Running of the Wools

December 18, 2014

The Hilux New Zealand Rural Games will be starting with a baaaa:

A spectacle not seen in Queenstown for decades will be staged again next February as more than 300 merino sheep run through the town centre to herald the start of the inaugural Hilux New Zealand Rural Games over the Waitangi holiday weekend.

The ‘Running of the Wools’ is planned as a dramatic celebration of the region’s farming heritage evoking memories of early settlers and highlighting the merino’s continued importance to New Zealand’s rural economy. The free event takes place on Waitangi Day, Friday 6 February and is co-sponsored by the Otago Daily Times and clothing and gift retailer, Global Culture.

Beginning at midday, merinos will leave pens on Athol Street and run over the Ballarat Street bridge by the Village Green. They then turn right onto Camp Street before turning left into Beach Street and running all the way down to finish at Earnslaw Park.

Spectators will have plenty of opportunities along the barrier-lined route to witness a forgotten side of Queenstown’s history.

From the early settler period, sheep were regularly transported from surrounding high country stations into Queenstown, including some by barge across Lake Wakatipu, before continuing to Dunedin for processing and export.

All stock for the Running of the Wools are being transported via road by Northern Southland Transport. They include around 300 dry stock – merino whethers and ewes – from Mt Nicholas Station on the south side of Lake Wakatipu and around 50 horned rams from Bendigo Station near Tarras. Bendigo was home to the globally famous merino ram ‘Shrek’ who grew the world’s heaviest fleece while evading muster for several years.

merino(Bendigo merinos at home on the station)

 

Hilux New Zealand Rural Games founder and trustee, Steve Hollander said it was going to be an amazing spectacle for locals and visitors alike. “

This will be a sight to behold! It’s easy to forget that sheep farming powered Queenstown’s economy long before it became one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations,” he said. “The merino is a real symbol not only of that high country heritage but also of the huge contribution farming continues to make to our national economy. Just think of the global phenomenon of merino clothing that began right here in Otago and continues to grow.”

Mr Hollander said he hoped to make the Running of the Wools an annual event to tie in with the Games itself. The Hilux New Zealand Rural Games feature several national championships for sports including speed shearing, sheep dog trials, speed fencing, gumboot throwing and coal shovelling as well as four Highland Games ‘heavy’ events and the Trans-Tasman ANZAXE Wood Chopping Championship.

Entertainment on both days is provided by the Topp Twins who also open a live concert on the Saturday evening headlined by local country pop sensation, Jody Direen. Tickets for the two-day Games and concert are now sale via Ticket Direct. For more information visit the event website at www.ruralgames.co.nz.

The Rural Games aim to bring together the sports that built the nation:

At the heart of the Games are a series of traditional sports attracting top competitors from throughout New Zealand and Australia. You can expect to see several national and world champions battling for the first Hilux New Zealand Rural Games titles.

Together with Sport New Zealand and rural sports associations around NZ we’ve developed exciting new formats for competitive wood chopping, sheep shearing, sheep dog trials, speed fencing, coal shovelling, speed gold panning and other traditional sports. We’ll also be hosting the ANZAXE Wood Chopping Championship, Highland Games ‘heavy’ events and a feature event of the 2015 ANZ Young Farmer Contest, the Silver Fern Farms Agri-Sport Challenge – always a crowd favourite!

As well as the competitive element, the Games will feature a fun-packed festival programme including a live concert featuring NZ country pop sensation Jody Direen, daily entertainment from the Topp Twins, fun participation events like cherry stone spitting and wine barrel racing, kids activities plus delicious local food and wine.

Rural sports organisations have their individual events across the country through out the year.

The Rural Games will bring them together in Queenstown with competitions for elite sports people. There will also be less serious sections for people from the crowd to take part in.

P.S. I chair the trust which is running the games.


Queenstown in world’s top 25 destinations

May 23, 2013

We were in Queenstown for a conference last week.

It was based at the Hilton which looks across Lake Wakatipu to the town.

Attendees came from all over the country and everyone I talked to was full of praise for the venue and its location.

A lot of other people appreciate the town and its attractions too – it’s been named one of the world’s Top 25 Travellers’ Choice Destinations by TripAdvisor.

As well as rising to 25th place on the international list, the four season lake and alpine resort was also named best destination in New Zealand and second best in the South Pacific.

The Travellers’ Choice Destinations awards honour top travel spots worldwide based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor travellers. Award winners were determined based on the popularity of destinations, taking into account travellers’ favourites and most highly rated places.

Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd was delighted with award and said it was a fantastic international achievement for the resort.

“We’re aware of the power of Trip Advisor in influencing the travelling community, so the news that Queenstown has been ranked by millions of travellers worldwide alongside cities like Paris, New York and London is a testament to the quality of our operators and the exceptional travel experience they deliver.” . .

We’ve been in Queenstown several times this year, which isn’t unusual, and even a reasonable familiarity with the area doesn’t dull its charms.


Rural round-up

August 20, 2012

Shipment of branded lamb sent to Brazil:

Alliance has broken new ground in South America with its first shipment of branded lamb to Brazil.

The shipment, supplied by Southland farms, will arrive in Brazil in the middle of next month.

The lamb will be sold in 120 stores in Brazilo’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, as well as restaurants and hotels. . .

World leading treatment of animals is aim of review:

Federated Farmers will continue to work with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), to ensure New Zealand’s farmers have the highest levels of practicable rules around animal welfare.

“I know good animal welfare pays you back commercially and is why animal welfare legislation and associated codes of welfare matter,” says Jeanette Maxwell, Federated Farmers joint animal welfare spokesperson.

“Federated Farmers is active with the MPI, in ensuring pastoral farmers treat our animals in a humane and ethical way. . .

Government imports 1,205 dairy animals to boost dairy industry:

Two shipments of 1,205 dairy animals from New Zealand arrived in Cagayan de Oro City on June 18 and July 30, 2012, which are now being quarantined at the Feedlot of Del Monte Philippines, Inc. in Manolo, Fortich, Bukidnon.

This is the 13th batch of animal importation spearheaded by the National Dairy Authority (NDA) to dramatically increase dairy production and address the urgent demand for milk and dairy products in the country.  . .

2012 Forest Industry Training Awards:

New Zealand’s forestry sector will need more skilled people over the next decade as technology continues to change, more areas of forest become available for harvest, and the environmental advantages of wood products are increasingly recognised.

Ian Boyd, CEO of the Forest Industry Training and Education Council (FITEC), in releasing the names of finalists for the industry’s 2012 training and education awards, said practically every work discipline is required across the wide range of forest and wood manufacturing operations.

A total of 30 finalists have been selected by independent judges for the 2012 forest industry awards which will be held in Rotorua on September 20. . .

New Zealand Wine: Positioned for the Future:

Wine exports reach $1.18 billion, up 8%Sales (domestic and export) total 242 million litres, up 10%Tight supply means focus on higher priced segmentsNew Zealand wine is well positioned for the future.

Tighter market conditions provide new opportunities for New Zealand wines according to the June year end 2012 Annual Report of New Zealand Winegrowers.

‘The vibrant and distinctive qualities of New Zealand wines continue to resonate with consumers in our key markets. In the past year exports value grew 8% to $1.18 billion and international sales volumes have now lifted 79% since 2008 This strong sales performance combined with a smaller 2012 vintage means a changed supply/demand dynamic for the sector in the year ahead’said Stuart Smith, Chair of New Zealand Winegrowers. . .

Teppanyaki and Wagyu Beef On Menu in Queenstown:

A new Japanese and Teppanyaki restaurant to be launched in Queenstown early next month will also be the home of the highest quality Wagyu Beef available in New Zealand.

Kobe Cuisine will open at Queenstown’s five-star Millbrook Resort, in a building formerly occupied by Japanese restaurant Sala Sala.

Kobe Cuisine director Tony Lee said the combination of traditional Japanese cuisine, Teppanyaki grill, an à la carte Asian menu and the best quality‘fullblood’ Wagyu beef would all combine to offer the“best eating experience in the world”. . .


Ongoing saga of Easter trading

March 27, 2012

The Labour Department is reminding retailers they’re not supposed to trade on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Ho hum, here we go again.

The Biannual Warbirds Over Wanaka will attract thousands of people to the town.

They’ll be able to buy whatever’s on sale at the airport, in service stations, tourist shops and dairies but not buy exactly the same things in shops unless they pop over the hill to Queenstown where all shops are allowed to open.

This law is an ass.


Homes cost less, food costs more

June 21, 2011

A fall in house prices, record low mortgage interest rates and slow increases in wages and salaries slowly are making homes more affordable.

The Roost Home Loan affordability report for May showed that home loan affordability was at its best since April 2004.

The report calculates how much of a single median take-home income is required to service an 80% mortgage on a median-valued home.

Roost considers a mortgage unaffordable if servicing it requires 40% or more of one person’s median weekly take-home wage.

Queenstown was the least affordable place in the country with an affordability index of  79.3%. However, that’s still a lot better than it’s been:

Servicing a mortgage in Queenstown has become significantly more affordable in recent years, the report showed. A year ago it would have taken 111% of the median wage, with 120.1% required five years ago. The index reached its highest point of 154.3% in December 2005.

The most affordable place to own a home was Southland with an index of 28%.

While house prices and mortgage rates have declined, the price of food has been increasing. That is putting pressure on family budgets but it’s not a bad thing when we export so much of what we produce.

No-one likes paying more for food. But a reduction in interest rates leaves most people with more disposable income and therefore better able to cope with higher grocery prices and higher food prices mean better export returns.

That’s much better for the economy showing unsustainable consumption fuelled by taxing and borrowing is changing to savings, investment and export-led growth.


Maybe this time

August 5, 2010

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean’s bill on Easter trading laws was drawn from the Member’s Ballot in parliament today.

The Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal (Waitaki Easter Trading) Amendment Bill 2010 seeks to allow all retailers within districts covered by the Waitaki Electorate to trade on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It aims to address the anomaly that occurs within parts of the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago areas, where Queenstown has an exemption to trade over Easter, but other towns do not.

Mrs Dean said she believed her bill had the potential to create a new era for tourism retailers in her electorate.

“I made a commitment to the people that I represent that I would keep working on Easter trading until the law was changed. Today is the first step in that process and I am pleased and proud that we have reached this milestone.  

“I am taking a regional approach with my bill this time as the entire Waitaki Electorate relies heavily on tourism, and is a busy place over the Easter period.

“Despite setbacks in the past, I am now confident that we can successfully achieve Easter trading law changes which will mean that retailers in busy tourist towns, like Wanaka, can open their doors if and when they chose to do so.

“I am not about forcing people to open on Easter Sunday, but rather I want everyone to have the choice.

“I acknowledge that some people may not support my bill on religious grounds, but I believe the time has come to recognize that many people work over Easter in essential services like hospitals, police and the fire service, and they do so without adversely impacting on family life.

“In fact many young people in tourist towns like Wanaka see extra work over Easter as an opportunity to earn extra cash.

“I am hoping that Parliament will send the Waitaki Bill to select committee so that we can have a fresh look and an informed debate around the realities of commerce over Easter, and addressing the anomalies that exist in the present laws.

“I believe people are now ready for change and I am confident that I will get the support that I need to make these progressive changes happen.”

This is Jacqui’s second attempt to address the anomalies  in current law which enable shops in Queenstown to open but prevent  shops selling  the same thing a few kilometres over the hill in Wanaka from opening. The current law also enables some businesses, for example service stations to sell a range of items normally sold in supermarkets or book shops which can’t open.

Easter Sunday isn’t a public holiday and the proposed law change isn’t a threat to religion. The law and what it allow or disallows does not make a day holy.

Nor is the proposed change a threat to employees. They will not be forced tow ork and shops which prefer not to open will be free to stay closed.

The Bill is simply an attempt to get a common sense solution for a small part of the country and it will in effect be legalising what already happens because many Wanaka retailers open illegally and accept the costs as part of their costs.

Rotorua MP Todd McLay’s bill on Easter trading was lost by a handful of votes last year.


Health Boards’ merger less certain

December 15, 2009

Otago and Southland District Health Boards have been developing a closer relationship for some time.

They have a single chief executive and chair and have been consulting on a full merger.

Public meetings on the proposal haven’t been well attended which indicates people don’t have strong feelings on the issue.

The most heat about the the proposal was from Central Otago where people who are caught between board boundaries were in favour of the merge. They gave the example of someone in Queenstown who needs chemotherapy who has to go to Invercargill under the current structure but would be able to make the shorter journey to Dunstan Hospital if there was a single board.

However, Southland Hospital doctors wrote an open letter opposing the merger, just a day before submissions closed.

Dr Charles Lueker, who chairs the senior medical staff committee in Southland, said the letter was signed on behalf of “well over 90%” of senior doctors at Southland Hospital.

The doctors expressed concerns about services being centralised to Dunedin and the loss of the board’s advocacy for the people of Southland.

Reducing costs, sharing resources and providing more convenient service for many rural patients has a lot to recommend it.

It would be a pity if the merger which would do this was to fail at this late stage.


MPs missed chance to let law reflect reality

December 10, 2009

It wasn’t about religion.

It wasn’t about families.

Todd McLay’s Easter Trading bill was simply going to mean the law reflects reality in places like Wanaka and Rotorua.

Our Easter Trading law is a dog’s breakfast.

Shops in Queenstown and Taupo, which are judged to be tourist destinations are allowed to trade,  neighbouring towns like Wanaka and Rotorua which have with similar appeal to travellers, are not.

But changes in retail make the law even more absurd. Service stations are allowed to open and sell magazines but a book shop isn’t.

Year after year I’ve seen retailers in Wanaka ignore the law and open. Year after year the Department of Labour stalks them and lays some charges to make an example of them. Last time a Wanaka retailer appeared in court the judge said the law was a nonsense.

Yesterday MPs had a chance to sort out the nonsense.

The bill wasn’t going to unleash commercial mayhem and tear families apart. It was merely going to give local authorities the power to decide if shops could open in their area.

It would have let Queenstown Lakes and Rotorua councils fix local problems but  it was defeated 62-59.

No-one would have been forced to open a business, no-one would have been forced to work in it, no-one would have been forced to patronise it.

It would have just meant the law reflected reality in a few places where retailers choose to open, their staff have the right to work or not and people have the ability to patronise them or not.

Next year the bi-annual Warbirds over Wanaka will bring more than 20,000 people to the town. There will be stalls at the airport where the show takes place, there will be stalls on Pembroke park at the Sunday market, petrol stations, tourist shops and pharmacies will be open and selling things legally. Shops in town will also be open and selling similar, or event he same, things and breaking the law by doing so.

MPs lost an opportunity to back a very moderate Bill which would have meant the law reflects reality.

Instead of which it will be ignored and a law which is regularly ignored in this way is very bad law.


Gold in Otago ground and bottle

April 22, 2009

Oceana Gold reports promising finds of higher quality gold after test drilling  at its Macraes goldfield.

Mining and associated work by Oceana Gold  has revitalised the wee East Otago town of Palmerston (NB that’s just Palmerston, not to be confused with the slightly bigger settlement in the other island which requires a North in its name).

Further inland, a British honeymoon couple must have thought they’d found gold when they discovered a bottle of Gibbston Valley’s 2000 pinto noir at Gantley’s Restaurant in Queenstown because they paid $1000 for it.

Restaurant co-owner Brent Rands said yesterday the last bottle he sold was last year for $750 and with very few bottles remaining he increased the price to $1000 in January. “I thought, it’s getting so scarce now if it’s gonna go it’s gonna go …”

Let’s see, $1,000 for 750 mls equals . . .  a lot per litre.


Cycle network linked over time

April 20, 2009

The original idea of a cycleway the length of New Zealand sounded good but there were lots of questions about if it would be practical and affordable.

Te Araroa , the walkway from Cape Reinga to Bluff,  was suggested as a model but only a relatively few keen and fit trampers are ever going to use much or any of it. A cycleway using parts of the walkway or based on that concept would have had a similarly limited appeal and provided limited opportunities for spin-off businesses.

The current proposal  to be discussed by cabinet today is more practical, less expensive, more accessible for more people, will provide more opportunities for smaller communities to be involved and be based on local initiatives.

Plans for one of these, a cycleway from Queenstown to Bluff , are already well advanced.

Planning consultant Mike Barnett, who researched the Lake Wakatipu-Bluff route on behalf of Venture Southland, said the Ministry of Tourism had found “the practical thing was a network of excellent cycle opportunities in New Zealand which may lead to bigger things later.”

Mr Barnett said the network could be totally inter-linked “in 10 or 20 years’ time”.

Mr Barnett said the Lake Wakatipu-Bluff route could be ready in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, as research had been under way for three years.

Building cycelways will provide employement, but the long term jobs which come in its wake will be even more beneficial.

One of the reasons the Central Otago Rail Trail  has been so successful is that it was a local initiative and locals have been able to use the opportunities it provides for business initiatives.

It has been particularly good at opening doors for women who followed husbands or partners on to farms or into small coutnry towns where employment opportunities were limited. Thanks to the rail trail they’ve been able to create or work in businesses providing food, accomodation, retail  and other activities and have found new outlets for art and crafts.

The cycleway the length of the country sounded good, but a network of cycleways is a much better idea.


Shops may open despite risk of being shopped

April 9, 2009

Wanaka shops aren’t confirming whether or not they’ll defy Easter trading laws  and open tomorrow and Sunday.

But if past actions are any indication they will and people will take the opportunity offered for retail therapy.

The law enables all shops  just over the hill in Queenstown to open because it’s deemed to be a toruist resort, but not those in Wanaka.

Even sillier is that it allows one business in Wanaka to open because it sells to tourists but the one next door can not open legally even though it sells much the same thing.

Then of course because the law prohibits some businesses from opening, Labour Department staff have to work on the holiday to fine shop owners for working.

Whether they target Wanaka as they have in the past, and whether they shop after shopping the shops  for opening to shoppers will remain to be seen.

Kiwiblog has his annual rant on Easter Trading and Big News posts on the issue too.


Brothel gets a faith lift

April 4, 2009

The building which housed Candy’s Gentlemen’s Club in Queenstown has been bought by the Vineyard Church.

No doubt the new owners will give the former brothel a faith lift.


Let the community own their hospital

March 16, 2009

The Queenstown community wants to take over the ownership and management of the Lakes District Hospital.

The community model has worked well for Balclutha, Dunstan, Gore and Oamaru.

When what was then Healthcare Otago announced it was pulling out of rural services in the late 1990s, the Waitaki District Council stepped into the gap and formed a Local Authority Trading Enterprise (LATE) which became Waitaki District Health Services Ltd.

It built a community owned, publicly funded hospital which provides a wider range of services than would be available if it was under the ownership and control of the Otago District Health Board.

Balclutha, Dunstan and Gore hospitals are run by trusts rather than LATEs but they too are successful and all show that hospitals don’t have to be owned by the state to provide publicly funded services.

The Southland Times asks, whose hospital is it anyway?

It’s the communities and community owned and run models in neighbouring districts provide good examples for Queenstown Lakes to follow.


Call this summer?

September 27, 2008

If you’ve been following my posts over the past week you may have noticed that I’m just a wee bit grumpy about the clocks going forward this early.

In support of that I offer the following evidence:

1) Dunedin’s forecast for the next few days:

Day Conditions Min Max
Today
Showers
Showers
7 16
Sunday
Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy
8 14
Monday
Fine
Fine
7 15
Tuesday
Showers
Showers
6 13

2) Snow in Queenstown

3) I’ve just been talking to a friend at  Dome Hills who tells me it’s snowing there too.

4) Dutchie left a comment on a previous post to say he’d got stuck in snow while campaigning today.

It might be summer in the North Island but it’s not even late spring down here.


ST editorials now come with smiles

August 21, 2008

I don’t know if the Southland Times has had a change of staff or a change of style, but I’m enjoying their tongue in cheek editorials.

Today’s offering comfort because Queenstown didn’t make it on to the new Monopoly board left me with a grin.

Gdansk got in, you’ll notice. Good on good old Gdansk. Magnificent old Polish shipyard town that it is.

Kudos to Kiev as well, and send our regards to Riga. Because at times such as this Queenstown types now have a chance to show their most generous disposition.

If anything, first and foremost in our thoughts and prayers should be Aucklanders, whose city dipped out, too. And when the New Zealand landmark version came out last year, neither the Sky Tower nor Viaduct Harbour got a look in. At least the Queenstown skifields, along with Milford Sound, made it on to that one.

Let’s remind ourselves that this latest spasm of promotional rivalry, both national and global, was for the most part civil enough. Feel free to emit a small sigh of relief. That was never a given.

Wars have started over less.

And days have gone better because they start with a smile.


Lonely Planet likes Otago

August 19, 2008

Lonely Planet’s newest guide to New Zealand is generally enthusiastic about Otago.

Dunedin’s live music and cafe and restaurant scene were given a significant plug and the Otago Peninsula was said to be “rich” with wildlife and outdoor activities.

The University of Otago was given recognition for the energy it provided the city.

“The country’s oldest university provides an energy that might otherwise be missing and drives a thriving theatre, live-music – and it must be said – drinking scene.”

Indeed, not all education takes place in the lecture theatres.

Otago was said to be unhurried and “rife with picturesque scenery” with few crowds to share it with, although Queenstown was called an area with a cinematic background of mountains and a “what can we think of next” array of activities.

As it is.

What they said about Otago

Alexandra: “Unless you’ve come to Alexandra especially for September’s NZ Merino Shearing Championships or the Easter Bunny Hunt, the reason to visit this rather nondescript service hub is for the nearby mountain biking.”

Arrowtown: “Beloved by day-trippers from Queenstown . . . The only gold being flaunted these days is on credit cards and surrounded by a bonanza of daytime tourists, you might grow wary of the quaint historical ambience.”

Balclutha: ” . . . South Otago’s largest town but is of little interest to travellers other than a place to stock up on supplies before heading off into the Catlins.”

Clyde: “. . . looks more like a cute 19th-century gold rush film set than a real town . . . retains a friendly small-town feel . . . and it’s a great place to chill out for a couple of days.”

Cromwell: “There’s plenty of good reasons to visit Cromwell: the sweet little historic precinct . . . and to eat (and eat, and eat) . . . Oh, and a third reason – to take a photo of yourself beside the spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad at the entrance to town.”

Dunedin: ” . . . captures the hearts of locals and travellers alike. It’s a surprisingly artsy town, and has more great bars and eateries than its small size deserves.”

” . . . has attractions both urban and rural . . . party down in the South Island’s coolest city, and get up close and personal with the island’s most accessible wildlife.”

Glenorchy: “Set in achingly beautiful surroundings, postage-stamp-sized Glenorchy is the perfect low-key antidote to the hype and bustle of Queenstown.”

 

Lawrence: ” . . . a sweet little town in a valley surrounded by farmland and forestry plantations. For most travellers its not much more than a place to stop for lunch.”

 

 Naseby: “Cute as a button . . . little old Naseby is the kind of town where life moves slowly. That the town is pleasantly obsessed with the fairly insignificant world of NZ curling indicates there’s not much else going on.”

Oamaru: “Nothing moves very fast in Oamaru: tourists saunter, locals languish and penguins waddle”.

“. . .eccentric gems such as the South Island’s yummiest cheese factory, cool galleries and a peculiar live music venue are other distractions.”

Yes, Whitestone Cheese is yummy; the Penguin Club is a gem; and lets not forget our artists, and while Victoriana isn’t old by world standards, the historic precinct gets better every year – newest attraction is the Whysky Bar.  Outside town there’s the Vanished World Trail  and Elephant Rocks where Chronicles of Narnia was filmed and Riverstone Kitchen.

Omarama: “surrounded by mountain ranges, the Omarama area is at the centre of fabulous landscapes.”

Queenstown: “The town wears its ‘Global Adventure Capital’ badge proudly, and most visitors take time to do crazy things they have never done before. But a new Queenstown is also emerging,
with a cosmopolitan restaurant and arts scene and excellent vineyards.”

 

Ranfurly: “Ranfurly is trying hard to cash in on its Art Deco buildings but while there are a few attractive buildings, the town itself is fairly bleak.”

But it is on the Central Otago Rail Trail.

Wanaka: “Beautiful scenery, tramping and skiing opportunities, and an expanding roster of adrenaline-inducing activities have transformed the lakeside town of Wanaka into a year-round tourist destination.”

Call me biased and parochial if you will, but the guide has not overstated the delights of New Zealand’s most beautiful province 🙂


Govt Buys Rail – Road User Charges Rise

July 2, 2008

Is it just a conincidence that road user charges  went up on the day the Government is congratulating itself on buying back the railways and putting Jim Bolger, the man who presided over the “failed policies of the 90s” in charge of it?

Trucking companies are furious after the increase was announced on Monday night and came into effect yesterday.

Road Transport Forum New Zealand chief executive Tony Friedlander said the group, which represents about 80% of the country’s commercial road transport operators, last year sought assurances from Transport Minister Annette King that operators would be notified of increased charges.

The forum received written confirmation members would be informed of changes.

“It is not just the increase. It’s that it came without notice having received assurances. On top of the highest fuel prices in history, increases to the accident compensation levy and wage interest costs, it will do extreme damage to industry.

“Members have said they will have to pass costs as soon as they can.

Producers, processors and consumers are already suffering from steep rises in fuel prices. The increased tax on diesel powered vheicles and others weighing more than 3.5 tonnes  increases the cost of business and living.

The increase was announced in a statement posted on the Government’s website on Monday night. No media statements were issued.

“The timing of this increase and the way it has been done mean the minister could not have done more damage to our industry if she had deliberately tried,” Mr Friedlander said.

“She should not underestimate how angry our members and the industry are.”

Mr Friedlander said the increase would inevitably mean higher costs for businesses and higher prices in supermarkets.

However, Ms King said the impact would be “relatively insignificant” and she did not expect any noticeable effect on consumer prices.

Is Labour trying to self-destruct or are Ministers so out of touch they don’t understand the financial strain businesses and households are facing? When your budget is already overstretched you notice every cent.

Ms King said the increases were introduced to defray costs of the national land transport programme. Under the programme, $2.7 billion was allocated for transport activities in 2008-09. This included about $791 million for state highway construction, $325 million for passenger transport services and infrastructure and $273 million for road policing.

“Without all road users paying their fair share, this level of investment cannot continue to be sustained,” she said.

Does any of that passenger transport component include the trains and ferries her Government just bought? Does it matter that in the provinces we don’t have passenger trains and only cities have buses?

Charges for a 44-tonne truck and trailer unit which travelled 100,000km a year would increase to about $56,000, about $4000 more for operators, Mr Friedlander said.

Road user charges for transport operators in New Zealand were already 200% higher than those paid by Australian businesses using comparable trucks, he said.

Another day, another tax increase, another reason why living or doing business in Australia becomes more attractive.

Bus and Coach Association chief executive Raewyn Bleakley said members were “shocked and angry”. The “highest level of feedback” about the charges had been from tourism operators, she said. “Tourist operators negotiate rates for services months in advance, and this increase will leave them screaming. This will be noticeable in places like Queenstown.”

You can’t take a train or ferry to Queenstown. But this wouldn’t have anything at all to do with the fact that the Government spent $690m buying the railways, would it?

[Update: have just found a comment on Keeping Stock from getstaffed raising this issue]


Queenstown property prices down, Wanaka slow but stable

June 4, 2008

A Queenstown apartment which was bought for $1.8m a year ago sold for $800,000 last weekend.

Over the hill in Wanaka an average of 30 properties change hand each month, in April there were only three sales. A real estate agent told us prices haven’t fallen yet, but there isn’t much on the market. Wanaka doesn’t usually have the same boom and bust property market as Queenstown but if someone has to sell prices will start coming down.


%d bloggers like this: