Rural round-up

18/07/2021

Rural living: the good, the bad and the glorious – Nicky Berger:

I never wanted to be a farmer. Growing up on a small sheep and beef farm north of Auckland, I spent many sunny afternoons in the “Pooh Bear Forest” below our house, and others learning how to handle wool from eternally patient shearers.

But I never believed it was my destiny to grow food. Instead, I spent my teenage years imagining myself working in one of the skyscrapers we would see on occasional trips into the city. When I was old enough, off to the city I went.

However, the unexpected death of my dad one sunny evening in 2004 changed everything.

Sitting at the kitchen table in my family home the following morning, I stared in wonder at ute after ute coming down our driveway, past our house, and heading over to the woolshed. . .

Images of distressed animals misleading council says :

Recent publicity surrounding intensive winter grazing in Southland has been unhelpful, the regional council says.

Images of distressed animals deep in mud have circulated on social media in recent weeks.

But Southland Regional Council chief executive Rob Phillips said some of them were not from this winter and many appeared to be taken outside of Southland.

“We want to follow up and address any poor practice, but when those circulating the images aren’t prepared to tell us where the properties are, it lets everyone down and certainly doesn’t help to improve the situation, he said. . . 

Farmers a cut above DOC in caring for Crown land – Jacqui Dean:

There’s some people who are firm in the belief that Crown land can only be properly looked after if it’s under Department of Conservation (DOC) control. In my opinion, that view is misguided and fails to recognise the state of vast tracts of land across the South Island.

I’ve spent the first half of this year visiting Crown pastoral leaseholders in the South Island to better understand the implications of the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill that’s making its way through Parliament.

This piece of legislation is touted by its proponents as a way to improve environmental outcomes. It puts an end to tenure review and places heavy-handed restrictions on the most basic of farming activities on crown lease land.

During my visits to these rugged and remote areas I’ve been able to compare high country land being farmed under a pastoral lease with nearby land under DOC administration. . . 

Farmers sent a clear message, Labour should listen:

The immense turnout to yesterday’s nationwide protests by the rural sector sent a clear message to the Government, they are fed up with Labour penalising them at every turn, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“Yesterday farmers up and down New Zealand told the Government they wouldn’t be sitting down and taking the hits Labour is dishing out. All National MPs were with them, showing our support and how much we value the work our farmers do.

“Farmers helped New Zealand get through Covid-19, and Labour is repaying them through unworkable freshwater regulations, failing to deal with serious workforce shortages and now it’s hitting them in the wallet with a Ute Tax.

“The rural sector has rightly had enough. They’re not alone though, almost every other New Zealander is being hit in the back pocket through new taxes, rent increases and costs on businesses. . . 

 

Malaysian firm to convert Southland farm into forestry block – Shawn McAvinue:

A Malaysian company has been given consent to buy a nearly 460ha sheep and beef farm in Western Southland.

The Overseas Investment Office gave the consent to the 100% Malaysian-owned company Pine Plantations Private Ltd to buy the farm – near Tuatapere – from vendors Ayson and Karen Gill for $4 million.

The consent states the company intends to develop about 330ha of the land into a commercial forest, principally in pine trees.

Planting was intended to start in 2021-22, for the trees to be harvested in up to 30 years. . . 

City kids go bush – Sally Blundell:

It’s called real world learning: pine nut pesto, bush tea and home kill. Bush Farm Education is taking kids out of the classroom and into nature.

The classroom is a place of puddles and hay bales, trailers and tractors. Today’s lessons – fire safety, edible mushrooms and the reality of home kill.

“Just imagine if every kid in Ōtautahi Christchurch, or even New Zealand, could have a day a week out on the farm, in nature, learning about it,” says Katie Earle, founder of Bush Farm Education on Lyttelton Harbour. “It would just be incredible.”

Incredible but unlikely. A Sport New Zealand survey in 2019 found that only 7 percent of children and young people aged five–17 met the Ministry of Health guidelines of at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day. Recent research by Ara Institute of Canterbury into education outside the classroom found a third of schools struggle to get students outside, citing time constraints, added paperwork, education regulations and health and safety rules. . . 

Increased demand for softwood lumber in the US and Asia will change the global trade flows of wood in the coming decade:

Softwood lumber has been in high demand in the US and Europe throughout 2021. The limited supply resulted in temporary price surges to record high levels during the spring, followed by substantial declines in early summer. The outlook for lumber demand is likely to be strong worldwide in the coming decade in most world regions, including North America and Asia. Both these regions are consistently dependent on imported wood.

Few countries in the world can significantly expand lumber exports, and Europe will play an increasingly important role as a wood supplier in the future. Tighter lumber markets will impact not just the sawmilling industry but also forest owners, pulp companies, wood panel manufacturers, and pellet producers.

The latest Focus Report: Global Lumber Markets – The Growing Role of European Lumber from Wood Resources International (WRI) and O’Kelly Acumen examines the forces driving the tightness of global lumber markets, including the demand outlook in the US and China and the supply potential from Europe, Russia, and other regions. It also analyses the possible implications of near-term changes in the lumber markets for all players in the value chain. . . 


Rural round-up

17/07/2021

Farmers tell government ‘enough is enough’ – Wyatt Ryder and Shane McAvinue:

Farmers across New Zealand have told the Government “enough is enough” and are giving it a month to address their concerns.

This afternoon, farmers, tradies and agricultural sector workers began protesting in cities and towns across New Zealand against several Government reforms.

Thousands turned out in the South, with huge turnouts in Gore, Dunedin, Alexandra and Wanaka.

Utes, tractors and farm dogs descended on towns across New Zealand, with a plane and four helicopters taking part in the Gore protest. In the aftermath of the protests traffic is moving slowly throughout Dunedin and in other parts of the South. . .

‘Just bloody over it’: Rural New Zealand makes itself heard – Alex Braae:

More than 50 protests are taking place around the country today, with rural people in particular getting out to oppose the government’s environmental policy. Alex Braae went north to Dargaville.

The roads get a bit more bouncy when you turn off State Highway 1 to head out to Kaipara. Perhaps it was just because I was driving what might be the worst van in the country, but all of a sudden the shallow potholes started to look a lot more threatening. 

Part of that is because the primary industries are succeeding. Milk tankers, stock trucks and logging trucks all put pressure on the roads, and constant maintenance is needed to keep them in shape. Locals believe these repairs have fallen by the wayside. 

The destination was Dargaville, to report on a protest – one of more than 50 taking place around the country, organised by a group called Groundswell. They were bringing together as much as they could of the rural world – “farmers, growers and tradies” – as they put it, to protest government regulation and highlight a sense that too many costs are being imposed on rural businesses too quickly.  . . 

Farmers protest across New Zealand against government regulations

Traffic was disrupted around the country today, with convoys of tractors and utes with dogs on board arriving in dozens of centres around New Zealand, as farmers protested against government regulations.

Groundswell NZ organised the ‘Howl of a Protest’ in more than 40 towns and cities over recent environmental regulations, the ‘ute tax’ and a seasonal worker shortage.

Co-founder Laurie Paterson said the “ute tax” was the issue people pointed the finger at, but farmers were also unhappy with the bureaucratic approach to the national policy statement for fresh water management.

From July this year, people buying new electric vehicles (EVs) could get as much as $8625 back from the government. The scheme will be funded through levies on high-emissions vehicles from 1 January 2022. . .

Clear message for govt. – MP – Sudesh Kissun:

 MP for Southland Joseph Mooney, National, says farmers sent a clear message to the government by taking to the streets in huge numbers at Groundswell NZ protests across New Zealand today.

Mooney was in Gore with National’s agriculture spokesperson David Bennett where a big number of farmers took their tractors and utes to town to show their objection to the government’s unworkable regulatory approach in the farming sector.

“It is a sad indictment on the government that farmers felt they had to take their tractors and utes to town to be heard,” says Mooney.

“But with the government unwilling to listen to farmers’ concerns they’ve been left with few other options.

Farmers bring cities and towns to a standstill with mass protest over Government regulations – Nadine Porter:

In Auckland tractors drove down Queen St. In Christchurch they circled the cathedral.

In cities and towns across the country, farmers brought traffic to a near standstill as they turned up in their thousands to demand the Government’s ear.

At the largest protest in Christchurch, curious onlookers smiled and cheered as 2000 farmers in utes and tractors filed through Cathedral Square.

Chants of “enough is enough” rang out and the sound of dogs barking reverberated through the square as protesters voiced their concerns.

Groundswell NZ protest co-ordinator Aaron Stark said he had earlier received death threats, but the protest was peaceful. . .

Howl of a Protest: Thousands of tractors, utes descend on cities as farmers rally against Government regulations:

Thousands of farmers and a fair number of their dogs descended on towns and cities across New Zealand yesterday to protest at increasing interference by the Government in their way of life.

From Kaitaia to Invercargill, convoys of tractors, farm vehicles, trucks and utes took part in the Howl of Protest event, organised by Groundswell New Zealand, against what they say are unworkable regulations and unjustified costs.

The protest was organised against policies like the Clean Car Discount, which will subsidise clean vehicles by charging fees on high-emissions vehicles.

Protesters were also anxious about the eventual pricing of agricultural emissions, which will happen by 2025 – a decade after agriculture was first slated to enter the Emissions Trading Scheme. . . .


Rural round-up

15/07/2021

Howl of a protest on the way – Sally Rae:

“Farming could be a joy but really it’s a bloody nightmare.”

Jim Macdonald has been farming Mt Gowrie Station, at Clarks Junction, since 1970 and he has worked through difficult times.

What farmers were battling now had been “created by a government that does not understand and does not even want to understand,” he said.

On Friday, Mr Macdonald will take part in Howl of a Protest, a New Zealand-wide Groundswell NZ-organised event to show support for farmers and growers. . .

National MPs Out In Strong Support Of Farmers :

This Friday rural communities up and down New Zealand will stage a protest at the overbearing government interference in their businesses and lives, and National MPs will be right there supporting them, National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett says.

The protests are organised by Groundswell, a community based group formed as a result of the unworkable Freshwater reforms in Southland. It has expanded nationwide and the recent Ute Tax announcement has seen urban communities become involved as well.

“Our rural communities worked hard to get New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic, they are the backbone of our economy,” Mr Bennett says. . .

Concern over calving season amid labour shortage – Neal Wallace:

They may have had one of their highest ever milk payouts but dairy farmers are anxious about the human toll of the looming calving season, as the industry grapples with an estimated shortage of 4000 workers.

Federated Farmers board member Chris Lewis says the industry’s reliance on immigrant workers will remain, at least until the Government changes to vocational training is completed, which could be several years.

He believes the Government’s recently announced plans to curb migrant workers is shortsighted and will hinder the country’s ability to utilise high international product prices and demand to repay debt, which is growing at over $80 million a day. . .

NZ has reached ‘peak milk’ Fonterra CFO warns – Farrah Hancock:

We’ve reached “peak milk” and are entering the era of “flat milk”, Fonterra’s chief financial officer warns.

Marc Rivers said he couldn’t see the volume of milk New Zealand produces increasing again, “so, I guess we could go ahead and call that peak milk”.

Environmental restrictions were impacting how much more land the dairy industry could occupy.

“We don’t see any more land conversions going into dairy – that’s quite a change from before,” he said. . . 

Vets may choose Oz over NZ – Jesica Marshall:

Border restrictions are putting a roadblock in the way of getting more veterinarians to New Zealand and some are even choosing to go to Australia instead, a recruitment consultant says.

Julie South, talent acquisition consultant with VetStaff, told Rural News that while many overseas vets are keen to work in New Zealand, some don’t mind where they end up.

She says prior to the Government’s announcement that 50 vets would be granted border class exceptions, she’d been working with vets who were considering both Australia and New Zealand as potential places to work in. “However, because the Australian government made it super-easy for them to work in Australia, that’s where they opted to go,” she says. . . 

Farmers facing six-figure losses as salmonella-entertidis wrecks poultry industry:

The poultry industry is in a state of shock and companies are facing huge financial hits following the detection of Salmonella Enteritidis.

Poultry Industry Association and the Egg Producers Federation executive director Michael Brooks said it had been detected in three flocks of meat chickens and on three egg farms in the North Island with some linked to a hatchery in the Auckland area.

None of the affected eggs or meat had entered the market for human consumption, but it was a blow to the industry, he said.

“We’ve never had Salmonella Enteritidis before in this country in our poultry industry. This has been a real shock to the industry but we are meeting the concerns and we will be putting place through a mandated government scheme – which we agree with – to ensure testing is of the highest level and consumers are protected.” . . 

New Zealand tractor and equipment sales continue to grow:

The first half of 2021 has got off to a superb start for sales of farm equipment.

Tractor and Machinery Association of New Zealand (TAMA) president Kyle Baxter said there had been substantial sales increases across all tractor horsepower segments and equipment compared with the same time last year.

Mr Baxter said the big increases reflected a continuing catch up in on-farm vehicle investment as farmers looked again to the future.

“It’s fantastic to see the confidence continue across all of the sectors, and in turn this confidence flowing into wider economy. . .


Demand the debate

12/07/2021

We can quietly accept what the governmet is trying to foist upon us or we can demand a debate:

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says New Zealanders are being left out of important decisions by the Labour Government and today she has launched a campaign for Kiwis to ‘Demand the debate’.

“The Labour Government continues to make policy announcements that were never campaigned on and will have a significant impact on New Zealanders.

“From the Car Tax, cancelling promised infrastructure projects, the $785m Auckland cycle bridge, rushed law changes to deliver Māori wards, to the hastily announced oil and gas exploration ban; New Zealanders are starting to feel left out.

Not just starting to feel left out. We are being left out.

“At the same time more than 4000 children are left to grow up in motels, mental health services are in crisis, the Government is looking to criminalise speech they disapprove of and tell you what car you can drive.

“Let’s be clear, Labour was elected on a Covid-19 mandate and nine months later we are still waiting for border workers to be properly vaccinated and MIQ beds sit empty while migrant families wait in desperation to be reunited. We are still last in the developed world for Covid-19 vaccinations. Kiwis deserve better.

“Every week, I’m contacted by thousands of Kiwis who are worried they just don’t have a say in the future of their country anymore. They’re being kept in the dark and their questions go unanswered by Ardern’s Government. So today, we launch the first in a series of billboards on important issues that Kiwis deserve to have their say on.


“The first campaign relates to the Government’s 2019 He Puapua report. Kiwis were never told about it at the time and it was never campaigned on by Labour. It has recently been considered by Cabinet and is being consulted on with a select few New Zealanders.

“The He Puapua report contains recommendations for fundamental changes to our legal, constitutional, and democratic governance arrangements. Changes like separate health and justice systems, separate RMA rules, and separate electoral arrangements. These proposals must be taken to an election so all Kiwis can have their say.

“While they claim publicly it’s not their policy, the Labour Government has already started to implement large parts of He Puapua like Māori Wards and a Māori Health Authority, without the wide-ranging public debate that these changes deserve.

“The Government’s parliamentary majority is not a mandate for Labour to promote their ideological wish list. New Zealanders deserve a say on their country’s future and together we must demand the debate.”

Some background on He Puapua:

In 2019, the Labour-NZ First Coalition Government set up a Working Group to devise a plan to give effect to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The vision laid out by the Working Group, in the document they called He Puapua, makes wide ranging and fundamental changes to our legal, constitutional, and democratic governance arrangements across New Zealand.

The Working Group behind He Puapua was given two months to draft their plan, and they themselves acknowledged in their plan that they have “been constrained by time, which has hindered our capacity to review and take into account relevant initiatives, policies and laws including recommendations of advisory and other working groups on related kaupapa.”

In line with their terms of reference, the mandate of the working group also ignored New Zealand’s previous position of support for the declaration, our past and present implementation of the Declaration, or whether a Declaration plan or engagement is required. (Pg 1 and 2).

To refresh everyone’s memory of the context in 2010 and the caveats that were put in place, the Declaration was signed in 2010 with the understanding that it:

    • reaffirms the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealand’s legal system, noting that those existing frameworks define the bounds of New Zealand’s engagement with the declaration.
    • does not confer the right of veto over Government decisions.

Labour Ministers, and the Working Group, willfully ignored this information, instead choosing to dismiss the context in which the declaration was signed and push their own new agenda.

The Working Group report (He Puapua) was delivered to then Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta in late 2019. Against the advice of the Working Group, He Puapua was never released or acknowledged publicly by the Government at the time, nor was it sent to Cabinet for discussion.

Coalition Ministers in Cabinet were also not aware of it, and it wasn’t raised during the 2020 Election Campaign.

We’ll never know if its release would have made a difference in an election that was both dominated and derailed by Covid-19. But tht it wasn’t suggests those in the know thought it would and would hurt them.

You can find a copy of He Puapua here.

Even though He Puapua has finally been acknowledged as not being official Government policy, nearly two years after it was received by Nanaia Mahuta, Jacinda Ardern’s Government has spent that time implementing numerous recommendations from the report behind your back:

  • Māori Wards in Local Government – Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta progressed legislation under urgency in Parliament, and against official advice, to establish Māori Wards. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 54.

The way this was done suggests a government that thinks democracy is only for some of the people.

  • Separate Māori Health Authority – Health Minister Andrew Little has begun work on restructuring the Health Sector to create a two-tier system based on race. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 90.

Does anyone seriously think that the millions of dollars that will be wasted on the setting up and administration of a separate authority improve health outcomes for anyone?

  • Education Curriculum – Education Minister Chris Hipkins is currently rewriting the compulsory history curriculum to reflect Māori History, colonization and the effects of power. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 38.

History is supposed to help us understand and learn from the past, not indoctrinate us with dogma of the present.

  • Water – The Labour Government established Te Mana o Te Wai, resource management reform that provides a role for Māori in decision-making, and work on Māori rights and interests in freshwater. A recommendation of He Puapua– Pg 66.
  • Land – Department of Conservation (DOC) was consulting on proposals to transfer Public Conservation Land, reform conservation governance to reflect Treaty Partnership at all levels, and provide for the delegation, transfer and devolution of functions and powers within the conservation system to tangata whenua. A recommendation of He Puapua – Pg 65.
  • Infrastructure – Nanaia Mahuta is working to establish four new super entities to manage drinking water and waste water. She is proposing that each entity is run on a co-governance model where half of entity board members will be elected and the other half represent mana whenua. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has pointed out this will mean the organisation will lack rate payer accountability and risks becoming self-serving.

The proposal is that water infrastructure owned by councils, paid for through rates and uses charges will be taken over by central authorities and half given to Iwi.

These are just a few examples of policy being implemented by Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government. It would seem that He Puapua is Government policy in all but name.

In the spirit of being open and transparent, National has made its position clear on Labour’s plans. We believe many of their ideas are a step too far.

It is right that we acknowledge and address the wrongs of the past, which is why National continues to support targeted programmes based on need. We can also be proud of supporting initiatives like Kōhanga Reo; Kura Kaupapa Māori; Whare Wānanga and Whānau Ora, just to name a few. These initiatives demonstrate the commitment from National and National-led governments to upholding the Crown’s unique and enduring relationship with Māori.

Maori were wronged in the past and consequences of that are still being felt today but that is neither a reason nor an excuse to implement an undemocratic and separatist agenda.

We are better off addressing the flaws within the current systems that aren’t working for Māori. Ethnicity should not divide us. We are better together.

Putting resources – people and money – into addressing real problems of poverty, poor education and health, crime and other areas where Maori are over represented would do far more for all of us than most, perhaps all, the He Puapua recommendations the government is foisting on us.


Central control freakery

02/07/2021

First they came for the polytechs, took away their independence and imposed central control.

Then they came for the health system and are in the process of imposing not one but two authorities with central control – one for Maori and one for the rest of us.

Now they’re coming for water, taking it from councils and imposing control from four new and much larger authorities.

One supposed benefit of the three waters plan is saving money, which is laughable:

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the removal of local democratic control over water assets and says that regional cross subsidisation is a recipe for gold plating and higher costs.

Reacting to the details of the reforms announced this morning, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

“The claim this will save ratepayer money is laughable. It will see Auckland water users funding Rolls-Royce water treatment plants in the far north, and force gold plated solutions onto tiny communities. We don’t often say Phil Goff is right, but on this, he is bang on with his warnings.”

“Even worse, these proposals remove the ability of ratepayers to hold the water bodies to account. They’re going to be able to impose huge costs, without being accountable, even indirectly, to the communities who will pick up the bills.”

“The proposed matrix of committee and iwi governance is a bugger’s muddle.”

“The claim that councils will still own the assets is worthless and true in name only. They won’t be able to do a thing to sack or govern the water assets local communities have paid for.”

The Minister said ratepayers would save money. If councils are no longer responsible for three waters they might. But if water charges aren’t levied on ratepayers they’ll be levied on water users or taxpayers.

The bill might come from a different entity but we’ll all still be paying, and almost certainly paying more than we do now.

That is just one reason the proposed water reforms are unconvincing:

While there’s a clear case for change in our Three Waters sector the Government’s plan isn’t compelling, and the model of four regional entities comes with several problems, National’s Water spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“The problems with Three Waters are complex, National recognises that, and we understand the need for change. But the proposed solution will end up with more problems than solutions.

“The benefits of scale are not convincing. Water services are not like the power grid – they are individual assets that are distanced and difficult to network. Yet the whole premise of four water entities assumes significant scale benefits.

“The result will be large service organisations that won’t work together or create any savings. The last thing New Zealanders need is more bloated bureaucracies.

“We have yet to see a thorough implementation plan. How will the water assets of communities like Kaikōura and Bluff, some 800km apart, be practically networked and merged into one entity?

“Ratepayers face losing local control of the assets they’ve paid for over generations, while being asked to foot the bill for poorer-performing neighbours – all while getting no guarantee that the service will materially improve,” Mr Bridges says.

Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon says meanwhile the Government’s relationship with councils is unravelling by the day.

“Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s officials have been busy eroding any goodwill from councils, running negative ads claiming councils are doing a bad job managing Three Waters and refusing their requests for information. Mayors and councils say they are feeling dumped on and undermined.

“Council confidence is falling. Whangārei District Council has been the first to pull out before the programme has even got off the ground. The mayors of Auckland, Christchurch and Napier are making the same sounds.

“The reforms were designed to be voluntary for councils but if more continue to opt-out, there is a very real risk the Minister will make participation compulsory and force councils to surrender their water assets.

“National supports a water regulator with greater power to set and enforce standards.

“We believe we should be enhancing Three Waters capability and incentivising change where it is led locally and able to happen organically – not mandated by the Beehive.

“These reforms are showing the same ‘we know best’ attitude and amalgamation agenda that we’ve seen from the Labour Government in vocational education and DHBs. Change must be led by councils and communities,” Mr Luxon says.

The water reforms, like those imposed on polytechs, punish the good performers.

There is a better way than central control freakery:  leave the good performers to carry on as they are and  help the under-performers follow the examples of those councils that are doing so much better.

While doing that, require auditing of local authorities to not only look at finances but infrastructure too. That way repairs, maintenance, upgrades and replacements won’t be able to be overlooked in favour of other less essential, but possibly more politically attractive, projects.


Govt doesn’t learn from mistakes

30/06/2021

Oh dear, government policy is pushing up prices again:

Labour’s Car Tax is not only forcing hardworking Kiwis to pay more because they can’t switch to an electric vehicle, but it’s pushing up the prices of electric vehicles too, National’s Transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“EV importers have seen the price of a used electric vehicle increase by $3000 only three days after Labour announced its Car Tax, almost matching the subsidy you could get from buying a used low-emission vehicle.

“It’s basic economics. If you’re giving someone more money to pay for a product it’s only going to drive up the cost. Most of the Government’s subsidy will end up going directly into the pockets of Japanese used-EV exporters.

“Transport Minister Michael Wood’s officials were told exactly this by the industry, but the Government ignored that advice.

“So now not only will ute drivers be expected to pay for EVs when they don’t have any other options, but most of that tax will be shipped offshore.

“National will repeal Labour’s Car Tax.”

The government gave students more money and rents went up.

The government has tried various initiatives to make it easier for people to buy first homes & prices always go up.

It is indeed basic economics – buyers and sellers respond to price signals. Giving buyers more money is a signal to sellers that they can charge more.

Why oh why, doesn’t the government learn from it’s past mistakes?


Approved opinions only

28/06/2021

The Free Speech Union has had its first win:

. . .Rachel Poulain from Free Speech Union says “we’re delighted by this result – it’s a win for free speech in New Zealand, at least when it comes to Councils trying to deplatform views or groups they don’t like.” . . 

The win is even more important given the proposed law change which would limit free speech and is about controlling our lives:

I want to be very clear with New Zealanders, the National Party will reverse any attempts Jacinda Ardern’s Government makes to criminalise speech beyond the threshold of ‘inciting violence,’ Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“This is an opportunistic grab at one of our most fundamental rights and New Zealanders can be assured that we will fight this on their behalf.

“To frame these proposed laws as a response to the atrocity in Christchurch is disingenuous at best. There is no evidence to support the idea that ‘hate speech’ laws would have prevented the massacre.

“The National Party condemns vile speech that is intended to insult, but there is a big leap from condemning it to criminalising it.

“This is about control. It is about ensuring that only approved opinions are allowed and making questioning those opinions criminal. The matter of who decides what opinions are acceptable is unclear.

Who would dictate which opinions are approved and which are not?

“The Prime Minister has delegated the task of imposing these laws on New Zealanders to a minister who doesn’t understand how the laws will work himself. He cannot tell us what ‘hatred’ looks like nor what the threshold for punishment is.

“I am calling on Jacinda Ardern to front these proposed ‘hate speech’ laws herself. If she is going to erode our democracy and control our speech she needs to own it.

“New Zealanders are entitled to hear from their Prime Minister as to why it is she thinks she is entitled to control even our most core rights.

“I will not be allowing her to palm the issue off to others. It is too important; preserving our democracy is too important. I will be going directly to the Prime Minister to get answers for New Zealanders. I certainly hope she has better answers than Minister Faafoi.”

National’s Justice Spokesman Simon Bridges says freedom of speech is a fundamental right:

. . . “The Prime Minister has already begun mischaracterising the proposed law changes by framing them as simply adding ‘religion’ as a protected group in light of the Royal Commission. I encourage all New Zealanders to read the 6 proposals for themselves because these laws reach much further than that.

“The National Party encourages open debate and discussion as this leads to people being better informed and able to form their own opinions. Democracy relies on the ability of people to speak freely and in turn others are, of course, free to disagree.

“Protecting free speech does not mean that there isn’t speech that I find abhorrent. We are all offended by a variety of things. However, it would be complete overreach to criminalise people, throw them in jail for up to three years, because they caused offence.

“This Government, unable to deliver on much else, appears to want to regulate New Zealanders in every facet of our lives. Not content with just telling us what car we are allowed to drive, they want to restrict and regulate the words that come out of our mouths.

“This is Orwellian and the National Party will oppose such a complete encroachment on our rights.”

Words can hurt. Words can harm – but why would hurting someone with words carry a harsher penalty than inflicting physical harm?


Rural round-up

24/06/2021

Carbon farmers bought swathes of NZ promising to create native forests — but researchers doubt it will work – Eloise Gibson:

A carbon farming business has bought swathes of the country and planted it in pine trees, promising it would one day regenerate into native forest – but researchers who’ve studied the concept doubt it will work.

New Zealand Carbon Farming (NZCF) has quickly grown to be one of the country’s biggest landowners, with more than 89,000 hectares either owned or leased. NZCF says it is the biggest provider of carbon credits in Australasia, and the biggest participant in New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme.

The business model is to find farmland with remnants of native forest nearby to act as a seed stock, then plant pine, which grows quickly and supplies a stream of income from carbon credits. The company says it selects sites with enough rain and decent soil, and that it will thin the pine and control pests, such as deer and possums, to enable indigenous forest to grow underneath (and eventually take over).

But two forestry scientists who helped pioneer the pine-to-native forest concept in New Zealand question whether native regeneration will happen on the scale the business is attempting. . .

DoC’s Mackenzie project dubbed a disaster – David Williams:

A $2.6 million Mackenzie Basin project abandoned its business case, lacked oversight, and achieved little. David Williams reports

A drive for greater protection in the fragile South Island high country turned into a “complete disaster”, according to a review ordered by Department of Conservation senior managers.

The external review report, released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act, says the $2.6 million Mackenzie Basin project announced in the 2018 Budget had “no formal governance”, the partnerships section of DoC running it did not have “formal project management skills”, and external partners and stakeholders were “disillusioned and have heavily criticised the project”.

Some external parties, such as private landowners, hadn’t been contacted for nearly two years. Relationships with mana whenua were described as strained “at best” . .

Minister not plugged into community signal struggles:

It is unacceptable that a town just 10 minutes from Greymouth has such poor digital connectivity that they are not able to even receive Civil Defence warnings, National’s Digital Economy and Communications spokesperson Melissa Lee says.

Ms Lee has been advocating for rural communities which are being left behind by a lack of digital and communications infrastructure.

Dunollie is a small town on the West Coast and in March, Melissa Lee, along with National List MP based in West Coast-Tasman Maureen Pugh, visited its frustrated residents. Despite having a cell tower on the beach to enable tourists to stay connected, a hill between the beach and the township prevents the locals from accessing the signal. . . 

New Zealand pig farmers demand imported pork measure up to NZ’s animal welfare standard – Lauren Hale:

New Zealand pig farmers are supporting a petition calling for imported pork to be required to meet the same animal welfare standards as New Zealand pork.

Approximately 60 per cent of pork consumed in New Zealand is imported with most of it being produced in countries that farm pigs using practices that are illegal in this country.

“New Zealand’s pork sector operates to high welfare standards compared to many other countries who have less rigorous health, welfare and environmental regimes,” says David Baines, chief executive of NZPork, which represents New Zealand pig farmers.

“Our commercial pig herd also has a high health status and is not affected by the diseases that are having a very serious impact on pork industries in many other countries.

Homegrown Butcher named Supreme Champion at 2021 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards

Dion Kilminster produces top-quality beef and lamb — but the road to success constantly challenges him.

It was by chance that farmer-butcher Dion Kilmister met marketer Ali Scott in a Wellington pub on St Patrick’s Day nine years ago. But together, they’ve overcome the odds in more ways than one.

This year, their mixed box of gourmet beef and lamb took the Supreme Champion gong at the 2021 Outstanding NZ Food Producers Awards. “Pure beefiness,” commented one of the judges of the pack, which includes many different cuts of meat as well as gourmet sausages.

In 2018’s honours (see NZ Life & Leisure, May/June 2018), Dion and Ali’s Homegrown Farm Fresh Meats won the Ara Wines Paddock Champion award for its lamb. . . 

Invest Like a Farmer: the surprising similarities between how farmers and venture capitalists think – Sarah Nolet:

As a venture capitalist working in agriculture, I’m constantly surprised by the similarities between how farmers and investors think.

I came to agriculture in a roundabout way. I grew up in Silicon Valley and moved to Boston to study computer science and later work in the defense industry. It was during an accidental gap year in South America, where I was pulling weeds on an organic tomato farm in Argentina, that I first saw the potential to apply my systems background to agriculture.

I realized that much of the technology that was being developed was missing the mark because the people making it — while they were accomplished technologists — didn’t understand the culture, science, or business of farming. That’s when I began to develop my own investment thesis for agtech.

Agriculture has historically been a very different world to the heavily urban-focused startup and technology ecosystem. But though the lines between these two worlds are blurring, there’s still a huge gap between the two; not just in technology application, but also in language, culture and trust. . . .


Rural round-up

19/06/2021

How morale among our food producers is flagging in the face of Covid fatigue and Ardern’s regulatory agenda – Point of ORder:

KPMG’s global head of agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot​,  reports morale in  NZ’s farming  industries has slumped over the past year, with industry leaders struggling under the pressure.

“We could sense anger during our conversations, particularly in relation to the labour shortages the sector faces”.

Proudfoot is the  author of  the  KPMG “Agribusiness Agenda” , delivered at a   breakfast session at the opening  day  of  the  Fieldays,   billed  as the  largest agricultural event  in  the  southern  hemisphere.

He  believes  NZ’s role in a global “food renaissance” could be hampered by Covid-19 fatigue and sweeping regulatory changes. . . 

Farmer who’s experienced his own struggles urges others to ‘get talking’ about mental health -:

A farmer of 28 years is encouraging others to talk about their mental health after experiencing his own struggles. 

Marc Gascoigne told Breakfast he had struggled with depression and anxiety on and off for 22 years.

However, he did not seek help until he had a “massive panic attack” six years ago, which he described as a breaking point.

Although he received support through Farmstrong, he did not speak up publicly about his struggles until his nephew, who was also a farmer, took his own life. . .

Auckland cycle bridge at cost of regional roads:

The Government is forging ahead with an ideological vanity project, in the form of a cycle bridge over Waitematā harbour, at the expense of the day-to-day maintenance of local roads and state highways across the country, National’s Transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

New Zealand’s councils are $420 million short of the funding they expected to get from NZTA to maintain roads in our towns and cities around the country. Meanwhile NZTA itself is short $340 million it needs to maintain state highways.

“All up, the Government has short-changed the country $760 million worth of funding that should have gone towards maintaining our roads.

“This isn’t about building new roads, this is just making sure we can drive safely on the ones we’ve got. . . . 

Wanaka A&P Show contributes almost $28.6 million to local economy :

The 2021 Wanaka A&P Show brought $28.6 million worth of direct economic benefits to the area, an independent study has found.

The report, prepared by Research First, looked at the total expenditure by visitors, trade exhibitors, volunteers, spectators and competitors over the two-day event in March.

The amount of total direct spending is up $17.7 million on the previous independent economic impact report, undertaken in 2015 (which found that the Show contributed $10.9m worth of direct economic benefits). No economic multipliers have been applied. . . 

On-farm ‘Intelligent Eye’ provides farmers with real-time health of dairy herd:

A pilot of a new automated on-farm monitoring system designed to provide farmers with an “intelligent eye” over the health of their herd, allowing for early detection of conditions such as lameness, will be launched today at Fieldays 2021.

Created by the makers of the world’s first sheep facial recognition system, Dunedin-based Iris Data Science, the technology is currently being piloted on five dairy farms in the lower South Island with success – and the company hopes to extend this to around 50 farms.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is contributing $40,000 to the project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

“Our pilot farms are already seeing promising results, with farmers saying they are receiving valuable, accurate, and consistent information on the condition of their herds,” says Iris Data Science’s co-founder and managing director Greg Peyroux. . . 

ASB commits $100 Million in low-cost green loans to help farmers tackle environmental impact:

Kiwi farmers wanting to boost their climate resilience and make a positive difference to the environment are set to benefit from ASB’s new Rural Sustainability Loan, which offers a market-leading 2.25% p.a. variable rate for sustainable farming improvements.

ASB rural customers can now tap into discounted lending to take their farm sustainability to the next level, with funding available for conservation and biodiversity restoration, and projects to drive the switch to renewable energy, prevent pollution and waste, cut emissions, and promote healthy soil, ecosystems, waterways and animal welfare.

The new offering follows ASB’s recently announced Back My Build loan, which encourages Kiwis to boost housing supply with a market-leading rate for new builds. Both initiatives make use of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s Funding for Lending scheme, as ASB honours its commitment to use the low-cost funds for productive lending to benefit all Kiwis. . . 


Taxing poor to help rich

14/06/2021

The government has broken another promise with its policy on electric vehicles which will hurt the poor and do nothing to reduce emissions:

The proposed penalty on ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles is a painful, regressive tax, and does zip for saving overall emissions due to transport already being in the Emissions Trading Scheme points out the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

“This is the sort of policy you implement when you want appearances to defeat reality,” says Jordan Williams a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union. “This policy doesn’t even lead to lower overall emissions. The Emperor has no clothes.”

Like so much else this government does – the promise sounds good but the results won’t be.

“Ministers either don’t understand the ETS or are lying about environmental benefits of this scheme.”

Transport Minister Michael Woods claims that up to 9.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will be ‘prevented’ by 2050. But land transport is already in the ETS. That means that every emission ‘saved’ goes elsewhere under our cap-and-trade model.  It’s called the ‘waterbed effect’ and is precisely why the UN recommends against this sort of political direct intervention.

The waterbed effect is like whack-a mole – push one down here and another pops up there.

“This lack of understanding of the ETS — or deliberate greenwashing — is shocking. Ministers should be hounded by journalists for even trying to pull this line off.”

“Not only does this measure do nothing to reduce overall greenhouse gas, but it also comes at a huge cost to Labour’s traditional working-class supporters who won’t be able to afford to replace gas guzzlers.” . . 

Which is worse, not understanding the ETS or deliberate greenwashing?

The former would be incompetence the latter is lying.

Either way, the policy breaks the no-more-taxes policy, helps the rich at the expense of the poor and will not reduce emissions.

Given how much coal we’re burning to generate power could increasing EV use also increase emissions?

This tweet shows how out of touch the government is about life in the real world where farmers and trades people need bigger vehicles for their work:

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a petition to stop the tax:

The Taxpayers’ Union is set to launch a new campaign to stop Labour’s unfair, uneconomic, and unenvironmental tax scheme on family cars and utes to fund electric vehicles and the wealthy elite for zero environmental benefit.

The campaign’s petition, at CarTax.co.nz is targeting all vehicle owners who can’t afford a Tesla, or who need a car that lasts more than a few hundred kms or larger than a Nissan Leaf.

“What makes this tax scheme so unfair is that it disproportionately impacts larger families and low-income earners for whom an electric car is a pipe dream,” says Jordan Williams, a Spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union.

“And the electric vehicle subsidies don’t even help climate change. Because transport is already under the ‘cap and trade’ Emissions Trading Scheme, any emissions saved simply appear elsewhere. It has a huge cost, but zip economic benefit.”

“The electric car rebate system is yet another example of this Government acting contrary to the advice of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their advice is for the politicians not to intervene in parts of the economy covered by an ETS because of the ‘waterbed effect’. This environmental virtue-signalling will add a few grand to the price of a large family car. This campaign is to call out the cost and the lack of environmental benefit.”

“The Government will be taxing utes and people-movers in Otara so National Party voters in St Heliers can get eight grand off the base model Tesla. And for not a single tonne saved in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions. Socially, environmentally, and financially, it is wrong.”

New Zealanders are encouraged to sign the petition to stop the Car Tax at www.CarTax.co.nz


Rural round-up

03/05/2021

Health restructure leaving rural GPs and nurses in the dark:

Rural communities across the country will lose out under Labour’s radical health restructure, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“National believes our health system should fundamentally be based around need, those who have the greatest need receive the greatest resources.

“New Zealand’s rural communities are an essential part of New Zealand and face unique health challenges, but Labour has failed to put forward how its health restructure will benefit our small rural communities and their GPs.

“In any major merger or centralisation it’s the small communities who lose their voice, but they’re the ones who best know what works for them when it comes to keeping their people healthy. . . 

Battling pines on Molesworth Station – Country Life:

There’s a war being fought on the slopes and gullies of Marlborough back country.

Among the foot soldiers are students, builders and Coast to Coast athletes – their enemy, unwanted pine trees.

Their uniform is high viz and their weapons – “blue glue” pesticide and chain saws.

In the tree control gang is Anzac Gallate, a university student with an appropriate name for the task at hand. . . 

Efficient water use on a drought-prone farm:

In a region increasingly prone to drought, being able to reduce the amount of water being used in your dairy shed by 50% is a massive win.

For Hukerenui Holstein Friesian breeders Kevin and Michelle Alexander that win came down to measuring good data, a commitment to finding a better way to manage water on their farm and using better tools and methods, including a hose nozzle that uses a significantly less water than a normal hose.

The couple have been on their 178 hectare farm about 20km north of Whangarei for the past 20 years. They milk around 350 mainly Holstein Friesian cows, which in a good year return about 1,100kgMS/hectare. . . 

Never underestimate the great importance of farming friendship – Will Evans:

The recent, sudden passing of a very close friend has left me feeling both bereft and pensive and, being truly honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this achingly sad before.

The sense of loss and injustice is all consuming, and it’s hard to really concentrate on anything else. But it has led me to contemplate the true meaning of friendship and how very fortunate we are in the farming community in this regard.

Rachel was, in many ways, the heartbeat of a group of us who were thick as thieves from the start of our time at Harper Adams University more than 20 years ago, and we have remained as close as family ever since. Best men and bridesmaids at each other’s weddings, godparents to each other’s children, and unfailingly there for each other through life’s good times and bad.

Though we all scattered to the four corners of the world after university, and have become older and marginally more responsible over the years, on the occasions when we do reunite, it feels, temporarily at least, as if we’re young and daft and invincible again. What an incredibly joyous thing that is. . . 

Garry Diack appointed new Ravensdown CEO:

Ravensdown has announced Garry Diack as its new CEO, replacing Greg Campbell who has held the position at the farmer-owned co-operative for the past eight years.

Diack joins Ravensdown from his position as CEO and Executive Director of Tait Communications on 19 July 2021. He has over 30 years’ experience of improving corporate performance, effective governance and driving growth.

Ravensdown Chair John Henderson said Garry’s experience across many industries, his rural connections and his grounded-yet-innovative approach, made him a compelling proposition for the Board. “The Board is excited that its search for someone that offers strategic continuity and deliberate evolution has been successful.

“There’s no doubt that our purpose of enabling smarter farming for a better New Zealand has never been more important and Garry is passionate about that direction.” . . 

Reduce nitrogen, phosphate use without compromising pasture & milk production with NZ’s leading expert in soil fertility:

Developed from proven science, Hamilton-based Soil Scientist Dr Gordon Rajendram (PhD), shows how one farm improved plant nutrient uptake, pasture production, milk production, root growth, earthworm and increased water holding capacity through soil, pasture and clover only testing followed up by sound agronomic advice.

“This study is highly relevant, especially to Canterbury dairy farmers as the NZ Government requirement that no more than 190 kg of nitrogen per hectare is applied in any one year. It is also likely in the future that there will be restrictions in phosphate (P) use, as P is more of a threat to the environment if it gets into waterways than N” adds Gordon.

‘Farmers are very worried about the 190 N rule particularly in Canterbury, they do not have to be as you can grow enough pasture with high-quality feed if you get the right advice based on sound scientific principles’ adds Gordon. . . 


Rural round-up

27/04/2021

Farming director on SFF knew the time to go – Sally Rae:

When Fiona Hancox stood for the board of Silver Fern Farms, it was all about timing.

Six years later, the West Otago farmer’s decision to not seek re-election in this year’s farmer director elections for Silver Fern Farms Co-operative was also about timing.

While acknowledging it was sad to leave what was a “fantastic company and board” and also such an important part of her family’s own farming business — it was the right time, she said.

“I think I’ll be just be able to be pleased with what I’ve done,” she said. . .

Govt hasn’t got its ducks in a row on firearms licensing:

The Government’s focus on hitting legal firearms owners with more costs and regulations has meant those keen to participate in the Roar and duck shooting season may miss out.

Opening weekend of duck shooting season is just around the corner and the Roar is drawing to a close but many hunters are still waiting for their paperwork to be processed in order for them to hunt legally.

National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown says police have been unable to get on top of the situation.

“Police are telling people it’s taking four months for a license renewal and six months for a new license. But in reality, for some it’s taking much longer than that. . . 

Ag export sector backs scrapping UK Tariffs – Nigel Stirling:

New Zealand’s largest agricultural export industries have given conditional backing to calls for Britain to scrap tariffs on food imports.

Britain’s Trade Minister Liz Truss set up the Trade and Agriculture Commission last year, to plot a path forward for the country’s trading relationships with the rest of the world following its departure from the European Union’s customs union on January 1.

Former NZ trade minister Lockwood Smith, who joined the commission as an expert on international trade and helped write its final report published in February, has said its recommendation to Truss to open the border to food imports from countries with equivalent animal welfare and environmental standards as the UK is potentially a breakthrough moment for NZ dairy and beef exports shut out of the British market by high EU tariffs since the 1970s. . .

Using Mandarin to meat a need – Shawn McAvinue:

Southern students considering careers in the red meat processing and exporting sector were among the Meat Industry Association scholarship recipients for 2021. In a series, reporter Shawn McAvinue asks them about their study and plans.

A Nelson Mandela quote resonates with Meat Industry Association scholarship recipient Joelle Gatenby: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Her dream was to use her agribusiness and Mandarin language skills to “bridge the friendship” between New Zealand and China and sell more red meat to the populous nation.

She learned to speak, read and write Mandarin at high school and represented Columba College at national Chinese speech and essay competitions. . . 

Defining year for winter grazing practices:

While the Government has delayed the implementation of winter grazing regulations by 12 months, it has made it clear it will be keeping a very close eye on wintering practices this year.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s North Island General Manager Corina Jordan says farmers should follow the good practice management advice developed by B+LNZ, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and other industry partners and ensure they have a plan in place that identifies any winter grazing risks and outlines the strategies to mitigate them.

Based on recommendations from the farmer-led Southland Winter Grazing Advisory Group, B+LNZ is planning to hold Forage Cropping Workshops this winter, which are a component of the organisation’s recently released Farm Plan.     . .

* Big agriculture is best – Ted Nordhaus and Dan Blaustein-Rejto:

In some ways, it is not surprising that many of the best fed, most food-secure people in the history of the human species are convinced that the food system is broken. Most have never set foot on a farm or, at least, not on the sort of farm that provides the vast majority of food that people in wealthy nations like the United States consume.

In the popular bourgeois imagination, the idealized farm looks something like the ones that sell produce at local farmers markets. But while small farms like these account for close to half of all U.S. farms, they produce less than 10 percent of total output. The largest farms, by contrast, account for about 50 percent of output, relying on simplified production systems and economies of scale to feed a nation of 330 million people, vanishingly few of whom live anywhere near a farm or want to work in agriculture. It is this central role of large, corporate, and industrial-style farms that critics point to as evidence that the food system needs to be transformed.

But U.S. dependence on large farms is not a conspiracy by big corporations. Without question, the U.S. food system has many problems. But persistent misperceptions about it, most especially among affluent consumers, are a function of its spectacular success, not its failure. Any effort to address social and environmental problems associated with food production in the United States will need to first accommodate itself to the reality that, in a modern and affluent economy, the food system could not be anything other than large-scale, intensive, technological, and industrialized. . .

* Hat tip: Offsetting Behaviour


If proportionality is so important . . .

23/04/2021

The waka jumping law was one of the dead rats that New Zealand First forced Labour and the Green Party to swallow in the previous government.

It’s a rat for which Labour has now developed a taste:

Labour will vote against a proposed repeal of the Waka Jumping law, killing off any chances of removing the controversial law.

The Waka Jumping or ‘party hopping’ law allows parliamentary parties to remove their own MPs from Parliament in some circumstances, meaning party leaders and caucuses have the power not just to expel MPs from their own party, but from Parliament itself.

It was passed with much controversy last term after NZ First won agreement for it in the party’s coalition agreement with Labour. The Green Party, who have long opposed such laws, swallowed the “dead rat” and voted for the law – as the party believed it was bound to honour Labour’s obligation to NZ First. . . 

The Green Party’s disquiet with the law remained, and in the final months before last year’s election it backed a National Party members’ bill by Nick Smith which sought to repeal the law.

At that point before the election National and the Greens had enough votes together to pass bills, so the bill passed the first of the three readings it would need to become law.

But at the election Labour won an outright majority, meaning no bill can pass if Labour votes against them.

Labour had voted against repeal at the first reading, but openly mulled a change in position following the election.

However a report from the Justice Select Committee which considered the bill makes clear that Labour’s opposition to repeal remains – with the Labour-majority committee voting to recommend the bill not be passed.

Labour MP and Justice Select Committee chair Ginny Andersen said the committee members heard no compelling new case to repeal the law.

She said the “proportionality” of Parliament – basically the fact that the number of MPs in Parliament roughly corresponds to the number of party votes they received – was important.

“The proportionality of Parliament is important, that’s why we have MMP, maintaining that is important.”

“The Labour members on the committee all agreed that this is an important principle – the idea of proportionality. It helps maintain public confidence.” . . 

If proportionality was really the issue then Labour would be addressing the way a by-election can upset it if it’s won by a candidate from a different party than the one that held the seat before the election.

That’s what happened in Northland when National’s Mike Sabin resigned and Winston Peters won the by-election.

To maintain proportionality, National ought to have got another list MP. Instead another NZ First list MP came into parliament completely upsetting proportionality by leaving National with one MP fewer and the opposition with one more.

Labour didn’t make a murmur then and raising proportionality to oppose repeal of the waka jumping legislation is a feeble excuse not a valid reason.

It does however, beg a question – what makes Labour so unsure about the loyalty of its caucus that it isn’t prepared to bury the dead rat this term when it  swallowed it so reluctantly last term?


When lawmakers abuse the law

21/04/2021

Governments are supposed to make laws not abuse them:

The Auditor-General has confirmed the Labour Government unlawfully used millions of taxpayer dollars to settle the Ihumātao land dispute.

In response to a letter from National’s Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis, written in March, the Auditor-General has confirmed today that the $30 million deal to buy the disputed land from Fletchers was not done by the book.

“The Auditor-General’s report uncovers extremely dodgy behaviour from Labour Government Ministers as they tried to justify this spending,” Ms Willis says.

The Auditor-General’s inquiries have revealed that after Treasury officials refused to let the Government use money from the Land for Housing programme to make the Ihumātao payment, Ministers invented a completely new spending category: ‘Te Puke Tāpapatanga a Hape (Ihumātao)’ within Vote Housing and Urban Development in the Budget.

“They did this on February 9 but tried to keep it secret,” Ms Willis says. “The Auditor-General raised serious concerns about the way this was done, saying ‘the payment of $29.9 million was incurred without the proper authority’.

Tried to keep it secret? What happened to the most open and transparent government?

According to the Auditor-General, the Ministry did not seek the correct approvals for money in the Budget to be used in this way, making the payment unlawful until validated by Parliament as part of an Appropriation (Confirmation and Validation) Act, Ms Willis says.

“This is a disgraceful abuse of the law. Ministers are not a law unto themselves with authority to write cheques whenever they wish. They need to get the approval of Parliament first.

“But when it came to Ihumātao, the Labour Government decided the usual rules need not apply.”

The Auditor-General says the Housing Minister will now be required to explain the matter to the House of Representatives and seek validation of the expenditure from Parliament through legislation.

National’s Finance spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says this is a shocking abuse of privilege and of taxpayer funds by the Labour Government.

“We warned the Government all along that its treatment of the dispute was leading to awkward precedents, and here is the proof.

“Taxpayers aren’t a bank to be called upon to clean up the Government’s poor decisions, particularly when it is meddling in private property rights.

“The Prime Minister should never have involved herself in the Ihumātao dispute and stopped 480 much-needed houses from being built.

“National would protect the land owner’s property rights and ensure full and final treaty settlements are just that – full and final.”

You can read the Auditor General’s reply to Nicola Willis here.

He is quite clear that the payment was unlawful:

. . .In our view, the intent of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and the intent of Ministers, was to establish a new appropriation that would provide authority for the purchase of the land at Ihumātao. However, because the Ministry did not seek the correct approvals, the expenditure was incurred without appropriation and without authority to use Imprest Supply. For these reasons, the payment is unlawful until validated by Parliament. . .

This started when the Prime Minister interfered in an illegal occupation with a total disregard for property rights and the urgent need for more houses.

As a result of her interference the occupation was prolonged, houses weren’t built and the taxpayer ended up with a $30m bill that the government paid unlawfully.

This wasn’t accidental or carelessness. It was deliberate and compounding the wrongdoing was using money set aside to build houses to stop houses being built.

What happens when lawmakers abuse the law in this way?

They will retrospectively approve the payment to validate it.

That will sort the legal issue and the government will ride out any political damage it’s inflicted on itself.

But it won’t build any houses and it won’t do anything to remedy the undermining of the principle that Treaty settlements are full and final.


Still not kind enough

20/04/2021

The government is giving some long overdue relief to migrant families who have been separated for more than a year:

National is pleased a solution has finally been found for some of the migrants split from their families after the Government forced them to endure more than a year of distress and uncertainty, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“News that many migrants, including our critical nurses and health workers, will finally get to hug their children and partners will be an enormous relief to them.

“New Zealand is critically short of nurses and is undertaking the biggest vaccination programme in living memory, so it’s reassuring that migrant nurses caught by a policy anomaly can now stay here and be reunited with their families.

“We can’t afford to lose the highly-skilled migrants who fill gaps in our workforce that we can’t otherwise fill. They are our doctors, our engineers, our tech experts, and our children’s mathematics teachers – we desperately need them in this country.

We need them and they need their families.

“While National welcomes today’s announcement, which is clearly the right thing to do, it is a shame the Government only acted after intense and sustained pressure from the Opposition, the media and split migrant family advocates.

“It should not have taken nurses shedding tears on the 6pm news night after night, having been separated from their babies, for the Government to act after it ignored them for months.

“Today’s move is a good start, but there is more to do. This decision won’t cover many families whose visas were being processed but had not yet been approved.

“Families still left in limbo will be deeply disappointed the Immigration Minister did not give them a roadmap to reunification.

“This overdue announcement, coming after months of pressure, shows the Labour Government does not have a clear plan for our immigration settings.

“National will continue to closely scrutinise the Government’s immigration and border response, and will continue to be the party that values and speaks up for our migrants.” 

The government is acting on its be-kind mantra, albeit belatedly, but it is not yet being kind enough.

Too many families won’t qualify for this and there are a lot of businesses desperate for workers who still can’t get them through the border.

Fruit is rotting on the ground in Hawke’s Bay amid a massive worker shortage and orchardists warn that overworked pickers are suffering more accidents.

The official labour shortage first declared for Hawke’s Bay six weeks ago – with 192 tourists granted approval to work in orchards – expired on Friday.

It was immediately extended, but growers say it’s too little too late.

Phil Paynter from Johnny Appleseed Holdings had to say goodbye to 22 hard-working pickers last week and says that with a little more warning, he could have kept them.

“When the labour shortage expired last Friday, we laid off 22 staff,” he said. “There simply aren’t the tourist numbers by the time you get into April to find those people [again].” . . 

Fruit growers further south are facing the same problem:

Central Otago’s horticulture sector fears fruit may be left to rot if a labour shortage isn’t filled soon.

The region is suffering from a lack of the usual seasonal workers from the Pacific because of Covid-19 border restrictions.

Many locals who filled in for the summer fruit harvest have left for university or jobs elsewhere.

With the borders creaking open with the announcement of the trans-Tasman bubble last week, horticulturists are calling for a Pacific bubble to follow.

Wine grower James Dicey said this year’s vintage would be an expensive one.

“We’ve scrapped through by the skin of our teeth,” he said, of the difficulty of finding workers to pick grapes.

“It’s going to cost us a lot more – not only the minimum wage increase, but the loss of productivity we’ve had has been a double bite. I’ve had to put extra vans on, find accommodation for staff, go to a huge extra level just to make sure we are able to secure the people we need.”

Orchards and vineyards would pay the cost of getting foreign workers into MIQ, if that was an option, but the risk was so low from the Pacific workers should just be let in, Dicey said. 

The five main countries which supplied seasonal workers – known as RSE – had few or no cases of Covid. . . 

It’s not just added stress and loss income for the businesses, less fruit and vegetables picked means less to sell. That will result in less export income for the country and higher prices for households here.

The government needs to reassess its priorities when the cast and crew of The Lion King have been allowed in but the workers needed to pick fruit and vegetables aren’t.

Its current policy is not nearly kind enough.


Rural round-up

11/04/2021

Industries desperate for workers urge government to open borders to Pacific – Tom Kitchen:

Fruit, meat works and food processing industries are calling on the government to open Pacific borders to tackle what they’re calling their worst ever labour crisis.

At a media conference in Napier this morning they demanded more help.

Apples are rotting on the ground at many orchards.

Chestergrove Orchards owner Bruce Mitchell said he could not find enough pickers to pick his royal galas . . 

Government needs to move faster on Pacific bubble :

National supports the call by Hawke’s Bay orchardists and businesses that are reliant on seasonal work to open a travel bubble with the Pacific Islands, Horticulture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“Growers and processors have good reason to be frustrated at the Government for not acting fast enough. This frustration boiled over in today’s extraordinary call for help.

“The Minister of Agriculture recently confirmed he has not prepared any papers for Cabinet this year relating to a Pacific bubble, despite calls from the sector. It’s his responsibility to advocate on behalf of horticulturalists who have seen devastating losses this season. . .

Hollywood director James Cameron’s enviro-farm turns to dairy cow grazing:

James Cameron’s plans to convert his Wairarapa properties into organic veggie farms appear to have fallen short – with hundreds of cows now understood to be grazing in his paddocks.

The Avatar film director owns more than 1500 hectares of land in South Wairarapa, and has been outspoken about the need for New Zealand to move away from agriculture to curb carbon emissions.

Locals say he’s not walking the talk – with plans for crop farming giving way to more lucrative dairy grazing.

However, they did note the farm had moved to get away from agriculture, that there was no intensive stock grazing taking place, and that staff did an excellent job with the property. . .

Slowing down and family time key – Maggie McNaughton:

If Pukekohe market gardener and CEO of  The Fresh Grower Allan Fong could dish out one piece of advice to his younger self, it would be to slow down and spend more time with his family.

The 65-year-old has recently stepped back from the job that has consumed his life since he was a youngster.

“My parents were from China and they started their own vegetable growing business in Pukekohe in 1950 and us kids would help out before school and after school every day,” Allan says.

Allan and his younger brother Colin eventually took over the farm and recently Colin’s three sons have taken up the reins. . . 

Ahuwhenua finalist showcases farm :

Pouarua Farms is the largest, single dairy platform in the Hauraki region and it can also lay claim to be one of the best Maori dairy farms in the country.

The farm is one of the finalists in this year’s Ahuwhenua trophy for the top Maori dairy farm.

As part of the competition, each of the three finalists have to hold a field day on their respective properties to give other farmers, and all those with an interest in the dairy sector the opportunity to see first-hand just why these farms have made it to the top.

Pouarua’s 2,200ha platform comprises ten farms: nine dairy units and one drystock unit. A total of 4,600 cows are milked across 1,775ha and produce approximately 1.65M kgMS. . . 

 

David Littleproud urges Australian shearers not to take up exemptions to work in the UK – Billy Jupp:

FEDERAL Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has urged Australian shearers not to travel internationally to aid in global workforce shortages.

New Zealand and Australian shearers were recently given an exemption to travel to the United Kingdom to help combat its shearer shortage.

However, the Nationals deputy leader said travelling abroad was ill-advised due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The last place I’d want to go to is the UK,” Mr Littleproud told The Land. . . 

 


Stop tax increases by stealth

09/04/2021

National is seeking to stop tax increases by stealth:

National is committed to letting Kiwis keep more of what they earn and has proposed new legislation that will end tax hikes by stealth, Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says.

Mr Bridges’ Income Tax (Adjustment of Taxable Income Ranges) Amendment Bill, drawn from the Member’s Ballot today, will require tax thresholds to be adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. This will mean that within a year, after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This will stop New Zealanders moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living, putting an end to inflation being an annual tax increase by stealth.

“New Zealanders will be able to keep more of what they earn, helping them stay on top of rising costs for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“The Tax Working Group advised the Government that bracket creep could lead to as much as $1.7 billion in stealth tax increases in a given year. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

If passed into law, this change will make a real difference, Mr Bridges says.

“It will mean Kiwis can keep more their own money in their own bank accounts,” Mr Bridges says.

“This law change shows how committed National is to helping New Zealanders get ahead.

“There is widespread agreement that bracket creep is a hidden tax increase on hard working New Zealanders, and I urge Finance Minister Grant Robertson to stop taxing Kiwis by stealth and wholeheartedly support this law change through all stages.”

The Taxpayers’ Union applauds the Bill:

. . . Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “From a taxpayer perspective, this is one of the most important private members’ bills we’ll see in our lifetime. For decades successive governments have exploited inflation to sneakily increase the average tax rates levied on New Zealanders. It’s a stealthy, dishonest tax hike that makes a liar of any politician who promises ‘no new taxes’.”

The Taxpayers’ Union has campaigned against bracket creep since 2016. In a submission to the Tax Working Group, the Union highlighted bracket creep as the ‘under-arm bowling of our tax system’, explaining: Inflation sees taxpayers’ nominal incomes, but not real incomes, increase. Because income tax thresholds are fixed, taxpayers face a higher proportion of their income lost to income tax, without any corresponding increase to their real income.

“Take our 30 percent income tax rate. When it was introduced in 2010 for income over $70,000, that was the equivalent of $83,000 in today’s money. That meant only high earners were hit. But today, $70,000 is an unremarkable salary. It’s atrocious that middle-income New Zealanders are forced to give up 30 percent of any pay rise to the taxman.”

“Labour has no good reason to block this bill. They’ve already rushed through unannounced taxes on housing, so they don’t need extra revenue. In fact, under Bridges’s bill, the Minister of Finance could still veto bracket adjustments on a case by case basis. Of course, he’d have to explain himself to New Zealanders, but he shouldn’t be afraid of accountability.”

Having no good reason to block the bill might not be enough to stop Labour doing that.

But if it is serious about its quest for wellbeing and the need for kindness, it will do the right thing and back this bill to stop the stealthy tax increases by adjusting thresholds in line with inflation.


Unfunded chemo drugs could be administered by DHBs

06/04/2021

If you get cancer in New Zealand and have the means you might be able to pay for chemotherapy drugs that aren’t funded here but are funded in other countries.

Paying for the drugs is expensive, what makes it even harder for many to afford, is paying for them to be administered.

National wants that to change:

The National Party wants to see the law changed so that Kiwis can have their unfunded chemotherapy drugs administered in DHBs and cover the cost of this, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“At the moment cancer medicines unfunded by PHARMAC can only be administered in expensive private cancer facilities at a further cost to the patient.

“So not only are patients mortgaging their homes, taking out loans and using up all their savings to buy their desperately needed medicines that PHARMAC won’t fund, they then have to pay tens of thousands of dollars on top of this to have these medicines administered.

“Transport for these people is a further hurdle and I have been contacted by patients who have had to travel many hours past their local DHB in order to access an expensive private facility.

“These are New Zealanders who are already in the incredibly heart breaking situation of having cancer and their chemotherapy drug isn’t funded. Making these New Zealanders then pay the costs of administering their medicines doesn’t seem fair to the National Party.

“National is proposing a law change that would allow DHBs to administer, and cover the cost of administering, day-stay cancer medicines where they are not funded by PHARMAC.

“Many New Zealanders have made huge sacrifices in order to get the treatment they need, it’s time for the State to partner with our most vulnerable and give them the best possible chance to manage their cancer.

“A few hours in an armchair in a day-stay chemotherapy unit pales in comparison to the tens of thousands, often hundreds of thousands, of dollars some people are paying for their unfunded chemotherapy drugs.

“When you see how much of an impact this would have on our vulnerable Kiwis, it’s a no brainer.

“The National Party is calling on the Government to support this law change and help make life a little easier for those Kiwis facing significant medical bills while trying to beat cancer.”

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is difficult.

Knowing that if you lived in another country, Australia, for example, you could get treatment that isn’t funded here, makes it even harder.

Paying for that treatment is very, every expensive; and too expensive for most patients. Even if medical insurance covers the cost of the drugs, it often doesn’t cover the cost of administering them.

Funding DHBs to administer chemo drugs that people fund privately, would relieve some of the financial burden for them, and could make a lifesaving difference.


Is the ‘flu vaccine late?

31/03/2021

Last week I went searching for news on the ‘flu vaccine programme and came across a page with the Ministry of Health policy:

From 2019 the Annual Influenza Immunisation Programme (the Programme) will start from 1 April each year.

This start date differs from previous years when the Programme started as soon as the influenza vaccine became available, generally by early March. The Ministry has considered a range of factors in making this decision including: emerging evidence on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines, influenza surveillance data, the impact of the start date on service delivery and feedback from the sector.

The start date from 1 April will be subject to the vaccine being available for distribution across New Zealand by then. Changes to vaccine strains can result in longer manufacturing lead time and the arrival of vaccines in late rather than early March.

Duration of influenza vaccine protection

New evidence shows that vaccine effectiveness begins to decline after influenza vaccination. Maximum protection from influenza is observed around two weeks after vaccination and starts to decline by about 7 percent every month. . . .

Influenza activity may occur throughout the year with the peak incidence during the winter months. New Zealand’s surveillance data shows that the peak has moved to August in recent years. Influenza surveillance data and the shift in peak influenza activity, in conjunction with declining vaccine effectiveness supports a change in the start date. The programme start date from 1 April ensures better protection against influenza during the peak incidence particularly for our most vulnerable populations.  . .

That all seems reasonable but yesterday I checked the MOH website and found this:

The 2021 Influenza Immunisation Programme will commence on 14 April 2021, with a two-week priority period for people eligible for a free influenza vaccination. These dates are dependent on approval by the regulator. 

We ask vaccinators to focus on immunising those who are eligible for a funded vaccination for the first two weeks of the programme to protect as many of those who are at greatest risk first, well ahead of the influenza season.

The first week of the prioritisation period is only for adults aged 65 and over and there is an additional vaccine this year that is specifically intended for this population.

The second week of the prioritisation period, from 21 April, extends to all those eligible for a funded vaccination.

Vaccination can then be extended to include the general population from 28 April 2021. . . 

April 14 is two weeks later and April 21 three weeks later, than the policy to start the programme on April 1.

That probably won’t matter for the people on the priority list.

But if the general population doesn’t start to get their vaccinations until 28th of April and the vaccine doesn’t reach maximum effectiveness for two weeks, are most people going to be at risk of contracting the disease before they’re protected?

Perhaps I’m being paranoid when there are so few people coming into the country, the risk of ‘flu might be much less than it would have been pre-Covid.

But this is the Ministry that bungled the measles vaccination. It’s also the Ministry that swore black and blue that there was plenty of stock for last year’s ‘flu vaccination rollout while those on the ground who were supposed to be administering them were saying there wasn’t, and they were eventually proved right.

It’s also the Ministry that’s in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, for which we haven’t been told a plan, and for which there is no target:

National is calling on the Government to make a statement of intent about protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19 by setting a target of having at least 70 per cent of the adult population vaccinated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“New Zealand is one of only a few countries in the OECD that doesn’t have a target for how many adults should be vaccinated. The others are Colombia and Mexico.

“Almost all countries are setting a vaccination target – usually 70 per cent of the adult population – and a date for achieving that target. New Zealand isn’t doing this either.

“The best the Government can say is that it wants all New Zealanders to be offered a vaccine by the end of the year. This isn’t good enough.

“We should be setting an ambitious target and going for it. A target will make sure the health system is focused, and means vaccination progress can be meaningfully tracked.

“Targets exist for the measles and flu vaccines. Not having one for Covid-19 suggests the Government doesn’t want to be held to account on this.

“If KiwiBuild taught us anything, it’s that the Labour Government isn’t great at hitting targets. But that shouldn’t matter. Our Covid-19 vaccine rollout is too important not to have one.

Mr Bishop also criticised the slow pace of the Government’s vaccine rollout to date, and the lack of transparency about how many vaccines are being administered in New Zealand.

“Most countries are doing daily, or near-daily, updates on how many people are being vaccinated. New Zealand has to settle for sporadic updates, randomly announced by Chris Hipkins or Ashley Bloomfield.

“New Zealanders should be getting near-daily announcements, published by the Ministry of Health, so everyone can see how our vaccine rollout is going. This isn’t rocket science – it already happens with testing and tracing.

“New Zealand started slow on vaccinations and we’re falling further behind the rest of the world. The latest available public information shows we have administered just 0.56 vaccines per 100 people, while Australia has administered 1.21 vaccines per 100 people.

“We weren’t at the front of the queue for receiving vaccines, like the Government said we were, and our vaccine rollout started slow because of this. It needs to gather pace.”

Call me cynical if you like, but the government is always keen to tell us the good news.

That it has made no mention of this year’s ‘flu vaccination programme, is being quiet about how many people have received the Covid-19 vaccine, has given only vague details about its roll-out to the general population, and appears to have no plan to set targets feeds the suspicion that it doesn’t have any good news about any of this.

 


National helps govt with numbers

30/03/2021

A misdirected email from the Prime Minister’s office sought information on rent rises.

The response was probably not what they wanted:

In the spirit of bipartisanship, National has helped the Prime Minister prepare for her post-Cabinet press conference today by collating the data she requested on rent increases – although she might want to think carefully before drawing public attention to it, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, recent trends in house price growth, rental hikes and wage growth don’t make good reading for her Labour Government.

“Jacinda Ardern has unleashed a raft of changes on rental properties: two extensions to the bright-line test, banning letting fees, and major amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act. All the way through, officials told her that rents would increase but her Government maintained a view that the officials were wrong.

“The Government’s policies have seen weekly rental costs shoot up a massive $120 in just over three years. This is a record increase and a clear sign these policies are failing.

“Rents have increased by 8 per cent per year under Labour, compared to 3 per cent per year under the previous National Government. The median house price has also spiralled out of control on Jacinda Ardern’s watch, jumping 12 per cent per year compared to the 5 per cent per year increase under National.

“Neither of these increases under Labour have been in step with wage growth. The median weekly income increased by 2.7 per cent per year under the previous National Government and has only increased by 2.1 per cent per year under the current Government.

“The sad reality is, renters have been thrown under the bus by this Labour Government.

“As was the case with its changes to rental standards last term, Labour has failed to grasp that forcing more costs onto landlords will ultimately reduce the number of rentals on the market, making renting more unaffordable and exacerbating homelessness.

“This is why Finance Minister Grant Robertson is now on the verge of dictating terms to landlords even further by introducing a cap on how much rent they can charge.

“This policy-on-the-fly approach is eroding the confidence of property investors and, ultimately, discouraging them from building more houses, which is exactly what needs to happen to solve New Zealand’s housing shortage.

“But at least now the Prime Minister will be fully informed when she addresses the media today. I hope she has some decent answers for the many New Zealanders who will be worse off because of her Government’s housing policies.”

One of this government’s priorities was reducing poverty.

Rising house prices and rising rents have done far more harm than any good any other policies might have done.

While we’re on the topic of housing.

How much confidence does this give you that the government has what it needs to tackle the crisis?


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