Rural round-up

July 8, 2020

Let them eat wood – Dame Anne Salmond:

The farmers are right. As the price of carbon rises, the settings in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will make it more profitable to plant pine trees than to grow food (or native forests) in many parts of New Zealand.

On the East Coast, for instance, a landowner will be paid 10 times more by year 5 for planting pine trees instead of native forest, and farmland is going under pine trees in many places. With wool prices at historic lows, and rising carbon prices, this trend will only accelerate.

On highly erodible soils, the folly of planting shallow-rooted pine trees and clear-felling them every 25-30 years is obvious. Witness the tsunami of logs and sediment that have drowned streams, rivers, houses, fields, beaches and harbours in places like Tolaga Bay, Marahau, and many other parts of New Zealand.

With two-thirds of the forestry industry owned overseas, like the logs, the profits are exported, but the costs remain behind. Ravaged landscapes, wildling pines, roading networks wrecked by logging trucks, workers killed and injured in the forests. . . 

Farmer’s pitch to big biz: My land, your trees, planet’s gain –  Jo Lines-MacKenzie:

One farmer’s novel pitch to big firms to use her land for carbon offset tree planting is being touted as a win-win for both the business and agricultural sectors.

Federated Farmers says the idea could catch on and they could be the organisation to make it work.

The idea has been sparked by King Country farmer Dani Darke who posted a proposal on social media to offer up 10 hectares of her own land to plant native trees.

She pitched the idea to Air New Zealand, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, Z Energy, and anyone else who wanted to participate. . . 

Strath Taieri the new food bowl of New Zealand – Sally Rae:

Strath Taieri is a traditional farming district, best known for sheep and beef cattle. But an irrigation proposal being mooted has the potential to see it diversify into other areas, including horticulture. Business and rural editor Sally Rae reports.

Strath Taieri — the new Food Bowl of Dunedin?

That’s what the Strath Taieri Irrigation Company (STIC) believes could happen if the Taieri Catchment Community Resilience Project wins approval.

It is a project that has been talked about for decades but which, in recent times, has gained momentum, with an application for funding made to the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Without reliable water, the future for the district would be bleak, STIC said.

And by bringing more irrigation water to the area and ensuring certainty of supply, there was potential for diversification of the traditional sheep and beef farming area into the likes of horticulture, as well as increasing productivity within existing farming operations. . . 

Direction of horticulture industry aligns with Fit for a Better World:

Horticulture New Zealand says the horticulture industry’s future focused strategies align well with what is proposed in Fit for a Better World

‘Horticulture is already well into the journey that has been identified and proposed in these reports, and this journey will continue,’ says HortNZ President, Barry O’Neil.

‘Immediately post lockdown, our entire industry – comprising more than 20 different fruit and vegetable product groups – got together with key government departments to develop and implement a strategy and work programme that will see horticulture spearhead New Zealand’s economic and social recovery from Covid.

‘We are encouraged to see that the proposal identifies a key opportunity to accelerate the horticulture industry’s development, which fits perfectly with our own work. . . 

Low-methane ‘elite’ sheep breeding project finds success – AgResearch scientist – Eric Frykberg:

Low methane appears to be a breedable trait that does not affect economic value in sheep, and could lead to a cumulative 1 percent reduction in emissions each year, farmers have been told.

AgResearch scientist Suzanne Rowe told a webinar organised by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Council that research into such animals had been going on for a decade.

Rowe said a study of 1000 sheep divided into high emitting and low emitting animals found these traits were passed on to successive generations.

“After three generations we have 11 percent less methane per kilogramme of feed eaten,” she said. . . 

Bingara producers turn to embryos to breed back out of drought – Lucy Kinbacher:

Bingara producer Rhonda King and her 86-year-old father Alf were steaming ahead with their Speckle Park herd when back-to-back droughts crippled their momentum.

In January they had made the decision to sell the final remnants of their 300-head herd at Doctors Creek when rain came not long after and saved them from the decision.

With cattle prices soaring to record levels Ms King opted to use her lifetime travel savings to purchase embryos rather than replacement livestock and is hoping to breed her way back into business.

Their herd currently consists of about 90 Speckle Park including cows, heifers and bulls with an additional 11 Angus recipients purchased from another stud. . . 


Rural round-up

January 29, 2020

Seaweed supplement developer confident – Colin Williscroft:

Development of a feed supplement aimed at reducing methane emissions is well advanced, as Colin Williscroft reports.

The methane-busting seaweed technology developer who got $500,000 from the latest Provincial Growth Fund round expects to do product trials here this year and maybe have a product commercially available by next year.

CH4 Global, based in New Zealand and the United States, is focused on commercial scale aquaculture and processing of native asparagopsis seaweed in Southland, Marlborough and Northland and initially in the Port Lincoln area in South Australia. . .

Synlait increases forecast milk payout:

Dairy company Synlait has increased its forecast payout for the current production of milk solids on the back of strong market prices.

The company is now forecasting a payout of $7.25 a kilogram of milk solids from its previous assessment of $7 a kilo.

Synlait chief executive Leon Clement said prices had been strong since the end of last year. . .

Grains harvest shaping up well – Annette Scott:

Cropping farmers across the country are chomping at the bit eager to get their headers onto what is shaping up to be a late but good harvest season, Federated Farmers arable sector grains chairman Brian Leadley says.

Canterbury growing conditions, in particular, have been favourable and with cooler temperatures this summer crops are running a couple of weeks behind normal harvest time.

But that’s not a problem yet with crops looking good and with a spell of warm, sunny weather over the next couple of weeks harvest will kick into full swing. . . 

Perfect day for all who like ‘farm stuff’– Karen Pasco:

Chugging, hissing, thudding and whirring, along with the smell of coal burning and smoky steam filling the air. There was no question — this was Edendale Crank Up Day 2020.

The sun shone as lawnmower races, tractor-pulling events, parades, novelty competitions and bands entertained spectators sitting up to eight-deep around the main ring on Saturday.

Thousands of tractor and traction engine enthusiasts, as well as people just looking for something fun to do, came to the annual three-day event hosted by the Edendale Vintage Machinery Club. . .

Let’s celebrate our frontrunners – entries open for PINZ Awards

Entries are now open for the national Primary Industries New Zealand Awards.

This year’s award winners will be presented at the Primary Industries Summit at Te Papa in Wellington on June 24.

“These awards are all about celebrating the significant achievements being made every week, every month and every year by New Zealand’s primary sector, and its supporters,” Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says. . .

British farmers are not the enemy in the battle against climate crisis – Joe Stanley:

I am a farmer, the third generation to grow crops and pedigree beef cattle on my family’s modest farm on the edge of the picturesque Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire. Summer and autumn is primarily given over to long days of harvesting and planting crops while our 150 traditional longhorn cattle munch at grass; in the long winter nights, they come indoors to shelter and chew at hay harvested and stored in the spring.

Most of you reading this, I would wager, are not directly associated with agriculture. It might therefore be assumed that there’s a gulf between our plains of existence, that we do not and cannot understand each other. I believe this is a false assumption. . .


$484k per job yet there’s a worker shortage

December 9, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund gets a lot of publicity but the results are a long way from matching the rhetoric:

An answer to a written question from National Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop reveals 1922 people are employed by PGF projects – and of that, just 616 are full-time jobs.

So far, $297.4 million has been spent so far on PGF projects. That’s $484,000 per full-time job, excluding those part-time jobs.

Jones insists infrastructure projects like roads and rail will take years to build, however in the long-term they’ll create jobs and further investment and increase confidence in the regions. . . 

Roads? We’re paying higher fuel taxes but that money is going on public transport in Auckland not much-needed upgrades to roads in the provinces.

And the bus and rail not roads policy is costing jobs as businesses finishing roading  projects have no more work ahead of them.

Rail? That’s a very limited option that doesn’t go very far from routes taken by State Highway 1.

While politicians squabble over whether enough jobs are being created in the regions, the PGF is managing to create well-paid jobs here in Wellington.

The unit in charge of the fund’s doubled in size over the past year. There are now 116 employees. And 71 of them earn a salary of more than $100,000.

That’s around one job in Wellington for fewer than 20, full and part time in the provinces.

David Farrar calls the number of jobs created pitiful:

By comparison in 2016/17 there were 137,000 new jobs created which was 66 new jobs every working hour.

So Shane Jones has spent $300 million over two years and created what was basically one day of job growth under National!

New and growing businesses creating more jobs ought to be applauded, but in some areas the problem isn’t no jobs, it’s a shortage of workers for the jobs in already established businesses.

Employers in dairying, horticulture and hospitality are struggling to find staff willing and able to fill their vacancies.

The provinces would get more value from initiatives that would provide employable workers than they’re getting from the money scattered through the PGF.


Rural round-up

September 26, 2019

Trees don’t pay tax. Government’s Action for Healthy Waterways discussion document a massive subsidy for tree planting:

Environmental lobby group 50 Shades of Green says the government’s policy document on waterways will provide a massive subsidy for forestry.

Spokesman, Andy Scott said the problem was it would make sheep and beef farming less economic thereby encouraging farmers to walk away and sell their land for trees.

“Modelling suggesting 68% of dry stock farms in the Waikato/Waipa catchment would be converted to forestry as a direct result of the proposed regulations will send a chill through the entire sheep and beef industry,” Andy Scott said. . .

Time for a ‘cup of tea’ over trees policy:

Minister Jones Needs Assurance That His ‘Trees Fund Branching Out’ Doesn’t End up as a Knot According to 50 Shades of Green.

Conservation Group 50 Shades of Green supports Minister Jones in his efforts to put the right tree in the right place.

It also supports Iwi initiatives to regenerate native bush.

What it doesn’t support is easy access for foreign investors and carbon speculators to plant good farmland in trees for no other reason than to claim carbon credits. . .

Millions poured to ensure mānuka honey is a NZ only product  – Yvette McCullough:

The government is allocating nearly $6 million to a campaign to stop Australian beekeepers marketing their products as “mānuka” honey.

The Mānuka Honey Appellation Society is being granted $5.7 million through the Provincial Growth Fund, including a $1.7 million loan, to help in its bid to secure international property rights.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones accused Australian honey producers of trying to steal what was indigenous to New Zealand. . .

Major dairy producer unveils $30m expansion:

When a group of dairy families opened Idaho Milk Products a decade ago, the company faced a murky future at best.

The $80 million facility began churning out cream and protein during a recession, at a time of painfully low milk prices.

“These dairy families risked everything,” Idaho Dairymen’s Association CEO Rick Naerebout said. “They rolled the dice, put everything on the line that their families had built for generations.”

Ten years and a $30 million plant expansion later, it looks like the gamble is paying off. . .

Welsh dairy farmers plan to blockade lorries of ‘cheap’ Irish beef :

Farmers in Wales are planning to disrupt Irish trucks carrying beef from entering Wales via the Port of Holyhead.

The blockade is planned for Friday 27 September.

According to North Wales Live, the protest is a result of farmer complaints that “prices are down £150-£200 (€170-€ 226) on this time last year, blaming the slump on imports” coupled with the uncertainty of Brexit.

Farmers are urged to make a stand against “rock-bottom beef prices and ‘subsidised’ Irish beef imports.”. . .

 


Stardust dulls in sunlight

August 7, 2019

A Prime Minister who is well regarded overseas is good for a small country.

But being well regarded overseas isn’t good enough. A Prime Minister has to earn, and keep, approval at home and the stardust that settled on Jacinda Ardern early in her leadership is dulling under the sunlight of scrutiny.

There is no doubt she is a good communicator, compassionate and likable. As Matthew Hooton told Sky New Australia, she would be a good princess or president without power, but she is a hopeless Prime Minister.

But, but, but what about the way she handled the aftermath of the mosque shootings?

There is no question she did that well but that’s the New Zealand way. Other recent Prime Ministers, Bill English, John Key (who did at least as well after the Canterbury earthquakes) and Helen Clark would have reacted with similar compassion.

But those Prime Ministers also delivered, and this one is failing to. Matthew Hooton, again, on the year of delivery:

. . . For those still committed to reality-based politics, Ardern’s “year of delivery” is as credible as her earlier promise to be “transformational”.

KiwiBuild, the Billion Trees programme and the Provincial Growth Fund handing out only 3 per cent of the money Shane Jones has paraded are the most risible. . .

He goes on to list more failures and there are plenty of them.

He isn’t alone in his criticisms and that’s not surprising for people on the right of the political spectrum but even the very left blog The Standard is saying it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania:

Despite the babies and the engagements, maybe it’s time to ditch the default Jacindamania.

Let’s not bother with the criminal waste of tax on hundreds of working groups, existing to successfully suppressing oppositional opinion through co-option.

Oranga Tamariki has got three investigations underway for removing children, and is being kicked all over the park by the media. Cue another year of paralysis by analysis. . . 

. . .  it’s a very partial leadership. It’s not ‘transformational’, it’s not the year of delivery. What is this government?

This is the weakest leadership on policy of any government since the last term of Holyoake, 60 years ago. That’s on Ardern.

It’s time, since we are now getting emails to volunteer and donate money on their behalf for the next election, to expect more from Jacinda Ardern.

Coming from the left that’s damning.

But wait there’s more. Her interview this morning with Mike Hosking was a train wreck which Steve Braunias dissects:

O the joys and woes of being Prime Minister! One minute you’re swaying your hips for the cameras in the lovely warmth of Tokelau while the world gazes with adoration at your picture on the cover of Vogue, as chosen and commissioned by Her Royal Highness Meghan Markle the Princess of Trans-Atlantica; the next minute you’re back in New Zealand, there’s a serious sex scandal rocking the Labour Party, the cops have gone feral at Ihumātao, the weather’s gone all to hell – and worst of all, you’re stuck on the phone for your regular Tuesday morning convo with Mike Hosking.

It’s paramount that the Prime Minister keeps her cool and shows every sign of being at ease and in control when she makes media appearances. There is but one emoji to maintain: the one with a smiley face, round and yellow and all good, expressing the optimum vibe of inane happiness. . . 

But good cheer and happiness was entirely absent during Ardern’s 10-minute interview with The Hosker on Newstalk ZB this morning. Her appearance was an emoji trainwreck, and it crashed every time that the Prime Minister called the ZB talkback host by his first name.

She said it 11 times. . .

He goes on to give an emojiological analysis of those 11 times.

It’s behind the paywall and it’s worth paying for, here’s a taste:

The interview which prompted this is here.

There was no stardust dazzling and personality sparkling there and even had there been it is no longer enough.

Stardust is no use without substance and personality doesn’t pay the bills.


Rural round-up

August 3, 2019

NZ Centre for Political Research: A sacrificial lamb – Dr Muriel Newman:

The PM’s plan is to put so much pressure on farmers that she will drive them out of business, just as occurred in the coal industry, and oil and gas.

In a speech to state sector workers and children in Melbourne, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described a period of economic turmoil in New Zealand: “Starting in 1984, through to the 1990s, we removed regulations that were said to hamper business, slashed subsidies, transformed the tax system, dramatically cut public spending … “

She questioned whether the reforms were really necessary, then added, “I was a child back then, but I remember clearly how society changed. I remember nothing of Rogernomics of course — I was five. But I do remember the human face.”. . .

Allan Barber challenges Shane Jones to consider the unintended consequences of his headlong rush into forestry, as well as to disclose where all these logs or added value timber will be sold – Allan Barber:

There’s an irony about the combination of the Provincial Growth Fund funded one billion trees programme, sheep and beef land being sold without needing Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval for conversion to forestry, the sharp fall in Chinese log prices, and Shane Jones ranting about log traders being intoxicated by high prices.

According to Jones, these log traders should have supported the domestic timber processing industry, although it’s not immediately obvious how domestic sales would have compensated for log exports to China which exceeded $3 billion over 12 months.

The history of tree planting, well before it was seen as essential for meeting greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) targets, is no different from any other commodity. After an exciting start too much of anything inevitably provokes indigestion; think oil, dairy, sheep meat, wool, angora, alpacas, logs – you name it, there is always a cycle; the world may even turn away from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc one day. China features strongly as a market which has a habit of dominating purchasing patterns, driving prices up before turning the tap off, although this was more of an issue when the state rigidly controlled all purchasing. . . 

Growers slam ‘very clunky’ process for claiming fuel tax rebates – Maja Burry:

Some growers say they are being left out of pocket by Auckland’s regional fuel tax because there is no simple way to claim back for on-farm vehicles and machinery.

The 11.5 cents-a-litre regional fuel tax was introduced last July to fund transport projects around the region. It is expected to raise $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.

A rebate system, overseen by the Transport Agency, is meant to help growers and farmers claim back for on-farm vehicles and machinery.

Brendan Balle of Pukekohe-based Balle Brothers helps run a family-owned market garden business which employs about 300 staff. . . 

Northland dairy farmers win top milk award for fifth year running –  Susan Botting:

Producing top-of-the-line milk from 6000-plus dairy herd milkings over five years has earned Far North dairy farmers Terrence and Suzanne Brocx a dairy industry acknowledgement.

The Puketi couple have this year won a Fonterra award acknowledging their top-of-the-line milk production — for a fifth consecutive year.

Milk from the 2018-19 dairy season on their Puketi and Ohaeawai farms has this winter been awarded a Fonterra gold standard “grade-free” quality award, adding to four previous annual awards of the same type. This means all of the milk produced on their two farms since 2014 has reached the dairy co-operative’s highest gold standard quality standards. . . 

Stink bug warning to importers:

Biosecurity New Zealand has sent a stark message to shippers, agents, and importers that imported cargo must meet new rules intended to keep brown marmorated stink bugs out of New Zealand.

“The importing industry needs to be aware that high-risk cargo that hasn’t been treated before arrival will not be allowed to come ashore in most instances,” says Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Paul Hallett.

“The aim is to keep out a highly invasive pest that could devastate New Zealand’s horticulture industry if it established here.” 

Biosecurity New Zealand formally issued new import rules on 22 July. They require off-shore treatment of imported vehicles, machinery, and parts from 33 identified risk countries, and all sea containers from Italy during the stink bug season.

In the past, only uncontainerised vehicle cargo from risk countries required treatment before arriving in New Zealand. . . 

Hunters have their sites on a shareholding in a stunning high country shooting and fishing station:

Avid big-game hunters and trout anglers are being lined up as potential shareholders in a remote South Island high country partnership on the market for sale.

Shares are being sold in the land and buildings at the Miners Creek high-country station some 13 kilometres west of the Central Otago township of Ettrick.

The 513-hectare freehold property is located on the Mount Benger Range adjacent to the Department of Conservation’s Mount Benger Reserve. Combined, the two landholdings are home to red stags on its stark hills and brown trout in its pristine rivers. . . 


Rural round-up

July 21, 2019

Meeting the gas challenge – Tim Fulton:

New legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will hit farmers in the pocket. Tim Fulton reports.

Waikato farmer George Moss, who operates two dairy farms, believes running a small business can be just as difficult when meeting environmental targets as large scale farming.

Moss and wife Sharon operate two small dairy farms at Tokoroa in south Waikato. One is 72ha milking 180 Friesians and the other is 67ha milking 175 crossbreds. They also own an adjoining 40ha drystock block. . .

Fonterra co-op leader Miles Hurrell – we can turn this around – Jamie Gray:

Nearly a year into his job as chief executive of Fonterra, Miles Hurrell is a man on a very public mission.

Since late last year, the co-op has been pulling out all the stops to streamline itself, improve earnings and trim debt.

There has been no shortage of criticism and there’s a lot at stake. The livelihoods of about 10,000 farmer-shareholders depend on it, and Fonterra is New Zealand’s biggest exporter by far.

Stung by the co-op’s first-ever loss last year, Hurrell’s job is to turn around the supertanker that is Fonterra. . .

Berry farm gets government help to expand hydroponic operation – Esther Taunton:

A $2.37 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund will allow a Northland company to expand its hydroponic berry-growing operation, creating dozens of new jobs in the process. 

However, not everyone is happy about the arrangement, with the Taxpayers’ Union saying Maungatapere Berries should have got a bank loan.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced the partnership on Friday, saying it would allow the Whangarei-based business to add four hectares of berries to its existing operation. . .

Fingerprinting food :

AgResearch is finding new uses for a machine that uncovers the unique fingerprint of food.

The Crown agency’s lab at Lincoln is using a mass spectrometer to quickly analyse the interaction of genes and the environment.

In a sign of technology advances in the field, work that previously took over an hour can now be done in seconds on samples of meat, milk, plants and wine.

It will open up new opportunities for food science and industry, AgResearch senior research scientist Dr Alastair Ross, who leads the metabolomics platform, says. . .

Handpicked is judges’ top pick

Meat co-op Alliance Group’s Pure South Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef has won international honours in the World Steak Challenge for the second year running.

Handpicked 55 Day Aged Beef, which combines selection for exceptional quality and marbling with extensive wet ageing, took out a gold medal for ribeye and a bronze medal for fillet at the event in Dublin, Ireland, on July 10.

The latest honours repeat the premium product’s success at last year’s contest, which helps benchmark the quality of beef production against global competitors. There were more than 300 entries from 25 countries in the competition. . . 

A 20% drop in methane emissions would cause global cooling, says expert – Lauren Dean:

A leading environmental professor has said farming can become completely ‘climate neutral’ if agricultural methane emissions are reduced by just 20 per cent over the next 30 years. . . 

Myles Allen, a professor from the University of Oxford, who has served on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claimed this kind of gentle reduction in methane emissions would be enough to fully compensate for the warming impact of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from agriculture.

Farmers have already been cutting methane emissions by 10 per cent every 30 years, through measures such as better slurry storage and application. . .

Ongoing stable methane emissions from cattle doesn’t change the climate – Alan Lauder:

Could it be that a lot of cattle producers world-wide are being unfairly blamed for progressing climate change because of the methane released by their cattle? Going one step further, in this contributed article Alan Lauder, long-time grazier and author of the book Carbon Grazing – The Missing Link,  suggests that the methane emissions of the Australian sheep and cattle industry are not changing the climate, because they have been stable since the 1970’s.

WE have to ask the question, is the current way of comparing methane and carbon dioxide, using the Global Warming Potential (GWP) approach, the best way to assess the outcome of the methane produced by ruminant animals like sheep and cattle?

I raise the point, keeping in mind that the debate is about “climate change”. We keep hearing the comment that we have to limit “change” to two degrees.

I am not suggesting that the science the IPCC and the world is relying on is wrong, but maybe it is worth having another look at how we are interpreting it in the area of ruminant animals. . .

 


If water storage is good . . .?

April 10, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest up to $18.5 million in water storage to unlock land use potential in the Mid North, Regional Economic Development.

“Up to $18.5 million will be invested to help investigate and, if feasible, construct community-scale water storage and use options in Kaipara and Mid North,” Shane Jones said.

“This project is the largest PGF investment to date in water storage. Regional Economic Development Ministers backed the proposal because of the real opportunities that ensuring a more reliable water supply could bring to the region – up to $150m in increased horticulture earnings per year and up to 1150 jobs created.

“The region is vulnerable to droughts and floods, so better access to water will give landowners greater options to utilise their land, develop new markets and maintain and grow a skilled workforce.

“This project is relatively small in scale, compared to proposed water projects in the past, and enjoys wide support from local government. It will alleviate pressure on surface and groundwater resources, and will reduce sedimentation, a key water quality issue for the region, as land use shifts towards horticulture.

“It will also mean better access to water for use on Māori-owned land – the development of which is a key objective for the PGF.” . . 

New Zealand has plenty of water, the problem is it doesn’t fall and flow evenly or conveniently where and when it’s needed.

Those of a very dark green persuasion say that’s nature’s way and we have to accept it.

Those with more moderate views say that water storage is the most environmentally friendly way to harness nature’s bounty – storing water when there’s more than enough, to use when there’s too little.

The economic and social benefits of this are clear – a reliable water supply provides insurance against the financial and human costs of droughts. There are also environmental benefits – the ability to maintain minimum flows in waterways which improves their health and that of the flora and fauna that live in them.

This is why the previous government provided funding for water storage. This government stopped that but is using the PGF to do it instead.

While supporting water storage, I have reservations about this funding.

Successful irrigation projects are driven from the water-users up, not the government down.

I also have a question – if water storage is good in Northland, why isn’t it good in other parts of the country which would have received government help under the previous government but won’t under this one?


A good use for PGF

March 27, 2019

Part of the West Coast is cut off again:

“Significant rain” has fallen overnight in the Westland District after flooding washed away the Waiho Bridge and slips closed roads.

A state of emergency is continuing after being declared last night after the bridge, south of Franz Josef, was swept away in wild weather. However the Hokitika River has held – a relief for locals.

A 350km stretch of road on SH6 is closed between Hokitika and Makarora, near Wanaka. . . 

I have criticised the Provincial Growth Fund and most of the projects to which it has been put.

But rebuilding the bridge and funding other repairs and future flood protection work would be a good use for it.

 


Will they buy it?

February 8, 2019

Will They Buy It? A one-act play set in an office in the Beehive.

Official: We’ve got a bit of a problem Minister. The Opposition aren’t buying your numbers for jobs created by the Provincial Growth Fund grants.

Shane: That’s alright. We can just say they don’t understand big numbers.

Official: That’s the problem Minister, the numbers aren’t big, except in the Ministry.

Shane: Job creation is job creation, let’s not quibble about who’s got them.

Official: But our own figures show that 118 civil servants have been employed to administer the PGF, with most based in Wellington. Only 54 actual jobs have been created so far – a run rate of less than 0.5 FTE for each official.

Shane: Jobs are jobs, you’re quibbling.

Official: It’s not me Minister, it’s Paul Goldsmith, and it’s not who’s got them, it’s where.  They’re in Wellington and Wellington isn’t the provinces.”

Shane: Wellington’s a province, what’s the problem?

Official: There’s Wellington the province, Minister, and Wellington the city, and the civil servant jobs are in the city.

Shane: The city’s in the province though, we can tell them that.

Official: With respect Minister, do you really think they’ll buy that, especially when unemployment’s  gone up?

Shane: Hmm, well let’s distract them. We’ve still got money in the provincial growth pot, it can’t be hard to find something to throw it at.

Official: But will they buy it Minister?

 


$490,191 per job

February 5, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund, like KiwiBuild, has over promised and under delivered:

Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund has created just 54 jobs in its first year, making a mockery of the Government’s claim to be helping regional New Zealand, National’s Economic and Regional Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Fund is all about maximising NZ First’s re-election chances in 2020 but the Prime Minister is fully on board, turning up in small towns supposedly with an open cheque book and a feel-good soundbite. Trouble is, it’s big on hot air and miniscule on substance.

“Despite all the hoopla, only 38 of the 135 announced projects have received funding and just 3.4 per cent of the funding has actually been paid out. That’s $26.6 million for 54 jobs, or the equivalent of $490,191 per job.

That money would employ a lot of teachers, nurses or police officers.

“That’s a dismal outcome considering the mountain of press releases, town hall meetings and hyperbole being rolled out by this Government. Mr Jones would have you believe he’s the saviour of the provinces but the only thing he seems intent on saving is his political career.

“The facts about the PGF are elusive and the Government hasn’t willingly disclosed what’s really going on. It has taken endless questioning by National to penetrate the layers of Government obfuscation.

“Meanwhile, Mr Jones’ claims become more fanciful every time he speaks. Prior to Christmas he claimed 4000 jobs had been created as a direct result of the PGF. A day later that had jumped to 9000. In reality the Fund is as shambolic as KiwiBuild – an epic fail that has seen just 47 of 100,000 houses actually built.

“What’s worse is that the Government fails to understand the basics of employment, in terms of helping young, unemployed Maori in particular. Their job prospects have dimmed as a result of 90-day trials being dumped and the massive increase in the minimum wage.

“National favours sensible economic policies that nurture New Zealand’s economic growth, create more jobs and help lift all our communities. That’s the route to prosperity. Carefully stage-managed publicity events in the regions are just politics.”

The regions do need investment in some areas which are government business including infrastructure and health services.

It started by axing funding for roads and irrigation and has done nothing more for health services. Instead of helping, it is refusing to help Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, is funding SIT to take over Telford Farm Training Institute for only one year and is closing rural maternity centres.

Instead of investing money where there is genuine need it has allowed the PGF to give out money to projects at what looks like whim and, in many cases, without a proper business case.

It has also provided a serious disincentive to real and sustainable job creation in the private sector with the threat of so-called fair pay agreements that would take us back to the bad old days of the 1970s.


Roads government business

February 4, 2019

Northland is getting $20.39m from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), $19.41 million of which is to upgrade transport links because Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says:

“Reliable transport infrastructure is crucial to Northland’s economic success as it affects every part of the region’s economy. Strengthening transport links is critical to fully unlocking the potential of the North and enable new opportunities for local people and business. . . “

Transport infrastructure, or what the rest of us call roads,  is the business of government which is more than can be said for a lot of the initiatives to benefit from the PGF but this raises questions about the government’s roading priorities:

The investment from the Provincial Growth fund for transport links in Kaipara will no doubt be welcomed by local residents but the Government’s overall approach to roading in Northland makes no sense, National’s spokesperson for Transport Paul Goldsmith says.

“The reality is that although the Government has provided this funding, it is not going to build the key road that the region needs – the highly engineered four lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei.

“On the one hand the Government is going to continue to drip feed funding for a half measure, a single laned highway to Whangarei, frustrating all Northlanders, and at the same time sporadically throw a bit of money from the Provincial Growth Fund to favoured regions.

“This is part and parcel of the politicisation of the fund from Shane Jones with a bias to particular regions. . . 

The four lane highway would be more expensive than the roading improvements around Kaipara but it would also would give the biggest benefit to most people and contribute most to both road safety and economic growth.

The package also gives money to develop Maori land.

“The extra capital for the development of Māori land will be welcomed by Māori – it’s a pity however, that the Government has axed the Te Ture Whenua Māori reforms which would have added hundreds of millions of dollars of value for Māori landowners and their whanau by unlocking the economic potential of the around 1.4 million hectares of land.

“We should be wary of the PGF becoming the banker of last resort for general business or Māori land owners.”

We should be very wary of the PGF doing anything at all without establishing the need, costs and benefits.


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