi Ngātahi. The initiative aims to reduce workplace injuries by 30 per cent.

Tamehana first picked up the hand piece working with his family in Gisborne and has been in the industry ever since.

What’s a good week look like for you?

As long as the sun’s shining, the sheep are dry and we’re at work, I’m in my happy place.

How does Tahi Ngātahi work?

It is all done through the Tahi Ngātahi website. You watch the videos and answer the questions. Some of the questions can be tricky, so you’ve got to watch the videos properly. . . 

Forestry investment far from straight forward venture – Scott Mason:

As forest fires, and climate change debate, rage across the Tasman (and our thoughts and best wishes go out to our Australian cousins), the topic of forestry in NZ has arisen over the Christmas break.

Most of the barbecue conversations have been quite generic, for example focusing on what the true impact of the planting of a billion new trees will have on our ecosystem as we strive towards addressing our carbon neutrality goals via a massive carbon sink consuming hundreds of thousands of acres, whether intense forestation of otherwise productive land will have a material negative cash-flow consequence for NZ in the short term (e.g. milk sells annually, trees are harvested every 25 years or so), and whether the regularity of forest fires in NZ will also increase as we experience forestation and climate change.

We even debated the concept of farming carbon credits, versus (or to exclusion of caring about) wood, and the long-term impacts that could have on good forestry management. . . 

What will happen with dairy markets in 2020? – Chris Gooderham:

Despite the uncertainty in 2019, the market value of milk in the UK was the most stable it’s been for a decade. But as we enter the next decade, how long will that stability last? We take a look at the key dynamics that are playing out in the dairy markets at the moment.

Globally:

  • Global milk production is set to grow by just 1% in 2020. The majority of the additional milk is expected to come from the US and EU. Australian production has been declining as it struggles with impacts of record high temperatures and drought, and the recent widespread bush fires. Growth in New Zealand production is expected to be relatively flat.
  • Global dairy demand is forecast to rise by 2.1% for fresh product and 1.5% per annum for processed products, according to the latest FAO-OECD predictions. Demand may however be impacted by a slowdown in economic growth over the coming year, particularly from the oil rich countries who are large importers of dairy. . .

 


Need right response

16/01/2020

Climate change agitation started on the left.

Some of it was driven by genuine concern for the environment. Some had, and still has, a wider anti-capitalist political agenda.

Climate change is now an issue that spans the political spectrum but most response is still shaped by the left with its usual recipe of less of this here and more tax on that there.

Ironically, given climate change activists’ demands to accept the science, a lot of the response does not follow the science.

Much of the response is also simplistic and does not take into account all the costs and consequences of prescribed actions nor does it follow the prescription for sustainability which requires a balance of economic, environmental and social concerns.

The teaching resource on climate change issued by the Ministry of Education exemplifies this, mixing misinformation and preaching with the science and teaching.

There is a huge opportunity here for the right to promote a much more positive response that will counter the eco-pessimism and provide real solutions with technology and innovation.

That is what has provided answers to problems that have beset the world in the past and that is what is needed if we’re to safeguard the health of the planet for the future.


School closure investigation overdue

27/03/2013

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverly waken is investigating the way in which the Ministry of Education conducts consultation on school closures and mergers.

. . . Dame Beverley will be looking in some detail at a number of closure and merger consultations carried out in recent years, including the process that is currently underway in Christchurch

“I will assess whether the consultation processes operate in a manner that adequately ensures fair and meaningful participation by affected parties and, if they do not, how they could be improved”, says Dame Beverley. . .

Such an investigation is long overdue.

School mergers and closures are always fraught and the Ministry has been handling them poorly for years.

North Otago was one of the areas into which then Minister of Education Trevor Mallard strode in clodhopper boots demanding mergers and closures nearly 10 years ago.

There was little if any consultation and very poor understanding of communities of interest and other factors which ought to have been considered.

The Minister got the blame and three MPs who lost their seats in the south – Mark Peck in Invercargill, David Parker in Otago and Jim Sutton in Aoraki – could lay some of the responsibility on this issue.

But then, as now, most of the blame ought to have been laid at the Ministry’s door.

It didn’t learn from the mistakes made before the 2005 election and repeated them with bells on in Christchurch where even more sensitivity was required.

Changes in population result in changing educational needs. New Schools will be needed in areas of growth, old ones will need to close or merge in areas of decline.

Handling that is core Ministry business for which it ought to follow best practice. Instead it appears to follow the process which didn’t work nearly a decade ago and from which it seems to have learned nothing.

I wish Dame Beverley well in her investigation and hope her findings lead to much needed improvements for the sake of schools, pupils, staff and their communities.


Is it good enough?

29/10/2012

New Zealand’s education system isn’t world class.

This is the opinion of Ministry of Education chief executive, Lesley Longstone.

[She] wrote in the ministry’s annual report that New Zealand cannot claim to be world class because Maori and Pasifika children and children from poor communities are underperforming. . .

Not surprisingly teacher unions have gone on the defensive but they’re missing the point.

It doesn’t matter how our education system ranks in the world, what matters is whether it’s good enough.

When one in five leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills and some students who get to university need remedial help it’s not.

The blame for that can’t all be laid on the system or teachers.

If children get to school without pre-reading skills, shift schools often, have insufficient encouragement and support from home and/or don’t have enough food or sleep the best of teachers will struggle to make a difference.

But some children make good progress in spite of the disadvantages they face while others don’t.

What makes the difference?

If the education system was as good as it needs to be it would not only know the answer to that question but how to apply what makes the difference where it’s lacking.

 

 


They’ve had time

15/01/2012

Radio NZ reports the Ministry of Education has appointed a specialist advisor to Pembroke School in Oamaru to make sure national standards are implemented.

All schools have been given plenty of time to do what’s required.

If they can’t/won’t implement the standards themselves then the Ministry is correct to appoint people who will.


School “forced” to obey law

10/09/2011

The headline in the Oamaru Mail (not online) says: Govt ‘bullies school’.

The story says:

Oamaru’s Pembroke School has been forced to include the controversial National Standards in its charter.

Pembroke principal Brent Godfery said yesterday the Ministry of Education had used the Education Act to make the school’s board of trustees amend the charter so it complies.

Shock, horror – the Ministry used the law to bring into line a school which was deliberately flouting it.

. . .  Mr Godfery said just because charters were compliant it did not mean the National Standards were acted upon.

“We will continue to educate our community on the dangers this policy is posing to one of the best educations systems in the world,” he said.

Schools are supposed to be educating its pupils not pushing a political point of view at its community.

No-one denies that our system is very good and that our best students are up with the world’s best. The problem is the long tail of low achievers among whom are the one in five who leave school with illiterate and innumerate.

National Standards won’t by themselves change that but they are a tool which will help identify the children who aren’t learning as well as they ought to be.

However, from what Mr Godfery told the Waitaki Herald,  it isn’t how well pupils are learning but how the school looks which is his main concern:

Like other principals, Mr Godfery was concerned that National Standards’ results would be turned into a league table, ranking schools against each other.

He said such tables weren’t a fair reflection on how schools performed compared to others, due to different decile ratings for schools and pupils who came from non-English speaking backgrounds.

This is the same tired argument too often used to oppose all sorts of innovations in schools and one which is of far more concern to teachers than anyone else.

It might be possible to compare schools as a by-product of National Standards but that’s not its aim. They are simply a tool to monitor children’s performance and progress to ensure teachers and parents know how well children are doing.

Success or failure of the tool won’t be in identifying children who don’t meet the standard but in what happens next to help those who aren’t learning as well as they ought to be.


No guns at school

04/08/2008

Hampden School in North Otago is reviewing its decision to allow children to bring guns to school. That’s homemade guns which were used while the children played at pig hunting while supervised by teachers.

Board chairman Ian Carter said, when contacted, the idea came from pupils who went pig hunting with their parents at weekends.

The Ministry of Education does not support children taking toy guns to school. Schools are self-managing and responsible for the day-to-day management of curriculum and play.

“We will continue to work closely with the school to ensure it meets its obligations of providing a safe physical and emotional environment for all students,” ministry southern regional manager Michael De’Ath said.

Mr Carter said the children’s request was discussed by board members, who thought it was pro-active in a rural environment where children were exposed to guns.

Three or four pupils made their own hand-crafted guns – no imitation guns were to be brought to school – and a small group played on Wednesdays in bush in the playground, supervised by teachers.

Children took turns to play the pig, with other children playing dogs who were “released” to catch the pig, Mr Carter said.

It was “purely a game” which was supervised and in a specified area and the children knew it was only once a week, he said. The board believed it had acted responsibly.

The school had also reinstated tackle rugby at the request of pupils. Board members felt the activities were meeting the needs of boys at the school “wanting that rough and tumble”.

Mr Carter accepted it was not something that should be widespread throughout the country and it was up to individual schools to make that judgement. He had had no negative feedback from parents or the community, he said.

I can understand why the Ministry might have some reservations, but fire arms are part of rural life and play like this is an opportunity to learn about fire arm safety while having fun. Country kids should be able to play country games.


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