If can’t count the concrete . . .

April 11, 2019

Statistics NZ has finally come out with the number of partial responses to the census:

Stats NZ’s confirmation that the problems with Census 2018 is not just with the record low response rate, but a doubling in the partial response rate compounds the problems for the State Sector, says National’s State Services Spokesperson Nick Smith.

“We now know over 700,000 people or one in seven New Zealanders did not complete Census 2018. This leaves a huge data hole that will create problems for years in allocating tens of billions of dollars in funding for central state services like health and education, as well as affecting electorate numbers and boundaries for Election 2020.

“Stats NZ needs to accept responsibility for the 2018 Census shambles. It cannot blame the funding when it was 36 per cent greater than Census 2013 and when this budget was underspent. It cannot blame the digital strategy when Australia successfully delivered its 2016 Census with a 95 per cent response rate using a similar strategy.

“Stats NZ botched the delivery of Census 2018 by excessively relying on online responses and providing insufficient neighbourhood backup for others. It compounded the problem by dismissing concerns expressed by Census field offices, commentators and the National opposition when the Census could have been retrieved. . . 

The census shambles hasn’t stopped the department coming out with more things to measure:

Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand is being developed by Stats NZ as a source of measures for New Zealand’s wellbeing. The set of indicators will go beyond economic measures, such as gross domestic product (GDP), to include wellbeing and sustainable development.

The wellbeing indicators will build on international best practice, and will be tailored to New Zealand.  . . 

The indicators cover New Zealand’s current wellbeing, future wellbeing (what we are leaving behind for future generations), and the impact New Zealand is having on the rest of the world. Under these dimensions are a list of topics and indicators developed to measure wellbeing.

You’ll find a link to the suite  of indicators if you click on the link above.  Among them are abstract things like spiritual health,  sense of belonging, ability to be yourself, locus of control and sense of purpose.

If Stats NZ hasn’t managed to properly count concrete things through the census, how on earth is it going to measure these abstract things?

Even if it can, when did spiritual health, a sense of belonging, the ability to be yourself, locus of control (whatever that is) and sense of purpose become the government’s business?

Stats NZ isn’t the only state entity getting touchy-feely.

Eric Crampton reports on a Treasury initiative:

There’s a $35 registration fee for this event at Treasury. . .

I have no clue whether the money goes to the folks running the session or what; I suspect it covers a cost of the deck of cards provided. But they recommend that attendees buy a deck of their cards in advance as practice as well, so attendees would wind up with double the compassion. It’s wonderful how Treasury is helping to promote a small business by hosting it and encouraging folks to buy its products.

Minister Jones would approve, if Heartwork were based in the Provinces.

Here’s the pitch. Treasury is Love.

Imagine surprising Aotearoa with a strain of compassion so delightful that it re-wires our collective consciousness!

COME TO THIS SOCIAL LAB TO CONNECT AND CREATE TOGETHER.

We’ve created a “compassion starter culture” – a network of people who want to create a more compassionate culture in Aotearoa, starting where we are – in our workplaces.
We’ve been playing and rapidly prototyping with the Heartwork Wellbeing Card Game* – now available publicly. 
We know that the intention for what we want to create has a huge power.
We don’t have all the answers. And we can’t do this mahi alone.

So we’d like to invite you into this social lab.

So we can grow an even more beautiful, and more resilient strain together.
We’ll share what we’re learning while we’re still metabolising. . . 

Crampton concludes:

I, for one, love that this is a priority both for Operations and for Strategy and Performance at Treasury, as indicated by the attendance and presumed endorsement of the Chief Operating Officer and the Manager for Strategy and Performance.

Just imagine how better Treasury would have been prepared for the currency crisis after Muldoon lost election if they had thought to consult both their sun feelings and their moon feelings. I don’t know how New Zealand came through it without that. But we will be far better prepared for the next crisis. Treasury may have few remaining economists, but every single person who remains there will care deeply.

And surely that matters more than anything else.

You can watch a video of the card game here.

Not surprisingly the Taxpayers’ Union isn’t impressed:

Treasury’s ‘well-being’ focus is leading it to replace economic rigor with buzzword culture, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, as top department officials host a ‘social lab’ centered around a ‘Heartwork Wellbeing Card Game’.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The purpose of Treasury is to provide the Government with economic analysis and monitor the success of the wider civil service. It seems this has been abandoned in favour of feel-good card games.”

“It’s no wonder we need a taxpayers’ union when the agency responsible for monitoring public spending is busy trying to ‘surprise Aotearoa with a strain of compassion so delightful that it re-wires our collective consciousness!’”

“Treasury was once a proud institution, a key cog in the vital economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a bleak vision of the future when you see adult civil servants consulting with their ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ feelings.” . . 

Do the government, and it’s agencies, know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. . . 

 

Image result for maslow hierarchy of need

The government has a role in ensuring some of its citizens’ basic physiological and safety needs are met.

The abstract concepts in the indicators come under psychological and self-fulfilment needs. Most of these aren’t the business of government and those which are won’t be met unless the government and its agencies get the basics – health, education, welfare, housing, infrastructure . . .  right.

 


What’s she hiding?

April 9, 2019

Government Statistician Liz MacPherson is facing a contempt of parliament charge after refusing a select committee request for information on last year’s census:

In an unusual move, a select committee invoked a standing order compelling Statistics NZ chief executive to produce the number of partial responses were received in Census 2018.

This is not a partisan request, the whole committee is seeking an answer.

National state services spokesman Dr Nick Smith said the committee unanimously decided such an extraordinary measure was required after MacPherson again refused to answer on the basis it would require “extensive contextual information”. 

“It is the first time ever that I have seen a select committee having to use its powers to require a public servant to provide an answer to a basic question.

“I can only draw the conclusion that Stats NZ has something to hide.”

This is public information. The refusal to supply it begs the question: what is she trying to hide and why?

Last year’s census was a shambles and the failure to provide parliament with the information requested does nothing to improve confidence in it.

 


Rural round-up

December 13, 2018

Bill’s passage clears way for Dam construction:

The passing of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill has cleared the way for the construction to begin on the largest dam to be built in New Zealand for more than 20 years, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“The Bill passed by 112 – 8 votes and clears the way for a sustainable solution to the regions long standing water problems.

“The passage of this Bill concludes a 17-year tortuous process for developing and gaining approval for a sustainable solution for the regions water problems. This Bill resolves the last issue of access to the conservation and LINZ land. . . 

Govt adopts National’s Bill to stop livestock rustling:

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie is pleased that his Sentencing (Livestock Rustling) Amendment Members Bill has been adopted by the Government as a Supplementary Order Paper on the Crimes Amendment Bill.

“Stock rustling is a crime that cuts to the heart of many rural families and the farming community.

“Theft of livestock from farms or property is estimated to cost the farming community over $120 million a year. More recently, the risk to farms of Mycoplasma bovis spreading through stock theft has added strength to the call to take action. . . 

Something festive for Fonterra farmers? A hint of solace would be a start… – Point of Order:

Fonterra’s  suppliers will be choking on their  Xmas  rations, as they  digest the  price  blows  the co-op  has delivered.  First,  the dairy giant has  revised down  its  forecast milk payout  range  for the season to $6-$6.30 from the  earlier  $6.25-$6.50, and, second,  it is clawing back  some of the $4.15/kg  advance payment  rate.

Farmers  in  January will be paid  $4/kg for the  milk they supplied in  December plus the  co-op  is  clawing  back  15c/kg for all the  milk  supplied   between  June and November.

It  is  not   surprising that farmers   with  costs of  production  running   at  or above  $6/kg  are  reported to  be  “shocked”  and  “angry”.   Even those  efficient  operators   who have  lower  operating costs  won’t be happy  with   Fonterra  saying it  “appreciates”  the budgeting impact  the updated $4 advance rate will have on farmers in  January.  . . 

The facts about nitrogen in horticulture – Mike Chapman:

Stuff recently gave space to an opinion piece from Glen Herud, a dairy farmer, which had a number of inaccurate references to the use of nitrogen in horticulture and horticulture practices in general (Stuff, December 4, 2018).

 It is important to note, the primary industries are working together to address both the real and the perceived impacts of food production on the environment. At Horticulture New Zealand, we are sitting down and talking to key Government Ministers and their officials from the relevant government agencies to look at the best ways to clean up waterways and address climate change. This is how the best policies will continue to be made.

 In his opinion piece, Mr Herud’s numbers and references to research are unsubstantiated. I don’t want this to be a science class, but there is a lot of misinformation about nitrogen being spread around and it is essential to deal in facts, backed by science. . . 

Getting a buzz out of dairying – Samantha Tennent,:

Michael McCombs has had success by putting himself out therein the NZ Dairy Industry Awards, FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest and the Young Farmers Excellence Awards just by doing his thing and loving the journey along the way. Samantha Tennent reports.

A geography class trip sealed the deal for Michael McCombs  – he knew dairy farming was where he wanted to be. He grew up in Upper Hutt, attending Upper Hutt College and from a young age had always planned to become a farmer.

It was a 220-cow farm near Carterton he’d visited with school and thought to himself he’d love to work there.  The following summer holidays he did. It was a once-a-day herd and the owner, Dave Hodder, recommended Michael look at the Taratahi training farm.

“I wasn’t enjoying school and was looking at my options. I landed a spot on the training farm so left school at the end of year 11.” . . 

Milmeq sale expected to expand service offering:

Privately-held New Zealand engineering company Milmeq Limited, a designer and manufacturer of meat processing equipment, will be split and sold in the coming months, but it doesn’t mean the end of the brand. An agreement was signed at the end of last week for the sale of Milmeq’s chilling and freezing capability to New Zealand-listed company Mercer Group Limited, effective from 1 March 2019.

Chairman Ralph Marshall describes the sale as a good move for staff, customers and suppliers.

“Being purchased by a publicly-listed company, with a range of complementary products, positions Milmeq equipment well for future growth. We have been nimble over the years, always innovating to meet market needs, but we anticipate this innovation will further accelerate under the new owners.” . . 


Rural round-up

November 30, 2018

Flying the flag for female farmers – Sally Brooker:

Kerry Watson is a can-do person.

The Five Forks dairy farm worker is the only woman in the Aorangi regional final of the Young Farmer of the Year competition.

But rather than being concerned about its physical challenges, she is more worried about the theory.

Miss Watson (27) grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Cumbria, in the northwest of England, until her family emigrated to New Zealand when she was 11. . . 

Farm advisors helping improve water quality – Pam Tipa:

Fonterra’s director of sustainability Carolyn Mortland says she is very heartened by the work farmers are putting into the environment.

“I think we will see it really turning around in future years,” she told Dairy News.

Fonterra recently put out a progress report on its six commitments to improve waterways — one year on from launching the actions. . .

Partnership approach pays off – Pam Tipa:

The partnership approach was a key to Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) winning the industry award at the 2018 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards last week, says KVH chief executive Stu Hutchings.

The partnership approach has ensured the industry was better placed for any future biosecurity event, he says.

“There is no doubt that by working in partnership we can achieve better biosecurity outcomes,” Hutchings says. . . 

What’sthe beef with methane? – Eloise Gibson:

The Government’s proposal for a Zero Carbon Bill has exposed an argument between scientists about the importance of methane. But it’s not really about science, as Eloise Gibson reports in this deep-dive news feature.

There’s beef in the world of methane. Like a piece of marbled Wagyu, it is probably quite healthy — if consumed in moderation.

The argument is over when and how much New Zealand should reduce the methane from cow and sheep burps, which make up almost a third of our emissions, as we currently record them. . .

Anonymous anti-dam brochure reckless, says MP:

Nelson MP Nick Smith is concerned at the distress being caused by an anonymous anti-dam brochure delivered to all households in Brightwater that makes false claims of the town being at risk of an eight metre tidal wave if the dam proceeds.

“I am appalled that dam opponents have resorted to this sort of desperate scaremongering. I have had frightened older residents contacting my office scared witless and mothers in tears at the A & P show over the weekend out of fear for their family. Nobody should be publishing or distributing made up claims on issues as serious as earthquake and tidal wave risks.”

“It is bad enough that those responsible for this scaremongering have not put their name to it, but worse that they have tried to give it credibility by using the good names of Dr Mike Johnson of GNS and Tonkin and Taylor. These experts have dismissed the accuracy of the claims in the brochure, saying they are “very misleading” and “mischievous.” . . 

Farmers’ perspective vital to long-term improvements in agricultural practices:

A study published by scientists from The University of Western Australia jointly with farmers is one of the first to address the role of temperate perennial grass pastures in contributing to soil organic carbon in south-western Australia.Intensive sampling was conducted on a trial site near Wagin consisting of a mix of temperate perennial and annual grasses that had been sown over a ten-year period. The results demonstrated the potential of perennial pastures for short-term gain in soil organic carbon stocks.

Emeritus Professor Lynette Abbott from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment and Institute of Agriculture said temperate perennial grass pastures are currently an uncommon choice in this region but have the potential for future development.  . . 

Yorkshire shepherdess and her nine VERY free-range children: Christmas presents for £2, no computer games and six mile walks to buy a packet of peanuts – meet the ultimate antidote to helicopter parenting:

  • Amanda Owen gave birth to five of her nine children in a car or an ambulance 
  • She lives in an isolated farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales with her large family
  • She grew up in suburban Huddersfield but fell in love with the idea of rural life  
  • Her family were filmed on and off for a year and will star in a TV show next week

Five of Amanda Owen’s nine children were born in either cars or ambulances at the side of the road. Quite frankly, on the tortuous (if scenic) journey to her farmhouse high in the Yorkshire Dales, you wonder how she made it to hospital with any of them.

On the map, it looks as if Amanda, better known as the Yorkshire Shepherdess, lives just a hop and skip from civilisation. In reality, the drive is a precarious one involving a twisty road, with sheer drops. The nearest maternity unit is two hours away. For a woman in labour, in the dark, this must be the road to hell.

Little wonder, then, that when the contractions started for baby No 8, Amanda didn’t even wake husband Clive and tell him to get the car keys. She simply piled towels in front of the fire, gave herself a stern talking to, and eased the baby out with her own hands. . . 


Rural round-up

September 20, 2018

Scratching beneath the surface of Fonterra’s accounts – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s loss of $196 million for the year ended 31 July 2018 has left nowhere for the Fonterra Board to hide. Wisely, it has chosen to take the loss on the chin. In line with this, it has completed the jettisoning of CEO Theo Spierings. Two of its most experienced directors (Wilson and Shadbolt) are also departing.

Fonterra plans to now take stock of the situation before charting a path to the future. However, the latest Fonterra communications at farmer meetings are emphasising debt reduction.

A black and white sort of a guy
New Chairman John Monaghan has been described to me as a black and white sort of a guy. That might be exactly what Fonterra needs; someone who calls a spade a spade and cuts through the public relations massaging that bedevils Fonterra
. . .

Synlait nearly doubles profit in tenth year of operation:

Synlait has reported a net after tax profit (NPAT) of $74.6 million, almost double the NPAT of $39.5 million announced for the same period last year.

The results for the financial year ending 31 July 2018 (FY18) were achieved in a period of large investment, and a renewed focus on the future.

An increase in finished infant formula sales helped to drive this profit, which was enabled by a number of investments in the blending and consumer packaging space. . .

Comedy night to highlight rural wellness:

A group of Kiwi comedians are set to hit the road for a series of shows designed to get farmers off the farm and laughing.

Farmstrong, a group which promotes rural wellness, has helped organise five further comedy nights after a successful sold-out first show in Waikato.

The initiative is also supported by NZ Young Farmers and the Rural Support Trust. They say it aims to help highlight the issue of mental health and wellbeing, and are a way for farmers to take a break. . .

Apropos of this, Farmstrong has a wellbeing check list.

New boss aiming for more talent – Pam Tipa:

To hit targets and ensure a flow of young talented people coming into agriculture requires connecting with everybody.

This is the view of Lynda Coppersmith (48), who takes over as Young Farmers chief executive on October 1.

”If that means we need to do more to connect with women and show young women there is a career path, then let’s do it,” says Coppersmith. . .

Waimea Dam Bill widely supported at first reading:

Support has been welcomed from National, Labour, NZ First and Act parties for the introduction of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill that saw 112 votes in support to eight opposed and its referral to the Governance and Administration Select Committee, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“This Bill is the last critical piece of work required to enable the construction of this dam in the Lee Valley and resolve the long term problems of water security and river health on the Waimea Plains. The project has full resource consents and the $100 million in funding required from horticulturalists, Government and Council. This Bill is about resolving the issue of access to the land for the reservoir in the Mount Richmond Forest Park. . .

Urgent cull of South Island’s Himalayan tahr population ordered by Conservation Minister – Holly Carran:

The Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has ordered an urgent cull of the Himalayan tahr population across the central South Island, claiming the numbers have reached destructive levels.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) wants to remove 10,000 tahr on public conservation land, including the Westland/Tai Poutini and Aoraki Mt Cook National Parks, over the next ten months. 

The Tahr Liaison Group – made up of organisations with hunting interests and Ngāi Tahu, will help reduce the numbers by hunting an extra 7500 – overall halving the population if successful.  . .

Walking Access Commission appoints new Chief Executive:

The Walking Access Commission, the Government’s expert agency on public access to the outdoors, is pleased to announce the appointment of Ric Cullinane as its new Chief Executive.

Mr Cullinane has been the Commission’s Operations Manager since 2010, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his new role. . . 


Messier and messier

September 15, 2018

Former minister Clare Curran’s mismanagement has cost taxpayers $107,000.

Dumped chief technology officer candidate Derek Handley has been paid out more than $100,000 in compensation by the Government, Digital Services Minister Megan Woods has confirmed.

Woods said the Government had agreed to pay Handley compensation totalling $107,500 after deciding to put the recruitment process for the country’s first national chief technology officer on hold and “rethinking the role”. 

Woods issued the statement after Handley said the Government had reneged on a commitment to give him the job and paid him three months’ salary, and costs, as compensation.

Handley said he had decided not to keep the money, and would instead donate it towards a fund to support ideas, programmes and grants to tackle “digital inequality”.

Former communications minister Clare Curran resigned first from Cabinet and then as minister after it emerged she met Handley in February to discuss the job and then “omitted” to document the meeting in response to a parliamentary question.

Handley said he was “offered and accepted” the job – which had been billed as offering a salary of up to $400,000 plus a $100,000 travel budget – a month ago.

“Earlier this week I was deeply disappointed to learn that the Government will no longer follow through with their commitment and will not be making that appointment at this time.”  . .

 National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith sums it up:

. . .“The process around appointing a Chief Technology Officer has been a shambles from the beginning. It involved secret meetings and emails, the resignation of Minister Clare Curran and now we’re paying Derek Handley around $100,000 for a job he never even started.

“The Government must now come clean with the hidden emails from Clare Curran and the Prime Minister so we know the full story of how badly this was handled.

“The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and was budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 per year. Now if it still goes ahead we can add a pay out of over $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetence.    . .

Point of Order calls this a disgraceful  saga, one  which  has  few parallels  in the history  of state-sector  appointments.

Curran’s resignation as a minister ought to have put this particular mess behind the government, but the mess just keeps getting messier and more expensive.

 


Rural round-up

September 10, 2018

Tasman District Council U-turn on Waimea dam draws mixed reaction –  Cherie Sivignon:

The Tasman District Council decision on Thursday to revoke its earlier in-principle agreement to effectively end the Waimea dam project has received a mixed reaction.

Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith welcomed the 9-5 vote to proceed with the $102 million project after a new funding model was presented to councillors, calling it the right decision for the region’s future.

“The big gains from this project are environmental and economic,” Smith said. “It will enable the minimum flows in summer in the Waimea River to be lifted five-fold and fully meet the national standards for water quality. It will also enable another 1200ha of horticulture, creating more wealth and jobs.” . .

Tough job to get staff – Neal Wallace:

Labour hungry farmers and primary industry employers face stiff competition for school leavers with regional unemployment below 5%, secondary school teachers are warning.

Mid Canterbury’s unemployment rate is 2%, creating a competitive job market with school leavers having multiple offers and attractive wages and employment conditions, Ashburton College principal Ross Preece said.

So the days of farmers offering youth rates or minimum wages and expecting them to work 50-hour weeks are gone. . .

Better understanding of nutrient movement – Pam Tipa:

We need a better understanding of nutrient transport across catchments, says Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE), Simon Upton.

And he says we also need better understanding of what nutrient models can and can’t do to assist in building a picture and better communication of what is happening to water quality. Upton highlighted several gaps and faults in this information to a recent Environmental Defence Society conference.

The PCE is analysing Overseer as a tool for measuring water pollution from agricultural sources. Upton told the conference he is not yet in a position to preview findings on his Overseer report.

But the need for better understanding of nutrient transport, models and communication were among aspects which so far stand out to him in his findings. . .

Inquiry after lambs killed –  Tim Miller:

Mosgiel man Roy Nimmo says the killing of three of his two-week-old lambs is abhorrent and whoever is responsible should take a long hard look at themselves.

The three lambs were being kept in a paddock next to his home in Cemetery Rd, beside the East Taieri Church, with about 15 other lambs and ewes.

A ewe was also shot in the head but at this stage was still alive, Mr Nimmo said. . .

Agritech deal opens door to US markets – Esther Taunton:

New Zealand’s agritech innovators will have better access to the massive United States market through two new partnerships.

Agritech New Zealand, which represents some of the country’s top tech companies, has signed an agreement with California-based Western Growers, a trade organisation whose members provide more than half the nation’s fresh fruit and vegetables.

Signed last week, the deal will open doors for Kiwi agritech companies to enter the US market via the Western Growers Centre for Innovation and Technology in California and for US-based agritech startups to access the New Zealand market, Agritech NZ executive director Peter Wren-Hilton said. . .

Shortfall of tractor drivers a concern – Yvonne O’Hara:

Although a new apprenticeship scheme will address future labour needs in the horticultural industry nationally, there is also a shortage of skilled tractor drivers and irrigation technicians to work on Central Otago vineyards that needs to be addressed.

The three-year programme provides on the job training and support for 100 new horticulture and viticulture apprentices, and was launched last month.

It is supported by New Zealand Winegrowers, Primary ITO, the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) . .

Don’t take our dairy industry fro granted :

The current drought is showing the detrimental impact that the $1/litre milk and the discounting of dairy products has had on the profitability of dairy farmers across NSW.

Retailers’ behavior to discount dairy products had deteriorated farmers’ economic resilience and the prolonged drought is highlighting the reduced profits of farmers. 

Preparing for drought requires that during good years farmers from across all commodities have extra cash that they reinvest back into their farm to prepare for the lean times. . .


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