Rural round-up

May 3, 2020

No room for a too-hard basket – Annette Scott:

The role of primary industries will be more acute than ever as the nation looks to future-proof its economy, International Network of Government Science Advice chairman Sir Peter Gluckman says.

With tourism in big trouble for the foreseeable future the role of the primary sector in food and fibre production will be critical for New Zealand’s future both short and long term.

How to get more value out of the agricultural sector and make it more efficient is the challenge ahead, Gluckman said. . . 

Food producers can do without the green shackles when they are driving the post-virus economic recovery – Point of Order:

What’s  to   celebrate in the  wake of   the crushing  blow  to   the  economy  delivered   by the Covid-19   pandemic?

Certainly it’s a relief    NZ  has emerged  less  scarred  than other  countries.  Whether the country absorbed   more   economic  pain  than  was necessary will be   debated fiercely.

As   ministers   begin  the  search  to  fill  the economic hole left  by the  collapse of the  tourist industry  and  by  permanent  damage – perhaps –  to sectors like international education,  PM  Jacinda  Ardern  says  she  wants “specific” and “ specially designed” initiatives for  different  industries. . . 

DairyNZ welcomes regional water storage announcement:

DairyNZ is welcoming the water storage initiatives for drought-stricken Northland and Hawke’s Bay but is urging the Government to consider a national strategy, says DairyNZ strategy and investment leader – responsible dairy, Dr David Burger.

“This announcement will be welcome news for farmers in the Northland and Hawke’s Bay regions who have really been doing it tough this summer with very little rain,” said Dr Burger.

“As a country there are huge opportunities for water storage to help increase reliability of water supply in times of drought, to enable land-use flexibility and farming within environmental limits, and to help regions like Northland unlock their full economic potential.” . .

Coronavirus: New rural magazine bucks trend of media closures amid COVID-19 – Angie Skerrett:

Uncertainty created from the COVID-19 pandemic has failed to dampen the launch of a new magazine which tells stories of rural New Zealand women.

Shepherdess is a new quarterly magazine which aims to “connect, empower and inspire”.

Magazine founder and editor, Manawatu’s Kristy McGregor, said the concept was based on the Australian magazine Graziher. . . 

$1m system to evaluate performance of dairy genetics:

A new $1 million project will develop a new information system to help shape the genetics powering New Zealand’s dairy sector.

The project, backed by funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), will be used to record and collate data on a range of important traits of dairy cows.

Each year physical and behavioural traits of 50,000 dairy cows are assessed by breed societies to help evaluate the performance of New Zealand’s top breeding bulls. . . 

Hunting is a legitimate, humane recreation says Outdoors Council:

A recent public opinion piece by World Animal Protection New Zealand condemning hunting has been roundly criticised by the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ.

“The slagging of duck hunting by WAPNZ is hypocritical, poorly based and not factual,” said CORANZ chairman Andi Cockroft.

In the World Animal Protection NZ press release campaign advisor Christine Rose described as “inexplicable that hunting and shooting is among the priorities agreed suitable for level 3 activities”. . .


What’s essential at the Warehouse?

March 24, 2020

The Warehouse will be staying open during the four-week lockdown:

In an announcement to the sharemarket, The Warehouse said it was a provider of key consumer goods for New Zealanders.  . .

“In the past two weeks the group has seen unprecedented demand for essential items across all our brands. Goods sold included essential items to prepare themselves for the mandatory isolation period of at least four weeks,” the retailer said. . . 

The Warehouse had already implemented limits on high-demand products such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser and face masks.  . . 

If you need loo paper, hand sanitiser, face masks and any other essentials, you could get them at supermarkets and/or pharmacies which will be open.

There’s also calls for liquor stores to remain open after panic buying.

If we are to take seriously the need for staying at home, venturing out only for essentials from the supermarket or pharmacy, no other retailers should be open.

People are going to get bored, people are going to get fractious, allowing them to browse and buy anything but basic essentials will encourage retail therapy, increase the potential for infection to spread and undo any of the good that isolating at home will be doing.


Quotes of the Year

December 31, 2019

You can volunteer to take life seriously but it is gonna get you, they are going to win over you, it is harsh, but you can either break down and complain about how miserable your life is or have a go at it and survive. I think that is the basis of it all. – Billy Connolly

Working for Families is a policy that satisfies few on the Left or the Right. Compromises rarely do. They are imperfect by their nature. They are necessary, however, because people are imperfect and always will be. If things were otherwise, we wouldn’t need government at all. – Liam Hehir

The greatest threats to our native wildlife – and our rural economy – may yet be science denial and conspiracy belief. – Dave Hansford

Those elected to positions of authority need to understand that the human condition rarely engages in deceit and halftruths as much as when rehearsing or inventing the science behind their personal environmental concerns.Gerrard Eckhoff

When our total emissions account for 0.17 per cent of total global emissions, leadership isn’t being first, fast and famous. Leadership is taking what we already do well, food production, and doing it even better over time by investing in innovation and technology.  Todd Muller

People have a choice with how they respond to adversity in their life. Creating a positive attitude gives you more control over your circumstances. By staying positive, it means you can make the most out of your life no matter what gets thrown in your direction. – Emma Barker

Being part of a baying mob, for that is what much of our modern commentary has been reduced to, isn’t brave and nor is it radical.

Standing up to them is. – Damien Grant

It is stupid and dangerous. But, we are on private property and we’re just having a bit of fun.

No-one has got too hurt yet … we are not stupid about it. – Patrick Ens

The first challenge is that urban New Zealand does not understand the extent to which our national wealth depends on the two pillars of dairy and tourism.  Yes, there are other important industries such as kiwifruit and wine, and yes, forestry, lamb and beef are also very important. But rightly or wrongly, our population has been growing rapidly, and the export economy also has to keep growing. There is a need for some big pillars.

Somehow, we have to create the exports to pay for all of the machinery, the computers, the electronics, the planes, the cars, the fuel and the pharmaceuticals on which we all depend. . . Keith Woodford

Believe passionately enough in something and you’ll be shouting at the younger generation well into your eighties. – AnnaJones

We realise that Pharmac has a budget, but there seems to be a never ending open budget for welfare. New Zealand surely isn’t so broke that we have to pick and choose who we let live and who we let die. But that is currently where we find ourselves.Allyson Lock

The problem with numbers is that they don’t fudge.They’re definite. Exact. Numbers don’t lie. But people lie.People fudge. People lie about numbers. People fudge numbers. But numbers are the truth.  . .

I think there’s a political lesson here for this government. Watch the numbers or your number’s up. – Andrew Dickens

My take away from all this is that referendums do have a place, even binding ones. But it is best to call on these when the issues are clear and easily understood by everyone in the community. Brexit or not might have seemed clear at the time, driven as it was mainly by fears of uncontrollable immigration across the Channel. But it was not of this genre. As Oscar Wilde remarks: ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple’. In such cases, perhaps best leave it to parliaments. That way we’ll know who to blame it if all goes wrong.Professor Roger Bowden

All kinds of wild ideas that are untested and are demonstrably bad for them and demonstrably wrong – these ideas can spread like wildfire so long as they are emotionally appealing. Social media and other innovations have cut the lines that previously would have tethered the balloon to Earth, and the balloon has taken off. – Jonathon Haidt

Pettiness is on the increase, too, in the constant calling-out of sometimes-casual language that was never intended to offend or harass, and even may have been written or uttered with well-meaning intent. – Joanne Black

Why then did I leave Greenpeace after 15 years in the leadership? When Greenpeace began we had a strong humanitarian orientation, to save civilization from destruction by all-out nuclear war. Over the years the “peace” in Greenpeace was gradually lost and my organization, along with much of the environmental movement, drifted into a belief that humans are the enemies of the earth. I believe in a humanitarian environmentalism because we are part of nature, not separate from it. The first principle of ecology is that we are all part of the same ecosystem, as Barbara Ward put it, “One human family on spaceship Earth”, and to preach otherwise teaches that the world would be better off without us. Patrick Moore

There were rituals, prayer every night, communal eating, some adults staying at home looking after children while others went to work.

Looking back, it was one of the sweetest memories for me. It was a very secure, loving home with lots of uncles and aunts, and no shortage of cousins to play with. There wasn’t a lot of money, but an abundance of aspiration. – Agnes Loheni

We need to be 90 per cent women. Not 46 per cent women. – Jill Emberson  (speaking on the inequity of funding research for ovarian cancer)

These messages of envy and hopelessness—messages that lead to an insidious victim mentality and that are perpetuated by those who say they care more and are genuinely concerned for the communities I grew up in—lead to an outcome that is infinitely worse than any hard bigot or racist could ever hope to achieve. To take hopes and dreams away from a child through good intentions conflicts with the messages of aspiration, resilience, and compassion that I and my Pasefika community were exposed to as we grew up. That soft bigotry of low expectation is the road to hell laid brick by brick with good intentions.

Hope, resilience, compassion—these are the only messages that have any chance of succeeding and changing our course toward a better New Zealand. These values are not exclusive to my migrant parents; they are New Zealand’s values. They fit hand-in-glove with our Kiwi belief in hard work, enterprise, and personal responsibility. Agnes Loheni

Politics is an odd kind of game that sometimes requires a ruthless self-interest and at others altruistic self-sacrifice. It’s a patchwork of ideals and deals, virtue and vice, gamble and calculation. – Tim  Watkin

Small business would pay the costs, large business would spend thousands avoiding the costs and tax advisors and valuers would have a field day. AndrewHoggard

 There are limits, even to the immodesty of the self-proclaimed First Citizen of the Provinces, the wandering bard with the bag of pūtea, bestowing largesse on the forgotten hamlets of Aotearoa. – Guyon Espiner

Once we recover from our grief, do we slide back into being passively a “good” country? To simply “not be racist” when what is required of us is to be outspoken “anti-racists”? I don’t want thoughts and prayers. What I want to see is bold leadership, standing up and uniting in this message: that hate will not be allowed to take root and triumph here. And to then act on that message. I need us all to be courageous and really look inwards at the fears, judgment and complacence we may have allowed into our hearts, and look outward to demand a change in the conversation. And to be that change. Saziah Bashir

Words matter because when we isolate groups of people who don’t make up the majority of those we see, we turn them into “others”. And when we turn them into others we dehumanise them and make it easier to commit harm against them. – David Cormack

Being right wing to me means believing in free market ideals, open immigration where skills are needed, free trade and access to international markets, as little government intervention as possible and having the best people in your country to help your country become better. It means more opportunity for hard working immigrants. Quite often we ARE those bloody immigrants!

It’s not about closed borders. It’s not about denying people opportunity to build their businesses if they’re hard working and wish to contribute to a country. It’s not about wounding and killing people in places of prayer or on the streets. – Cactus Kate

New Zealand can never succeed, on any measure, by cowering behind a wall. Not just our economic destiny but our national identity depends on us maintaining the sense of adventure that brought us all here and extending manaakitanga to those who want to join us, visit us, do business with us, or take a holiday or study here.

Those of us who believe in these things should no longer reject the term neo-liberal, so often used as abuse, but reclaim it. What is the alternative: to be old conservatives? The political right needs to get back on track. – Matthew Hooton

We are broken-hearted, but we are not broken. We are alive, we are together, we are determined to not let anyone divide us.

To the families of the victims your loved ones did not die in vain, their blood has watered the seeds of hope. – Gamal Fouda

We like to tell our food story and we have terms like market research and consumer behaviour that help us as we pick what to produce and how. Put simply, what we’re really doing is asking what does that person want and how can we make them happy? We’re seeking understanding. We’re listening to people we don’t know as much about. We could use more of that in our everyday lives right now. – Bryan Gibson

Wise politicians pick no unnecessary fights that focus people on differences instead of on values they share.StephenFranks

The way I’ve looked at married life is this – You make your bed, you lay in it.

“You get married and you think everything is a long tar-sealed road that is beautiful.

“And after a few years, you get a few potholes. And if you don’t fix the potholes, they get bigger.

“You have to keep fixing them. – Jack van Zanten

NZ First feels like the stumbling, drunk boyfriend that the cool girl brought to the party. She’s too good for him, and everyone can suddenly see it.  – Heather du Plessis-Allan:

 It was never clear to me whether anyone was doing anything useful or just pretending to do stuff to feel better about ourselves. How do you actually make the world a better place? – Danyl Mclauchlan

Social media and the changed nature of other media have obscured the capacity and need for real conversation. Ideas are not contested civilly, rather people are attacked, falsehoods multiply. Our evolution as social animals required mechanisms for group consensus and group rules. Democracy is a manifestation of that social dynamic and works best when publics are informed not manipulated,and can have a civil contest of worldviews, values and ideas informed by robust evidence. –  Sir Peter Gluckman

I worry there is a drive to sanitise life. When the end gets difficult, we are saying, right, that’s enough, let’s cut it short. There are alternatives. There are other choices to ameliorate suffering of all types. Assisted death is not necessary.

How we die says a lot about our society. Having held a few hands of the dying, I know that those moments are sacred. I didn’t swear the oath of first doing no harm, to then participate in an activity with multiple harmful effects to both the living and the dying.  – Hinemoa Elder

Reasoned communication is the way across the divide of difference. It requires leaving the past and its animosities behind. But this is very difficult. The past gives us a sense of security and belonging. The institutions of modern society which unite us don’t have the same pulling power as the rallying cries of the isms. No wonder ethnic nationalisms, nativisms, and populisms with their ‘us not you’ and ‘our culture not yours’ are winning out. Unexamined belief is more satisfying than reason – and its easier.  – Elizabeth Rata 

People’s wellbeing, even their lives, are at risk while well-meaning people make statements based on inappropriate and flawed research. – Jacqueline Rowarth

Only around 20 per cent of the population lives in the countryside, and decisions are being made about them and for them by predominantly urban people, many of whom have little understanding or empathy for their rural neighbours. – Dr Margaret Brown

Such is the far left’s belief in their own moral superiority that, while they point the finger of blame at others with alacrity, they appear to lack the self-awareness and self-reflection that would lead them to at least wonder whether they themselves are complicit in contributing to a divisive and hateful society. – Juliet Moses

I want to turn to our Māori people, because I believe it is time to switch your political allegiance back to yourself, to your own tino rakatirataka. The political tribalism of saying we only vote for the party is not doing us any favours. You must demand on every politician that walks across your marae ātea that they show you the proof of their commitment to working hard for you before you give them your vote, because talk is cheap, whānau. Actions, ringa raupā—the callused hands—those are what spoke loudly to our conservative tīpuna, and it is time to demand politicians show you their calloused hands, their ringa raupā, as evidence of what they have achieved for you. – Nuk Korako

However, the real danger to meddling in our sound and proven speech laws is that institutions, agencies and interest groups with their own social and political agendas will likely have a disproportionate influence that is not in the national interest. There will be some whose sole intent is to undermine the free speech we already enjoy. – Joss Miller 

It’s easy to take it for granted that we are mostly led by politicians who are motivated to do their best by us; one look around the world today shows us how easily it could be different.

Politics in New Zealand has undoubtedly become more tribal since I started but beneath the rhetoric the differences are really not so great.

I leave here firmly believing there are no good guys or bad guys; the various parties may have different solutions to the same problems but fundamentally there is the same will to solve the problems. – Tracy Watkins

I realised two things that day. I would never, ever, let anyone I cared for enter a life of politics – and that politicians bleed, just like the rest of us. In the years since, I’ve tried to remember the power of words to hurt. – Tracy Watkins

My clear thrust in politics has been around … actually what we’ve just seen in Australia, what ScoMo called the ‘quiet Australians’, they’re here in New Zealand too. All they really want from a government is a strong economy, good public services and for us to get out of the way, and let them get on with their families, and that’s what drives me – Simon Bridges

I don’t think we do anyone any favours by pretending it’s easy, because it isn’t. I don’t think you can have everything all at once. – Linda Clark

It is the private sector that will do the heavy lifting. Nothing will happen unless and until the owners of companies take the decision to invest more, hire more people, and take a risk on economic opportunitySteven Joyce

The more you pay people, the fewer people you can afford to pay. Unless of course you sell more, and you only sell more if people feel good about buying. – Mike Hosking

I am living the way my forefathers lived, who left the footprint for me. It was good enough for my people, for my parents, my grandparents, who bought the house in 1887 – it is a tribute to them. – Margaret Gallagher

If I won the lottery, I would still live here. I am a rural rooted spinster. – Margaret Gallagher

Preachers of tolerance and inclusion must no longer seek to silence and condemn those with opinions that make them uncomfortable but are nevertheless opinions based on another person’s own beliefs and values systems. While we need to stay vigilant and investigate people who post offensive material online, we need to be equally concerned about any move in this House to restrict freedom of speech, a move which has all too often been used by those in power to silence those with differing opinions or ideas. This doctrine, peddled by those who pretend to be progressive, asserts that the mere expression of ideas itself is a limitation on the rights of others. This is preposterous. We must always run the risk of being offended in the effort to afford each citizen their freedom of expression, their freedom to be wrong, and, yes, unfortunately, even nasty. We must let the punishment of those with hateful messages be their own undoing.  Paulo Garcia

 It’s a blunt instrument that doesn’t always work, but parents love and understand their children. They are uniquely placed to make them see sense and not rush off with some jezebel or fall pregnant to some ageing lothario.

Welfare is a merino-covered sledge hammer that smashes these traditional bonds. Teenagers are freed from the financial constraints of their family and can turn to a new parent, the state, who will not judge, lecture, or express disappointment in their life decisions. . .

When you design a system that disenfranchises parents and undermines families you are rewarded with a cohort of lost children and will, in a few short years, find yourself taking babies off teenagers who are unfit to be parents. Damien Grant

Pasture-based New Zealand dairy production is the most carbon efficient dairy farming system in the world. In fact, you can ship a glass of New Zealand milk to the next most efficient country (Ireland) and drink it there and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk. – Nathan Penny

Kids are kids. PARENTING has changed. SOCIETY has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that. Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/co-parenting situations, terrible media influences … and we are going to give the excuse that the KIDS have changed? What did we expect them to do? Kids behave in undesirable ways in the environment they feel safest.

They test the water in the environment that they know their mistakes and behaviours will be treated with kindness and compassion. For those “well-behaved” kids – they’re throwing normal kid tantrums at home because it’s safe. The kids flipping tables at school? They don’t have a safe place at home. Our classrooms are the first place they’ve ever heard ‘no’, been given boundaries, shown love through respect. – Jessica Gentry

In a nation like ours, immigration is a kind of oxygen, each fresh wave reenergizing the body as a whole. As a society, when we offer immigrants the gift of opportunity, we receive in return vital fuel for our shared future. – L. Rafael Reif

We should be very wary of underplaying the progress and successes we’ve already made as food producers and custodians of the land.  If we pay too much attention to the critics, it saps motivation and puts more stress on the shoulders of farmers and their families. – Katie Milne

The opportunities in the agri-food sector are endless, even if you live in the city. You just have to be passionate – James Robertson

The choice really is clear. Do we want to be remembered in the future for being the generation that overreacted and spent a fortune feeling good about ourselves but doing very little, subsidising inefficient solar panels and promising slight carbon cuts — or do we want to be remembered for fundamentally helping to fix both climate and all the other challenges facing the world? – Bjorn Lomborg

My starting point for this with public health is very simple, I do not plan to be the moral police, and will not tell people how to live their lives, but I intend to help people get information that forms the basis for making choices. – Sylvi Listhaug

Pastoral agriculture is a pretty simple and slick system. We turn a natural resource that we can’t eat (grass) into something we can eat (meat and milk) with grazing animals. The land we (the world) use to do this is, by and large, not suitable for the production of sugar or the other 40 ingredients needed for cultured meat. Or, for the ingredients required in the less-terrifying, but no-less-processed plant-based “meats”.

Some people can’t stand the thought of an animal being killed for their food. So be it. Let them eat cake… or felafel. But, when it comes to meat, there is no substitute for the simplicity and safety of the real deal. – Nicola Dennis

But at times like this the public more than ever look to the media for impartial coverage. Is it too much to expect that journalists set aside their personal views and concentrate instead on giving people the information they need to properly weigh the conflicting arguments and form their own conclusions? –Karl du Fresne

Governments who are put in place by voters to help those that have been missing out enact policies that ensure those people keep missing out.

And those same Governments store up economic imbalances that bring real risks for our collective future security. All for the sake of short-term policies that appear popular in the here and now. – Steven Joyce

The whole idea of tearing the heart out of a nation’s economy to reduce methane emissions from livestock is an unbelievable display of scientific, technological and economic ignorance. It goes far beyond simply not knowing or being mistaken.  It is profound ignorance compounded by understanding so little it is not even possible to recognise one’s own ignorance which is then made malignant by thinking it must be imposed on everyone else for their own good. – Walter Starck

Everyone that’s being fired and publicly embarrassed about a misdemeanor and being called a Nazi — there are real Nazis who are getting away with it. This must be amazing for real racists to be out there, and going, “It’s all right, everyone’s a racist now, this is a great smokescreen, we’ve got people out there calling people who aren’t Nazis, Nazis. . . . They don’t know the real Nazis from people who said the  wrong thing once!” . . . It plays into the hands of the genuinely bad people. – Ricky Gervais

I get the equality movement – it’s valid and important. But I also know the dangers, firsthand, that mindset can play if we encourage everyone to see themselves as the same, instead of embrace the differences God intentionally created us with.

I have been more successful as a professional, a wife and a friend once I learned to embrace myself as different, not equal.  – Kate Lambert

The creation of wealth should not be confused with the creation of money and the amount of money in circulation at any given point. – Henry Armstrong

For me, it was South Island farmer Sean Portegys who articulated best what so many farmers are feeling – he told me that in a drought, you don’t despair because it’s always going to rain. In a snowstorm, the sun will come out eventually. When prices are bad, and he said they’d just gone through a rough patch a few years ago, it’s always going to come right eventually. The problem is now, he said, the situation that farmers are facing is a lack of hope. He says he just doesn’t see a future in what he’s doing. And if farmers don’t see a future, then the future of New Zealand Inc looks bleak. –  Kerre McIvor

The problem is, if you propose a set of rules that are unachievable you don’t get community buy-in and if you don’t get community buy-in, you don’t actually make any progress,- David Clark

There are no perfect human societies or human systems or human beings.  But that shouldn’t stop us celebrating our past, our heritage, our culture –  the things that, by opening to the world, made this country, for all its faults and failings and relative economic decline in recent decades, one of the more prosperous and safe countries on earth. – Michael Reddell

The productivity commission says – in a much nicer way than this – that most councillors are a bunch of useless numpties with no understanding of governance of finance, and so really aren’t capable of handling the big stuff. – Tina Nixon

If you cannot even state an opponent’s position in order to illustrate the benefit of arguing with that opponent, then free speech is over. Because no dialogue then is possible. Professor Jim Flynn

Freedom of speech is important because it is a contest of ideas.

When you forbid certain ideas, the only way you can be effective is by being more powerful. So it becomes a contest of strength. If you shut ’em up, not only does that make it a matter of `might makes right’, you haven’t proved that your views are more defensible, you’ve just proved that you are stronger. Further, that must be the worst formula for finding truth that’s ever been invented. It’s either a contest of ideas or a contest of strength. Professor Jim Flynn

 A free society cannot allow social media giants to silence the voices of the people. And a free people must never, ever be enlisted in the cause of silencing, coercing, cancelling or blacklisting their own neighbours. Professor Jim Flynn

People have to grow up. Being educated is getting used to hearing ideas that upset you. – Professor Jim Flynn

I see precautionary investment against climate change as equivalent in political decision-making, to expenditure on defence. Both require spending for highly uncertain benefit. No one can know whether we genuinely have an enemy who will attack. No one can know if our precautions will be effective. Hopefully the investment will be untested. We can’t know until afterwards whether it is wasted. Yet it is rational to try, because the catastrophe could be so overwhelming if the risk matures without resilience or mitigation precautions.

But such investment remains foolish if it is unlikely reduce CO2 levels materially, or to improve New Zealand’s ability to cope if change happens nevertheless. Given NZ’s inability to affect the first, an insurance investment should focus primarily on resilience. The Zero Carbon Bill does neither. So my government is wasting the elite political consensus that ‘something must be done”. Instead they’re conspicuously trumpeting their “belief” in climate change, and their intentions to act. If the law is enforced it will likely increase emissions overseas, and not influence foreign governments to mitigate the risk, who can affect the outcome. – Stephen Franks

The brute facts of New Zealand history suggest that if it’s blame Maori and Pakeha are looking for, then there’s plenty to go around. Rather than apportion guilt, would it not be wiser to accept that the Pakeha of 2019 are not – and never will be – “Europeans”? Just as contemporary Maori are not – and can never be again – the Maori who inhabited these islands before Cook’s arrival. Would it not, therefore, be wiser to accept, finally, that both peoples are victims of historical forces too vast for blame, too permanent for guilt?Chris Trotter

As I have gone through my horrible journey, I have realised why ovarian cancer support doesn’t gain the kind of traction that breast cancer does. It is because we are small in number, and we die really quickly, so we don’t have the capacity to build up an army of advocates. With breast cancer, there is a lot more women who get it, therefore they can build and build their army of advocates and they are able to raise more money, get more research, and get better outcomes, so they live longer. We need the support of breast cancer survivors. We need them to link arms with us to grow our army for ovarian cancer, which will then help us get more funding fairness. Funding leads to research, and research leads to longer lives. – Jill  Emberson

This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re politically woke, and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting with may love their kids and share certain things with you. – Barack Obama

I can’t make people not afraid of black people. But maybe if I show up every day as a human, a good human, maybe that work will pick away at the scabs of your discrimination. –Michelle Obama

In South Africa, pressure is not having a job or if one of your close relatives is murdered. In South Africa there are a lot of problems, which is pressure. – Rassie Erasmus

We shouldn’t subsidise the smelter.  Rather we should stop forcing Southlanders to subsidise Aucklanders.  We should also revert to a more gradual water plan that gives farmers time to adapt, and we should let Southland retain control of SIT.  Then we should get out of the way and let the sensible practical Southlanders get on with making a success of their province. – Steven Joyce

All of us face trials and tribulations. No-one always wins, in the end we all lose. We lose friends, marriages, money, get anxious, our bodies break down, our minds go, and then we die. Isn’t life great?

But actually, isn’t living also a lot of highs? Births, marriages, beaches, trips abroad, friends, sporting victories, pets, pay increases, leaves sprouting in spring, fish and chips on a sunny day. – Kevin Norquay

You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient. We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate. Kerry Emanuel

Knowledge in long-term memory is not a nice-to-have. Rather, it is an integral part of mental processing without which our working memories (which can hold only about four items at a time) become quickly overloaded. – Briar Lipson

None of it convinces me from my position that there is no “I” in meat but if you look closely you will find the words me and eat.  That should be good enough to convince tree huggers and hippies that they should be switching back to natural. – Cactus Kate

It [managerialism] undermines the ability of state services to help citizens, but empowers it to infantilise us.

We’re discouraged from acting on our own, and forced to bow to experts. Yet systems and fancy talk prevent experts taking substantive action for fear of career, safety, or arbitrary consequences for taking the “wrong” action. In these environments, there are no career prospects for heroes.  Mark Blackham

It used to be that people joined the Labour Party to make their lives better off. Now they join to make someone else’s life better off. – Josie Pagani

If all the new Tory voters wanted was more from the state and more lecturing on how to live their lives, they would have voted for Labour. These voters want a hand up, not a handout. If you give people things and make them reliant upon the state then next time they will vote for those who will give them more things. – Matthew Lesh

. . .It matters because the still-cherished principles of secular humanism, which continue to inspire the multitude of moral arbiters who police social media, come with provenance papers tracing them all the way back to a peculiar collection of Jews and Gentiles living and writing in the Roman Empire of 2,000 years ago. Ordinary human-beings who gathered to hear and repeat the words of a carpenter’s son: the Galilean rabbi, Yeshua Ben-Joseph. Words that still constitute the core of the what remains the world’s largest religious faith –  Christianity.

It matters, also, because, to paraphrase Robert Harris, writing in his latest, terrifying, novel The Second Sleep: when morality loses its power, power loses its morality. Chris Trotter

Whatever the reasons, it saddens me that the spiritual dimension of Christmas has withered as it has. Because the nativity story literally marks the beginning of a faith which, whatever the woke folk may say, is a core piece of our heritage and the foundation of our morals, manners and laws. For that reason alone, it has a place on Christmas DayJim Hopkins


Rural round-up

August 1, 2019

Rural folk – defend yourselves – Robin Greer:

As a proud Southland dairy farmer the wellbeing of our rural families concerns me greatly.

They are constantly bombarded with the hypocrisy of extreme groups and some ministers in our Government.

Many use mistruths to persuade people agriculture needs to be removed from the New Zealand landscape.

We have ministers in the Government who hate dairy farmers and their legacy is to deal with us.

Many of the statements made by some of these people would be called hate speech had it been directed at a different group of the community but farmers are fair game. . . .

First women to graduate from world-leading irrigation design programme :

The latest group of graduates in New Zealand’s Level 5 Certificate in Irrigation Design include the first two women to have done this course.

New Zealand is the only country in the world to have a national qualification in irrigation design.

“IrrigationNZ is proud to have been part of successfully graduating these students from this important course – which will become critical as farmers and businesses increasingly need state-of-the-art irrigation systems to demonstrate efficient and sustainable use of our shared water resources,” says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Elizabeth Soal.

“The qualification recognises the specialist skills needed to design technically efficient and environmentally sustainable irrigation systems. . .

New Zealand must learn to talk about ‘evolving technologies’ – Sir Peter Gluckman – Eric Frykberg:

New Zealanders should get to grips with gene technology and not bury their heads in sands of short-term thinking, according to one of this country’s leading scientific thinkers.

Sir Peter Gluckman is a former chief science adviser to the prime minister, who has held many academic posts and currently heads a multidisciplinary think tank at Auckland University.

In a speech to the annual conference of Horticulture New Zealand, Sir Peter said New Zealanders must seriously debate evolving technology such as gene editing, and not leave it mired in rhetoric, and conflated with politics.

Sir Peter told his audience there had been centuries of change in organisms’ genetic make-up, which was speeded up with gene transplants in the 1970s. . . 

Third time lucky for winners – Luke Chivers:

Romney genetics and consistency guide Brian and Anna Coogan’s farming philosophy. They told Luke Chivers about winning the annual, national ewe hogget competition.

Convinced by his wife Anna to enter the national ewe hogget competition Brian Coogan has walked away with the top honours.

The Taihape farmer took out the Romney and flock performance sections, finishing just 0.33 of a point ahead of runners-up Allan and Leeann Woodrow of Waikana before going on to win the overall breeds supreme award in the 23rd annual event in Christchurch. . .

Value of red meat exports up by eight percent :

The value of red meat exports of sheep, beef and co-products increased by eight percent to $8.8 billion for the year to June 2019, according to the latest analysis from the Meat Industry Association.

More than 399,470 tonnes of sheepmeat was dispatched, similar to 2018 volumes but the value of these exports increased by six percent.

For beef, export volumes were up by nine percent to more than 453,202 tonnes with a 13 percent increase in value. Co-products exports increased by five percent. . .

Global meat-eating is on the rise, bringing surprising benefits

Things were different 28 years ago, when Zhou Xueyu and her husband moved from the coastal province of Shandong to Beijing and began selling fresh pork. The Xinfadi agricultural market where they opened their stall was then a small outpost of the capital. Only at the busiest times of year, around holidays, might the couple sell more than 100kg of meat in a day. With China’s economic boom just beginning, pork was still a luxury for most people.

Ms Zhou now sells about two tonnes of meat a day. In between expert whacks of her heavy cleaver, she explains how her business has grown. She used to rely on a few suppliers in nearby provinces. . . 

Livestock grazing is vital ‘interference’ to boost biodiversity, new Plantlife study finds – Ben Barnett:

Livestock grazing has a crucial role to play in addressing a dramatic decline in biodiversity-rich wildflower meadows, according to a prominent botanist who warns that totally abandoning land to nature will do more environmental harm than good.

By allowing nature to ‘rewild’ landscapes unchecked, three-quarters of the UK’s most threatened species would decline or disappear altogether within just three years, Dr Trevor Dines said.

Environmentalists have called for the so-called rewilding of parts of the countryside to address historic environmental damage and to help absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but habitats such as wildflower meadows need sufficient levels of grazing and management to prevent them from being lost, Dr Dines said. . .


Retreat from reason

April 29, 2019

Professor Elizabeth Rata warns about the retreat from reason:

‘Critical times as a species’. These are extreme words, made more powerful recently by their author, Sir Peter Gluckman. Such language is usually, and rightly, used for climate matters so given the strength of his words we need to ask what on earth is going on with our social world.

A surge in an ongoing spat with academic colleagues provides a perfect example of the subversion of knowledge and its replacement by the ideological isms that Gluckman spoke of. These are the ideologies that strengthen in-groups, that draw on the culture of folk knowledges to justify their claims to truth.

Modern society had found another way to understand what it is to be human. We have, in only a few hundred years, developed a new language of reason, one replacing in-group beliefs, one enabling us to communicate across historical and cultural differences, one which has made democracy possible.

Reasoned communication is the way across the divide of difference. It requires leaving the past and its animosities behind. But this is very difficult. The past gives us a sense of security and belonging. The institutions of modern society which unite us don’t have the same pulling power as the rallying cries of the isms. No wonder ethnic nationalisms, nativisms, and populisms with their ‘us not you’ and ‘our culture not yours’ are winning out. Unexamined belief is more satisfying than reason – and its easier.

Those isms might unite people who fit the label, but they divide groups from the whole by focusing on differences rather than our common humanity.

But back to the spat. The names aren’t important although I must confess to being one of the parties. It’s a spat that would be of no interest whatsoever if it didn’t neatly capture the anti-knowledge movement of our times. What’s more, it shows how the ‘isms’ are now in the university, the very institution that should give us trust in knowledge. So what’s going on? In May, the Waikato Journal of Education will publish a superb example of anti-knowledge. It’s not very kind to me but that’s OK. I happily accepted the invitation to respond to the article using it as an opportunity to write about what has happened to knowledge. Surely this is the conversation that Gluckman wants – using reason as the conduit for engagement across difference. Unfortunately the conversation can’t happen. Why not?

For reasoned conversation to occur there needs to be agreement about reason itself. The premise informing all modern knowledge is that there is a reality which exists independently of us, the ‘knowers’. What’s more, we can know this reality.

Our intellectual activity is how we seek the truth of the natural and social worlds. Belief isn’t enough. But what happens when the premise of objective knowledge is rejected, when we say that the world is not independent of the person who knows it, and that we can’t use reason to understand it? This is the case with the article in the Waikato journal. For the authors there is an unbreakable knower-knowledge tie. They insist that there is no independent knowledge for us to share universally, that how we know something is always tied to who we are, and who we are comes from our culture. But without the idea of universal knowledge which is beyond culture we are doomed to talk past each other.

This sort of thinking – or should that be feeling? – takes us back centuries to when beliefs rather than facts held sway.

The knowledge spat used to surface in university circles (think the late Professor Peter Munz’s critique of Linda Smith’s book about indigenous methodologies), though less so now that cultural ‘ways of knowing’ are accepted, even by such august bodies as the New Zealand Royal Society. The Society should know better of course but the belief that knowledge belongs to the knower is a premise of the new dominant ideologies; of ethnic nationalisms, nativisms and populism, and the Society has succumbed.

We no longer trust in reasoned knowledge. Gluckman says: ideas are not contested civilly, people are attacked, falsehoods multiply. He’s right. The current era of enlightened reason may well be over unless we recognise what is happening. Reasoned conversation is needed more than ever, but when knowledge is tied to the knowing group, universal reason no longer allows us to converse across groups. By abandoning reason we are endangering our future as a species. We are certainly abandoning what makes democracy possible. Given that the knowledge-knower belief now underpins New Zealand’s localised curriculum our retreat from the idea of universal knowledge will be accelerated. Our educational institutions are the first to fall. Others will follow.

This is alarming.

Educational institutions, universities in particular, should be places where ideas can be debated, questioned and tested; where arguments should be well thought out, be using and settled by, reason and facts.

They should be active in advancing knowledge based on research and science, not belief.

If they are not they are no better than the sad places on social media where arguments degenerate into personal abuse, where feelings matter more than facts and emotion is a substitute for reason.


Rural round-up

September 29, 2018

Five things to know about the future of farming – Eloise Gibson:

Sir Peter Gluckman issued a flurry of reports in his last few months as Prime Minister’s science adviser. His final report to Jacinda Ardern made some striking points about the future of farming. Eloise Gibson digested the five main issues.

Methane matters

Don’t be fooled by anyone implying that methane doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things – cutting methane is crucial to New Zealand’s efforts to slow climate change. That, in essence, was one of the key messages from Gluckman’s final report to Jacinda Ardern.

Whether to ignore, eliminate or “stabilise” methane, the single biggest climate impact from cattle farming, has been major feature of debate about New Zealand’s proposed Zero Carbon Bill. . .

American farmers don’t need subsidies – Garland S. Tucker III:

Margaret Thatcher is said to have quipped, “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” New Zealand has discovered that this result may not be all bad. In the mid 1980s, New Zealand faced bankruptcy. The tab for years of socialistic policies had finally come due. The Labour government was forced to act quickly and drastically to cut expenditures. 

The New Zealand economy was — and still is — heavily dependent on agriculture. Farmers and farm prices had been subsidized for years through a multitude of government programs. In 1984, the government eliminated over 30 subsidy programs, not gradually, but overnight. The ruling Labour Party predicted an economic disaster. They foresaw a mass exodus of farmers and fully expected to be forced to reinstate some type of subsidy program . .

Central Otago shearer to receive recognition – Pam Jones:

Central Otago’s shearing industry will honour one of its own in a double-billing today.

Alexandra woolhandler and shearer Pagan Karauria will not only be recognised as a Master Woolhandler at the annual New Zealand Merino Championships, but will also feature in a film about the shearing industry being launched in Alexandra.

Karauria is profiled in the film She Shears, which is about five women working in the shearing industry. It will screen at the Otago Daily Times Theatre in the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery this afternoon at 4pm.

She will be present for the screening and take part in a question and answer session afterwards. . .

Teddies, a trophy and Trans-Tasman rivalry – Pam Jones:

It features shearing and woolhandling royalty, alongside “teddy bear” novices.

And there is also some “good old-fashioned” transtasman rivalry to boot, as Australasia’s best compete at this weekend’s New Zealand Merino Shearing Championships in Alexandra.

Up to 200 shearers and woolhandlers were competing at the two-day event, including Damien Boyle, of Australia, who had won the event’s open shearing category seven times, event organising committee member Graeme Bell said. . .

NZ export log market hurt by US trade war with China: – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand’s export log market took a hit from the trade dispute between the US and China as the declining value of the yuan crimps the buying power of the country’s largest log market.

The average price for New Zealand A-grade export logs dropped to US$133/JAS from US$141/JAS in August, and US$145/JAS in July, and is now the lowest since June 2017, according to AgriHQ’s Forestry Market Report for September. . .

Renewable diesel – an opportunity for the forest industry:

Most people in New Zealand are not aware that technology has been commercialised in the United States for the production of fully drop-in renewable diesel made from cellulosic feedstocks. This renewable diesel is a direct substitute for mineral diesel and meets all of the New Zealand specifications other than density (kilograms per litre). But it makes up for that by having a high energy density per kilogram so that the amount of energy per litre of fuel is equal to, or in some cases better than, that of fossil fuel diesel. . .

Cavalier to sell scouring interest, focus on carpets: – Gavin Evans:

Sept. 27 (BusinessDesk) – Cavalier Corp is close to selling its stake in New Zealand’s only wool scourer as part of a plan to reduce debt and free up capital to invest in carpet manufacturing.

The firm owns 27.5 percent of Cavalier Wool Holdings, alongside global giant Lempriere Wool, Accident Compensation Corp and Direct Capital. The scourer, known as CWH, operates plants in Napier and Timaru with a combined capacity of 100 million kilograms annually. . .

King Salmon braced for ‘disappointing’ fish farm relocation decision –  Pattrick Smellie

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand King Salmon hopes it will be allowed to move around half of nine square hectares of its Marlborough Sounds fish farms to better locations, but is braced for a “disappointing” outcome for both the company’s growth and environmental outcomes.

Speaking to BusinessDesk at the Aquaculture New Zealand conference in Blenheim, NZKS managing director Grant Rosewarne expressed frustration at the likelihood of a “sub-optimal outcome”. . .

Coromandel dairy farmers lead the way through new genetics:

In 1995 Andrew and Maree Palmer saw the value of being part of CRV Ambreed’s progeny testing programme so jumped on board and haven’t looked back.

Andrew and Maree have had a hand in developing many generations of daughter proven sires.

Today, they’re still part of the herd improvement company’s progeny testing programme and reckon they’re doing their bit to strengthen the value of the national dairy herd. . .


We need to talk about GM

September 24, 2018

We need to talk about genetic modification, former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says.

Sir Peter Gluckman says the debate over whether to use genetically edited grasses to combat greenhouse gas emissions is more philosophical than scientific.

It’s also more emotional and political than rational.

The former Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay about his report released this week in which he suggests New Zealand needs to have a “national conversation,” about using GMOs in agriculture.

“What I’ve raised in the report is just that if we’re serious about climate change, if we’re serious about environmental protection, if we’re serious about a reduction in predators and protecting biodiversity, we perhaps need to think again about whether the technologies which are increasingly being used offshore have got a role to play in New Zealand.” . . 

There are widespread calls for farmers to play their part in reducing emissions but many of those agitating for that are also opposed to allowing GM.

It is a tool widely used in other countries that is being denied to New Zealand farmers.

Mackay wonders if consumers will want to eat products from animals that have grazed on genetically modified grass, but Gluckman says this is already happening.

“Around the world consumers are eating lots of meat and lots of milk that are coming from genetically modified crops now … it’s been going on at least for a decade broadly around the world.”

It’s also in a lot of the food we’ve been eating for years. Most corn and soy that we import will have come from GM crops.

Gluckman says the issue is more “philosophical rather than a scientific debate” with a number of countries ruling that gene editing does not need the same regulatory controls as gene modification, but “other countries are not so certain.”

Gluckman believes there needs to be a discussion around the use of GM grasses before New Zealand begins testing them.

“I think that in theory it’s possible in New Zealand. It’s just that in practice it’s not possible and I think one would need a much broader national conversation to look through the issues which are largely more philosophical and values-based than they are scientifically based.”

We saw huge areas of corn when we were in Colorado and Nebraska on an IrrigationNZ tour 10 days ago.

All of it was genetically modified.

Farmers there have been producing GM crops for years with no problems in the field or in the market.

They told us it had both economic and environmental benefits. It yielded better and required fewer chemicals to grow.

AgResearch is trialing GM grass in the USA because it can’t do it here. The grass has the potential to make a significant reduction to methane emissions.

Opponents of the technology say it could risk our reputation for producing clean and green feed.

Surely the risk our competitors will be gaining the benefits of GM grass and marketing their meat as cleaner and greener is even greater.

Science is rarely 100% settled. But after decades of use in many countries there has been no evidence of any problems with GM that would put our farming at risk, and plenty of evidence of the benefits.

New Zealand needs to start talking about GM and the  conversation must be based on science and facts, not emotion and philosophy.


Rural round-up

September 16, 2018

No answers and more mystery animal killings in South Island :

The identity of a South Island livestock killer remains a mystery.

Nine months ago Peter McLeod, who farms in Kauri Bush near Dunedin, was left with nine dead lambs – cattle from neighbouring farms were also shot and killed.

But the culprit was never caught.

Earlier this week three newborn lambs were killed in Mosgiel, bringing back bad memories for Mr McLeod. . .

B+LNZ welcomes Sir Peter Gluckman’s report on agricultural emissions:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) welcomes the final report from the Prime Minister’s former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman which effectively endorses B+LNZ’s approach for individual farm plans as a tool for helping the agricultural sector play its part in combating climate change.

In May of this year in launching its Environment Strategy B+LNZ set itself two ambitious goals – for the sheep and beef sector to be carbon neutral by 2050 and for every farm to have an active farm plan by the end of 2021. . .

Women want more time off-farms:

Rural women want more time off-farm, better sleep and more exercise to improve their wellbeing, a Farmstrong survey has found.

More than 800 farming women did the survey online or at in-depth, face-to-face interviews.

“There was also a high interest in other topics that Farmstrong focuses on including nutrition and thinking strategies to deal with the ups and downs of farming,” Farmstrong project manager Gerard Vaughan said.

“Some of the other topic areas that the survey revealed women are interested in include mindfulness, relaxation techniques, self-confidence and self-compassion.  . .

First NZ lifts Fonterra Fund to neutral; ComCom reiterates doubts on milk price asset beta – Rebecca Howard:

 (BusinessDesk) – First New Zealand Capital lifted its rating on the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund to ‘neutral’ from ‘underperform’ and said the first signs of a change in approach look encouraging.

Fonterra’s full-year loss was disappointing but “with the recent changes in board chair (with annual election of three directors coming up) and CEO (interim) it was encouraging to see FSF take no time in fronting up and acknowledging the issues,” analyst Arie Dekker said. . .

Moths to combat horehound:

Two moths may now be imported into New Zealand to combat invasive horehound, following a decision by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

The Horehound Biocontrol Group, a collective of farmers whose crops are infested with horehound, applied to introduce the horehound plume moth and horehound clearwing moth to attack the weed. Its application was supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) sustainable farming fund. . .

OneFortyOne announces intention to purchase Manuka Island forest estate:

Australian forestry company, OneFortyOne (OFO) has announced its intention to purchase the Manuka Island forest estate in the Wairau Valley near Blenheim. The proposed purchase is now being reviewed by the Overseas Investment Office.

The Manuka Island estate is approximately 2000 hectares of forest and currently owned by Merrill and Ring. Manuka Island will be integrated and managed as one forest estate by Nelson Management Ltd, the management company for Nelson Forests. . .

On the farm: a guide to rural New Zealand life:

What’s happening on farms and orchards around Aotearoa New Zealand? Each week Country Life reporters talk to people in rural areas across the country to find out.

Te Tai Tokerau, Northland, turned a corner this week, the days were warmer and soil temperatures have lifted. Pasture covers are still a little ratty but in the next week grass will start growing faster than the stock can eat it. . .

Inspiring the next generation of farmers – sense of purpose – Livestock Farming:

We asked influencers in the industry why young people should choose farming as a career, they were both practical and poetic in their responses. The study of agriculture grows in popularity but how do we convey the realities of farming to encourage lengthy careers? As a strong community, it is important to show the enthusiasm and pride we have in our jobs.

RECONNECTION WITH FARMING

With meat and dairy products readily available 24-hours-a-day and even delivered to the door, it’s easy for people to forget about farming origins: “The moment that people domesticated plants and animals, settled down, and began to produce the kind of society in which most of us live today.” There is an evident rift between farming and the food on people’s plates. . .

 


GM could be greener

July 2, 2018

Outgoing Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman says it’s time to reignite the debate on genetic modification.

Speaking on TVNZ 1’s Q+A this morning, Sir Peter told Corin Dann that debate needed to be more constructive and less polarising than it had been in the past.

“The science is as settled as it will be; that is, it’s safe, that there are no significant ecological or health concerns associated with the use of advanced genetic technologies. That does not mean that society automatically will accept them. And what we need is a conversation which we’ve not had in a long time, and it needs to be, I think, more constructive and less polarised than in the past,” he said.

“We’re facing issues of biosecurity; we’re facing issues of predators and the desire to be predator-free; we’re facing the fact that our farming system needs to change because of the environmental impact of the greenhouse gas emissions, the water quality issues, etcetera. We are, fundamentally, a biologically-based economy.

“Now, the science is pretty secure, and science can never be absolute. And everything about life is about rational decisions with some degree of uncertainty. But the uncertainty here is minimal to nil, very, very low. I think it’s a conversation we need to have.” . . 

Anyone who thinks New Zealand is GM free is dreaming.

While GM is tightly controlled here, there is nothing to stop food with GM ingredients being imported and  imported corn and soy products are just two which are likely to have GM components.

Jo Goodhew said in her valedictory statement:

. . .  it is high time New Zealanders woke up to the importance of genetically modified organisms to our future in the fields of health, plant, and animal genetics, and, through that, environmental protection. Gene editing can help us cure cancers, eradicate wilding pines as well as four-legged pests, develop grasses that assist us to reduce methane emissions, and so much more. The debate has to be less about fear of the unknown, and more about safe and proven science. . . 

GM has been around for decades with no evidence of harm to human health or the environment.

GM has the potential to improve human and animal health; food production, reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and provide safer alternatives for disease, weed and pest control than conventional products.

GM could be a greener solution to many problems if, to paraphrase Jo, the debate moved from fear of the unknown to safe and proven science.


Shouldn’t smoke anything in other people’s houses

June 27, 2018

Chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman has found there is no evidence that contamination from smoking meth poses a risk to health.

• Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant used illicitly in New Zealand and around the world. It is obtained either through smuggling into the country, or by being manufactured locally in clandestine laboratories (meth labs). These meth labs may be found in residential dwellings, commercial accommodation, and even vehicles. 

• A dwelling can become contaminated with methamphetamine residues if the drug is manufactured or smoked within it. Smoking usually results in much lower residue levels compared with manufacture. . . 

• Passive, third-hand exposure to methamphetamine can arise through residing in a dwelling previously used as a clandestine meth lab, or where a significant amount of methamphetamine has been smoked. Former meth labs generally have relatively high levels of methamphetamine residue on sampled surfaces (levels greater than 30 μg of methamphetamine per 100 cm2 surface area are thought to be indicative of manufacturing activity). There is some evidence for adverse physiological and behavioural symptoms associated with third-hand exposure to former meth labs that used solvent-based production methods, but these symptoms mostly relate to the other toxic chemicals in the environment released during the manufacturing process, rather than to methamphetamine itself.

• However, there are no published (or robust, unpublished) data relating to health risks of residing in a dwelling formerly used only for smoking methamphetamine. Yet, given the relatively low number of confirmed meth labs found, and the very low average levels of methamphetamine found in most houses that test positive for the drug, most New Zealanders will only ever encounter very low levels of residue that are the result of methamphetamine use. . . 

In the past meth users were evicted from state houses, now Housing NZ will let meth users stay in their houses and try to get them help.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said Housing New Zealand is a landlord for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

He said if the agency discovers a tenant is smoking meth, it will try to help them. . . 

He said the response from Housing NZ now was to treat people using meth as a health issue.

“Under the old government the policy was to make that person homeless – the worst possible thing that you could do.

“If someone’s got a drug addiction problem, you couldn’t do anything more calculated than to make them vulnerable to greater risk in their health, and in fact incurring greater expense to the taxpayer than throwing them out of their home and making them homeless.

“Housing New Zealand is a landlord … they’re not the police.

There is merit in treating drug use as a health issue and  trying to find help for addicts.

But I am concerned that this policy sends a message it’s fine to smoke in other people’s houses.

All landlords have the right to tell tenants they can’t smoke anything – legal or illegal – in their houses.

We have a strict no smoking rule in all our farm houses. One of our sharemilkers goes further, telling his staff the whole farm is smoke-free.

Property owners and employers have a right to do that.

Another thing to remember is that no evidence of harm is not the same as proof of no harm.

Science is rarely settled and regardless of what the research has found, I wouldn’t want to live in a house where people had been smoking meth.


Rural round-up

October 18, 2017

Farmers see land ownership as a privilege – Steve Wyn-Harris:

A society without poets is a sterile and desolate place. Thus, I often read Bruce Bisset’s pieces.

In his column on October 13 he says “Even the No 8 wire ingenuity factor is taking a hit these days because of the alleged urban/rural divide – a divide almost entirely in the minds of farmers, arising only because they are reluctant to face the fact the industrial farming model they’ve bought into is a land (and water) killer.”

For a poet this is a remarkably long sentence possibly reflecting a pay per word incentive and impressively links farming ingenuity, urban/rural divides and the evils of industrial farming into one thought. A performance even crazy and erratic Byron and Pushkin would be proud of. . . 

Farmers decry stock on roads bylaw – Logan Church:

Farmers on Banks Peninsula near Christchurch are concerned about the effects of a proposed bylaw that would regulate the movement of stock on some roads.

Cows and sheep walking in mobs down the district’s roads has been a common sight for years, an easy way for farmers to move them from one land parcel to another.

Tim Coop’s family had been farming on the Banks Peninsula for over a century, and said the tighter rules would make it more complicated to move them on some neighbouring public roads.

“It would mean a lot of extra costs with pilot vehicles on very low speed, low volume roads,” he said. . . 

Gluckman speech identifies challenges and opportunities in clean, green synthetic foods:

New Zealand’s chief scientist says synthetic foods pose a real threat to agricultural exporters, but better regulation of genetic modification could create an equally large opportunity.

Speaking to the NZBio Conference in Wellington, the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, said the main threat to New Zealand’s economy was from synthetic milks, such as the yeast-based milk created by San Francisco company, Perfect Day.

“I think if there is an existential risk for New Zealand, this is where it lies,” he said. . . 

T&G Global looks to sell food processing T&G Foods unit – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – T&G Global, the fruit marketing firm controlled by Germany’s BayWa, wants to sell its food processing subsidiary T&G Foods as the apple processing business has been hurt by a decline in fruit volumes and a slide in apple juice concentrate prices.

The company reviewed the unit’s operations and determined it’s non-core and consequently should be either sold, rationalised or closed, it said in a statement. Expressions of interest close on Nov. 15. . . 

Women are only good for . . . My Busy Country Life:

This is a subject that from time to time plays on my mind and I know as I write it I will possibly have a hit put on me for not standing by my fellow females. I was born and raised on a farm and from a very early age I was never made feel I couldn’t do anything on the farm I wanted to do, I was never told I should stay inside or that a farm wasn’t really a place for a girl/woman. I went everywhere with my dad from sheep sales to shows and never did I feel I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been. As I got older more and more responsibility was given to me and I was left at times to deal with vets or cattle dealers and what I said to them stood and I was always backed by my Dad. I grew up knowing that I was equal to any man if I so chose to do a certain job from driving a tractor to lambing ewes and all the men I dealt with treated me the same.

I now live with a house of men and I still feel I am treated as an equal, I am not given any special treatment because I am female and am expected to muck in when needed as is everyone else. . . 


Rural round-up

October 17, 2017

New version of capitalism coming, rural-urban bridges have to mend: Bagrie – Gerald Piddock:

New Zealand’s economy is in a transition of old economic drivers stepping aside for a new “social-justice” version of capitalism.

The three big engines that had driven the economy – migration, construction and tourism – had peaked and would make way for a new version of capitalism, ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said.

That form of capitalism would feature a higher level of government spending following tight controls in the National-led government, he told farmers and agri-business people at the launch of the 2017 Fieldays Economic Impact Report at Mystery Creek on Thursday. . .

Milking sustainably more than compliance:

With the growing focus on regulation in New Zealand, you could be forgiven for thinking that milking sustainably is all about meeting limits.

But limits are just part of the equation and truly sustainable businesses are striking a balance to get the best out of their farms, their people and the environment. Here, a group of farmers share their experiences of developing a Sustainable Milk Plan (SMP) with DairyNZ.

SMPs were first developed by DairyNZ about five years ago, funded by the farmers’ levy and co-delivered by consultants in areas where the pace of regulation was accelerating. Their primary purpose was to help raise awareness of environmental issues and start a conversation with the farmer about how to move their business to a more sustainable footing – before change was forced upon them. . .

Fonterra trims 2018 milk collection forecast on wet August, September – Paul McBeth:

(BusinessDesk) – Fonterra Cooperative Group trimmed its milk collection outlook for the 2018 season after a wet August and September sapped production, especially in the North Island.

The Auckland-based cooperative lowered the forecast to 1,540 million kilograms of milk solids for the year ending May 31, 2018 from a previous projection of 1,575 kgMS, it said in its latest Global Dairy Update. Fonterra collected 171 million kgMS in September, down 2 percent from the same month a year earlier, while the year-to-date collection slipped 1 percent to 294 million kgMS. . . 

Synthetic foods to have ‘major impact’ within 10 to 15 years – Sir Peter Gluckman – Tom Pullar-Strecker:

New Zealand may need to reconsider its approach to genetically modified crops to respond to the economic threat presented by synthetic milk and meat, the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, has suggested.

Gluckman told the NZBio biotechnology conference in Wellington that great strides were being made commercialising artificial milk and meat, which usually rely on genetically modified (GM) ingredients to enhance their taste or texture.  

He thought most milk sold worldwide in 20 to 25 years could be synthetic, though it might be “some time” before scientists could create a T-bone steak. . . 

Grass-fed steak with a side of environmental enhancement?:

Consumers are to be asked what attributes in beef and lamb are important to them in their purchase decisions in a research project led by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Greenlea Premier Meats and Lincoln University’s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit (AERU).

The research, which will be focused on high market potential states or cities in the US and China, will test consumers’ awareness of New Zealand red meat and gain an understanding of the attributes that are important to them. . . 

Amazing grazing: why grass-fed beef isn’t to blame in the climate change debate – Diana Rodgers:

My inbox has been inundated with people freaking out about recent papers and articles claiming that grass-fed beef is NOT going to save the planet. Basically, these scientists are ignoring important research and not looking at the full picture. While there’s still work to be done, many have proven that yes, in fact, grass-fed beef IS better for the planet.

I’ve found there are three reasons why people are conflicted about eating meat. The environmental argument is just one. We’re also fed a lot of misinformation about the nutritional implications of eating meat and conflicted about the ethics of eating animals. I get it. While I don’t argue for factory farming, I do offer some logical, concrete reasons for why meat, especially grass-fed beef, is one of the most nutrient-dense foods for humans and according to the principle of least harm, large ruminants like cattle are the most ethical protein choice. . .

If you’re thinking about marrying a farmers stop – Uptown Farms:

I’m 400 miles from home, getting ready to walk into a church for a wedding, without my farmer. It’s not the first, nor the last, event I’ll attend without him at my side.

It’s harvest season, which means anything I do that isn’t in the cab of a combine, likely doesn’t involve him.

It’s been almost almost nine years ago since I said, “I do”, and walking into another wedding has me thinking…

If you’re thinking about marrying a farmer, stop. . . 

 


Rural round-up

April 18, 2017

Mentoring part of the prize – Sally Rae:

Papakaio dairy farmer Morgan Easton says he is ”humbled” to win the 2017 Zanda McDonald Award.

The Australasian agribusiness award was launched by the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) Group in
2014.

It was in memory of Australian beef industry leader and PPP foundation member Zanda McDonald, who died aged 41 after an accident at his Queensland property in 2013.

Mr Easton, along with Invercargill-based dairy consultant Jolene Germann and Waiau farmer Henry Pinckney, was initially shortlisted for the award, along with Australians Anna Speer, Will Creek and Airlie Trescowthick. . . 

It’s not just farmers – Neal Wallace:

The country’s senior scientist has called for a more mature conversation on solving water quality issues and an end to the polarised positions that have characterised the debate so far.

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, said to have the pristine environment we all desired would not be achieved without having a conversation “where people are not threatened but will come together and discuss solutions”.

“Where we have gone is groups with extreme positions and people are not listening to each other.”

Farm’s efficiency gain, emissions fall impresses – Sally Brooker:

A South Canterbury farm has proved environmental gains can be made while production improves, scientists say.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand director Bill Wright and his wife, Shirley, have been farming a sheep and cattle property at Cannington since 1991. Their records have allowed scientists to study the profile of greenhouse gases while the farm evolved.

The the last two years’ data also gave insights into nitrogen-leaching.

“Farmers are conscious of their collective responsibilities to restore water quality and minimise their environmental footprint,” Mr Wright said.

“But this is material we are now only learning how to manage in a way that not only protects the environment but provides opportunities to be more productive with less impact.” . . 

Blue Sky left searching for positives after Binxi offer lapses – Allan Barber:

Invercargill based meat processor Blue Sky Meats is trying to put a positive spin on its prospects after being advised by Chinese cattle and meat company subsidiary NZ Binxi Oamaru that its takeover offer would not proceed. The main reason for the decision was failure to receive OIO approval by the 20th March deadline, but Binxi also cited a material adverse change in this season’s performance. As a result Blue Sky has advised shareholders they will continue to own their shares, 96% having already accepted the offer.

The offer for 100% ownership at $2.20 per share placed a value of $25.4 million on Blue Sky compared with a current valuation of just under $15 million based on the last trading price of $1.30. Chairman Scott O’Donnell made the point adverse seasonal conditions are part and parcel of agricultural businesses, while NZ Binxi has asked the OIO to continue to process its application in spite of its withdrawal. It also signalled its possible willingness to reconsider if the OIO were to come through with a positive response. . . 

UK will offer good trade deal :

New Zealand’s farmers and exporters will get a favourable post-Brexit trade pact with the United Kingdom but find a new European Union trade agreement much harder, Lord Sam Vestey believes.

The British peer and former owner of NZ meat processing plants under the name of Weddell until the 1990s was speaking at the opening of the Royal Easter Show in Auckland.

He was chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth and a regular visitor to major shows in NZ. . . 

Southland dairy consultant in the running for Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year:

A Southland woman who only milked her first cow seven years ago is one of three finalists in the 2017 Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year awards.

Jolene Germann grew up on a Waikato sheep and beef farm and had no dairy experience until meeting her husband, Hadleigh, seven years ago. Now, she’s a busy dairy consultant with a full book and is an equity partner and sharemilker on a 200ha, 570 cow dairy farm in Aparima, Southland.

Germann’s husband nominated her for the Dairy Woman of the Year award and says her commitment to environmental sustainability and empathetic leadership style are her stand-out qualities. . . 

Dear Lady at the Bank – Ruby Uhart:

Last fall I went into the bank to deposit checks after we’d sold our calves.  The lady at the front desk wasn’t familiar with the company who had written the check.  I explained to her who they were and that we had sold two loads of calves.

She replied “wow.  I’m in the wrong business.”

At the time, it caught me off guard that she would say something like that and all I could do was chuckle a little and say “no.  You’re not.”

 I’ve been thinking about her all winter and different moments in particular made me wish I had said something to her other than what I replied in my dimwitted moment.  As with all of my best comebacks, they hit my brain later and are told with the story as “what I should have said was…”

So here goes.  Here’s my shoulda, coulda, woulda said….


Rural round-up

November 28, 2016

Aiming for better public science understanding – Jacqueline Rowarth:

Interactions between agriculture and the environment have rarely been so much in the face of the public, and finding a path for the future is proving challenging.

Should New Zealand remain GE-free, ban glyphosate and embrace organics, or should it lead in adopting new technologies to increase efficiencies whilst minimising impact on the environment?

The general problem is that decisions have to be made on issues which arouse high public interest, and where knowledge is incomplete and complexity great. These issues are almost always linked to values, emotions and personal experience — what the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, professor Sir Peter Gluckman, describes as “the political power of the anecdote”. . .

Improved environmental performance to provide long-term strategic value for New Zealand’s agri sector– industry report:

Improved environmental sustainability should provide long-term strategic value to New Zealand’s food and agri sector, according to a recently-released report by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank.

In the report, Sustainable Returns: Finding the value in Environmental Sustainability, Rabobank says two major types of value have been identified for farmers and food & agribusiness (F&A) companies from improved environmental practices – the immediate monetary benefit of these practices (from a price premium) and the long-term strategic advantages that provide growth and prosperity into the future.

Report author, Rabobank rural manager Sustainable Farm Systems, Blake Holgate says the type of value farmers and F&A companies can derive will vary depending on the product they are producing, how they are producing it, where they sit on the supply chain, and who the end consumer is. . . 

Stronger farm partnerships beneficial:

A national programme to increase profitability and productivity of sheep and beef farmers by strengthening farming partnerships is being scaled up to reach 2800 farms.

Since 2014, almost 500 women involved in sheep and beef farming businesses have completed the Understanding Your Farming Business (UYFB) programme, designed and delivered by the Agri-Women’s Development Trust (AWDT).  That included 50 women who last month graduated from the similar AWDT programme for Maori women, Wahine Maia Wahine Whenua.

The four-month programme, funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership , builds business and communication skills, and confidence of farming women, empowering them to view themselves and their farming roles differently and help lift farm performance. . . 

South Island leaders in for Australasian agri-business award

2017 Zanda McDonald Award shortlist announced

Three young agriculturalists from the South Island have made it through to the next stage of the 2017 Zanda McDonald Award. The three – Morgan Easton, a 33 year old farm owner and sharemilker from Oamaru, Jolene Germann, a 32 year old dairy consultant from Invercargill and Henry Pinckney, a 34 year old farm owner from Waiau were selected for their impressive leadership skills, passion for their work and determination to make improvements to the agricultural industry.

The three will head to Brisbane next month for the interview round for a place in the finals. They will be up against Australia’s Anna Speer, CEO of AuctionsPlus, Will Creek, a Stud Manager at Stanbroke and Airlie Trescowthick, a business analyst and managing director of The Farm Table. . . .

In the running for agribusiness award – Sally Rae:

Papakaio dairy farmer Morgan Easton has been shortlisted for the 2017 Zanda McDonald Award.

The Australasian agribusiness award was launched by the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) Group in 2014.

It was in memory of Australian beef industry leader and PPP foundation member Zanda McDonald, who died in 2013 after an accident at his Queensland property.

Mr Easton (33), along with Invercargill-based dairy consultant Jolene Germann (32) and Waiau farmer Henry Pinckney (34), have made it through to the next stage of the award.

The trio were selected for their “impressive leadership skills, passion for their work and determination to make improvements to the agricultural industry”. . . 

New plan to target Mackenzie wilding conifers:

A new strategy for tackling wilding conifers in the Mackenzie Basin has been announced today by Conservation Ministers Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

“Currently, wilding conifers impact on almost a quarter of land in the Mackenzie Basin, and without further control they will spread and take over large areas of farm and conservation land,” Ms Barry says.

“Wilding conifers are a major threat to our ecosystems, land and farms. These invasive self-sown trees spread fast and are very hard to eliminate once established.

“Prevention is the best form of management. Removing young seedlings now, before they start producing seeds, costs less than $10 per hectare, but removing mature trees can cost $10,000 per hectare.” . . .

National milk production down 1.5%:

Despite New Zealand dairy farmers receiving the lowest milk prices in 20 seasons, milk production dropped just 1.5%.

That was one of the New Zealand Dairy Statistics 2015-16 released on November 14 by DairyNZ and LIC. They revealed there were 52 fewer herds and 20,522 fewer cows than in 2014-15.

Dairy companies processed 20.9 billion litres of milk containing 1.86 billion kilograms of milk solids in 2015-16. The previous season, they handled 21.2 billion litres of milk, with 1.89 billion kilograms of milk solids. . . 

Increase in seasonal workers for RSE:

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced an increase in the number of seasonal workers who can come to New Zealand to work in the horticulture and viticulture industry under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

The current cap will be increased by 1,000 from 9,500 to 10,500 RSE workers for the 2016-17 season.

Mr Woodhouse says the horticulture and viticulture industry is New Zealand’s fourth largest export industry, producing almost $5 billion in exports. . . 

Kiwifruit industry welcomes Government decision on seasonal workers:

• 1000 additional seasonal workers for horticulture

• RSE workers support New Zealanders who remain primary workforce

The kiwifruit industry has welcomed the Government’s announcement of an additional 1000 seasonal workers for the coming season.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) Chief Executive Nikki Johnson says the extra workers in the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are essential to support the kiwifruit industry’s strong growth. . . 

Crown Irrigation Invests up to $3.4m in North Canterbury – some good news for the region:

Crown Irrigation Investments will invest up to $3.4m in the Hurunui Water Project, an irrigation scheme that will be capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury.

The scheme infrastructure includes water intakes from the Hurunui and Waitohi rivers, with both on plain and dam storage, and a pressurised piped distribution system. The current project cost estimate is approximately $200 million. . . 

Hurunui irrigation funding welcomed:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming an investment of $3.4 million into the Hurunui Water Project by Crown Irrigation Investments.

“This is fantastic news for North Canterbury after the recent earthquakes and severe drought they have suffered through,” says Mr Guy.

The Hurunui Water Project is a $200 million irrigation scheme capable of irrigating up to 21,000 hectares within an area of around 60,000ha on the south side of the Hurunui River in North Canterbury. . . 

New Zealand Bloodstock – a victim of its own success:

The record turnout for last week’s New Zealand Bloodstock’s (NZB) Ready to Run Sale at Karaka shows our bloodstock industry is still punching well above its weight says Crowe Horwath’s bloodstock specialist Hayden Dillon. As interest from Australian and Asian buyers continues to grow, the sale saw a record number of entries with 552 horses offered, however, this was tempered by a low clearance rate of 60% compared to the 81% of last year’s record-breaking sale, which left a number of vendors taking their horses back home. Dillon, says “the industry should take comfort that this is not a structural issue for the sale, rather growing pains, and NZB and the vendors will be making adjustments as necessary for the 2017 sale.” . . .

The Cambodian farmers paid to protect birds:

Rice farmers in Cambodia are battling falling regional rice prices and a black market that’s been undercutting them.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, together with a firm called Ibis Rice, is offering to pay above market price for the rice.

In return, the farmers must help protect Cambodia’s national bird – the Giant Ibis. . .


Growing economy supports healthy environment

July 23, 2015

Federated Farmers’ president Dr William Rolleston addressed Local Government New Zealand’s conference on how a growing economy can support a health environment:

Farmers and governments around the world worry about food security and climate change. How could we increase our production while mitigating our environmental footprint? How could we build resilience in a changing climate?

If agriculture is to continue its contribution to New Zealand’s economy we must also address the issues of productivity and environmental impact.  We must continue to enhance our economic benefit by increasing productivity, adding value to our current products and developing new high value products.  We must address the risks which exist in the market, in our social licence to operate, in biosecurity (including pests), and in our climate.

It is not axiomatic that economic progress means environmental deterioration.

Rather economic progress is needed to pay for environmental protection and enhancement.

As a farming leader I have looked for solutions which enable economic progress while supporting a healthy environment.  In this way the incentives line up and the need for punitive resource rentals, taxes and similar instruments is obviated.  Let me give you some examples:

  • Nitrogen, whether in chemical fertiliser, organic fertiliser or fixed by legumes is a significant expense on many farms.  It always shocks me just how little is actually utilised in product which moves off farm and how much is lost to the atmosphere and beyond the root zone. These losses contribute to adverse water quality outcomes as well as greenhouse gases.  Interventions which increase the utilisation of nitrogen will result in better environmental outcomes as well as reduced expense for the farmer.
  • It is a myth that water is free.  Farmers pay big dollars to have water reticulated to their farms through their own or other schemes.  The proposed Ruataniwha Dam is a good example. In Canterbury we have seen significant increases in water efficiency through spray irrigation and now precision irrigation.  Research is continuing to improve drought tolerance and water efficiency in the very plants themselves.
  • Soil erosion is a loss of capital from the farming system.  It is not new and it occupied the minds of my farming grandparents on our property for as long as I could remember.  New techniques such as no till agriculture where paddocks are sprayed with herbicide and direct drilled not only increases productivity but retains soil structure helping to preserve this valuable resource from wind and water erosion that ploughing would leave it vulnerable to.
  • Even without putting biological emissions into the Emissions Trading Scheme farmers have improved their carbon efficiency by 1.2 percent per year, for the past decade, through improved productivity.  Not only that though, New Zealand farmers are amongst the most carbon efficient animal protein producers in the world.  In the absence of mitigation tools and any charges on our competitors, penalising farmers to the extent it would reduce biological emissions would mean a movement of production to less efficient producers offshore and an increase in global biological emissions.

So in many areas economic and environmental goals are already aligned which is good business for councils.  But alignment is not always possible and we can’t pretend that human activity does not have an effect on the environment.  Of course it does. Our response could be to wind agriculture back, to reduce production to mitigate environmental impacts but this also has consequences.

We live in a global world whose population continues to expand.  The FAO predict we will need to increase world food production by 60 percent by 2050 to meet demand.  

New Zealand cannot feed the world, but we must play our part.  It would be irresponsible of us to squander or underutilise our resources.  Even if we are only feeding the rich and privileged – the worried well if you like – wetlands and forests will need to be converted to farmland at the bottom end to compensate for this indulgence.  This is not supporting our environmental credentials.

When it comes to resources our Resource Management Act (RMA) works on a first come first served basis.  This works well at the front end.  Decision makers at that point cannot have the foresight to know what the demand for a resource will be.  However first in first served becomes problematic as a resource reaches its limits when a more strategic approach is needed.  Councils have grappled with this.  Creating property rights through tradable quota however this is not the answer.

There is no doubt scarcity through quota creates value.  However this is a double edged sword.  On the one hand increased value can mean increased attention by the custodian, on the other hand that value can be artificial and limit options for more creative solutions.

In Canada for example, milk is produced under a quota system.  Many Canadian dairy farmers oppose free trade because it will erode their quota value.

Creating ownership in water could have a similar outcome where water storage or increased supply may be resisted by the status quo.

But here decision makers have a problem, which the RMA is yet to solve satisfactorily. How do you allow movement of a resource to the best use in an efficient and equitable way without creating a property right that would flow simply to the entity that can afford to pay the most, or worse still, one which is banked to the detriment of the economy and the environment?  How do you allow for new entrants?

Three potential answers lie in resource expansion, science to increase efficient use, and collaboration.

Water storage is a good example of resource expansion and remains at the top of Federated Farmers’ agenda.  

Water storage builds resilience – the trifecta of economic resilience, community resilience and environmental resilience.  It also creates headroom to dissipate the issue of constraint.  The rationale however is still governed by cost.

The Opuha Dam in South Canterbury remains the leading example of water storage for irrigation.  As well as economic benefit the Opuha Dam has increased river flows, generated electricity, provided Timaru City with water as well as recreation for water craft, fishers and campers.

The courage of a few to build the Dam has, through its living example, made possible the Canterbury Water Management Strategy and in turn the Land and Water Forum. The protagonists knew that economic and environmental gain together was possible.

Solutions for Maori economic aspirations in water could well come through water storage.  By contributing to the development of water storage, government can help create the headroom for negotiation and settlement, if such a settlement is justified.  

And note I used the word “contribute”, not “invest”.  We already have Crown Irrigation Investments to address the hurdle of early capital shortfall and the Irrigation Acceleration Fund and these have been welcomed by Federated Farmers.  But there is a case for government to directly contribute to water storage infrastructure, to create headroom for negotiation as I have just said, but also to reflect the contribution water storage makes to the environment and the community.  Consider that at the time the Opuha water was switched off to farmers, 8 cumecs were still flowing to meet environmental needs – four times the natural inflows.
Farmers are willing to pay for the benefit they receive from water storage.

But as I have mentioned water storage also provides the opportunity to improve habitat, increase environmental flows and provide recreation.  Both local and central government should also consider their financial contribution to reflect the public good.

If we are to truly make economic gain while supporting a healthy environment, decision makers need to ensure they get the science right.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this presentation the systems in which we operate are uncertain by their nature and information is often incomplete.  

The Prime Minister’s Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, is concerned that decisions made without the proper application of science can entrench policies which are of little value and are not easily reversible, because there may be a popular or political perception that they are effective when in fact they are not.  I share his concern. 

So our challenge is to ensure regulators, politicians and the judiciary make decisions that are in line with the science, and reflect the uncertainty of the time but are not paralysed by it.

The use of caution in the decision making process is essential, but the activist view of the Precautionary Principle, which in essence says do nothing until all risk is eliminated, is an example of the paralysis which we should avoid.
Decision makers need to distinguish between disagreement between parties and scientific uncertainty.  They need to understand what drives the certainty of any one party and put the uncertainty of experts in context. 

We have some evidence that councils and other decision makers are starting to get it right.

In the discourse on fluoridation, immunisation and 1080 we are seeing the public and decision makers starting to back science and reject the worn out and unsupported rhetoric of the anti-campaigners.

Water is more complex but the same principles apply.    

For some council’s the science surrounding genetic modification has not yet penetrated.  Are they playing a political game hoping central government will play the bad cop and get them off the hook?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that that attempts to duplicate control of genetic modification at the local level is based on scientific fantasy as much as anti-fluoridation, anti-immunisation and anti-1080.  What I do know is that significant biosecurity risks lurk in the garden plants of ratepayers but there is no call for strict liability there.

Is there uncertainty?  Of course there is, but conventional breeding is uncertain too. Do we need regulation? Of course we do, but that regulation should be seated in a competent central government authority and based on the risk not the technology.  

 Opportunities to be pest free, to reduce our environmental footprint, to increase productivity and create new products exist with such modern technologies.  These are the things which will prove our environmental credentials, not labels.  If you as councils want to have economic growth supporting a healthy environment then you need to ensure farmers have choice and access to the modern tools of science such as genetic modification and nanotechnology.

A lot has been said about farming to limits and for councils numbers make decision making much easier.  But I would remind you that the RMA was set up to be effects based and that blunt tools lead to dull outcomes.  We need to remind ourselves that farmers have only been talking nitrogen for about a decade.  The science is progressing quickly.  The challenge for regulators is to ensure that regulations are flexible enough to cope with the evolving evidence and to take account of improvements or reductions in water quality. 

It is my experience that farmers are environmentalists; why else would they dedicate their life to the land and spend over $1billion on the environment in five years? They are also problem solvers.  But they need to understand the problem before buying in.

However to make fast progress it requires strong balance sheets and good cash flows.  While it is unacceptable to go backwards regulators, environmentalists and the public need to understand that the rapid progress made in the last few years cannot be sustained when farmers are making a loss.

A growing economy can support a healthy environment but a shrinking one doesn’t stand much of a chance.  

The best way to achieve both a growing economy while supporting a healthy environment requires sound judgements by councils, with the appropriate use of science, engaging not enraging farmers, providing them with the tools of modern technology and seeking solutions which align economic and environmental outcomes. These are all requirements to grow sustainably.

 The downturn in dairy income isn’t an excuse  to ignore any requirements to be environmentally responsible but it will limit the ability to do more than necessary.

Apropos of the link between the economy and environment, Jim Rose says richer is greener:

The Kuznets environmental curve describes an empirical regularity between environmental quality and economic growth. Outdoor water, air and other pollution first worse and then improves as a country first experiences economic growth and development.

While many pollutants exhibit this pattern in the Kuznets environmental curve, peak pollution levels occur at different income levels for different pollutants, countries and time periods. John Tierney explains:

“In dozens of studies, researchers identified Kuznets curves for a variety of environmental problems.

There are exceptions to the trend, especially in countries with inept governments and poor systems of property rights, but in general, richer is eventually greener.

As incomes go up, people often focus first on cleaning up their drinking water, and then later on air pollutants like sulphur dioxide.

As their wealth grows, people consume more energy, but they move to more efficient and cleaner sources — from wood to coal and oil, and then to natural gas and nuclear power, progressively emitting less carbon per unit of energy. . . “

 Poorer people and countries have other priorities than the environment.

As the economy grows and incomes improve priorities change. The environment becomes more important and they can afford to protect and enhance it.


Rural round-up

May 3, 2013

Challenge goal to boost NZ export earnings – Hugh Stringleman:

Four of the government’s selected 10 National Science Challenges are connected with the primary sector and have potential to boost export earnings, Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says.

However, the need to expand export earnings to the government’s target of 40% of GDP by 2025 was not a specific criterion for selection of the challenges.

Prime Minister John Key’s chief science adviser, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, drew attention to challenge four, called high-value nutrition – developing high-value foods with validated health benefits – as an obvious area where commodities would be enhanced to earn much more. . .

Why only a small number of people will consider working on a dairy farm – Milking on the Moove:

There are 60 new dairy conversions going into Canterbury this year. In This video I discuss how this equates to an extra 250 dairy staff been required, and why most “townies” won’t even consider a job on a dairy farm.

I’m surprised by the extra staff required, but the numbers seem to be logical. . .

60 new dairy conversions in Canterbury for 2013 season

Hey, well I want to talk about dairy farm employment issues. So staffing, of all the issues that the dairy industry face, finding people to milk the cows is the biggest issue. So I was talking to a cow shed manufacturer. He said there’s 60 dairy conversions going into Canterbury this year; and those are new dairy conversions.

60 conversions x 750 cows (cant avg) = 45,000 extra cows into Canterbury 2013

Now the average herd size in Canterbury is 750 cows, so 60 times 750 equals 45,000 extra cows coming into Canterbury this year alone. That’s not including Southland or the rest of the South Island; 45, 000 new cows into Canterbury. . .</>

No PKE from dodgy mills says MPI:

Malaysian officials have confirmed no palm kernel expeller (PKE) has been exported to New Zealand from the processing mill that Federated Farmers has reported concerns about.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is taking the concerns about post-production handling of PKE very seriously, says director plants, food and environment Peter Thomson.

“There are stringent safeguards in place that ensure PKE is safe for use, and MPI is requiring full assurance that these safeguards have not been breached,” Thomson says. . .

O’Connor leaves DINZ in good heart – Annette Scott:

If Mark O’Connor has done something right in his 13 years as chief executive of Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ), it has been employing good people.

He will officially leave his position after the industry’s annual conference later this month and he makes no secret he will miss the people.

“It is a wonderful industry in terms of people – they are a unique bunch. I will certainly miss them. It has been nothing but a joy,” O’Connor said. . .

Irrigator ruts causing accidents:

Centre-pivot irrigator ruts are contributing to the high accident rate amongst groundspreaders.</>

The New Zealand Groundspread Fertilisers’ Association, (NZGFA) would like to see a reduction in recent accident rates amongst groundspreaders.

NZGFA president Stuart Barwood says “we are aiming to make farmers aware of the dangers to groundspread fertiliser drivers and trucks. Centrepivot ruts are a major accident waiting to happen. . .

National Science Challenges are the new black:

Federated Farmers is delighted that New Zealand’s primary industries are well represented in New Zealand’s fiscally upsized National Science Challenges, announced yesterday by Prime Minister John Key and the Minister for Science and Innovation, the Hon Steven Joyce.

“This is significant because we hear talk of creating a technological future and the National Science Challenges are about inspiring this to happen,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“Significantly, the Government has increased its funding by $73.5 million taking the investment to $133.5 million. In an age of constrained spending this deserves praise for its foresight.

“When taken in conjunction with AgResearch’s major investment announcement earlier this week, the National Science Challenges are another tool to break down institutional barriers and foster scientific collaboration and endeavour. . .

Photo: Dam fecking right!


Refocus for Families Commission

May 31, 2012

The Families Commission was a post-election coalition trophy for United Future and I have never been convinced it did anything of sufficient value to justify its existence.

However a new focus announced by Social Develop Minister Paula Bennett could change that:

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman has identified a gap in monitoring, evaluation and research in the social sector.

“This restructure will see the Families Commission take on a new role providing for independent monitoring, evaluation and research to measure the effectiveness of initiatives for families and society,” says Mrs Bennett.

Of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years, the Government will reprioritise a minimum of $14.2 million over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU).

This unit will provide independent monitoring, evaluation and contracting of research on key issues and social sector programmes and interventions.

“There will be a single Commissioner, down from the original seven and the organisation will be governed by a board comprising public sector, philanthropic and academic representatives,” says Mrs Bennett.

The restructure will see the Families Commission’s core function, which is to advocate for families, streamlined through a leaner, more focused structure.

A new Family Status Report will be developed to measure how New Zealand families are getting on.

A further $4 million over four years will be redirected to fund extra parenting programmes and relationship education in schools and the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health programme.

The Government also announced the transfer of responsibility for managing the Growing Up In New Zealand longitudinal study to the new unit.

The study will receive an additional $1.8m from Vote Social Development 2012/2013 financial year.

A focus based on science rather than feel-good factors is a good place to start in ensuring the Commission achieves something worthwhile and gives value for the money it costs.


Mental health intitiative welcome

April 5, 2012

Prime Minister John Key has announced a welcome initiative to help young people with mental health problems:

In a speech in Wellington, Mr Key said the $62 million package was the result of intensive work led by his own department, following an important report from Chief Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman.

The appointment of a science advisor was not merely window dressing. He is having an influence on policy and a science-based influence at that.

“Even mild mental illness can have a wide impact on a young person’s life and on those around them. When the worst happens and a teenager takes their own life, those left behind have a heavy burden to bear.

“I know we can do better for young people with mental illness and that’s why I have personally driven the package of initiatives I am announcing today.”

The Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health package works in four different places:

  • In schools
  • Online
  • In families and communities, and
  • In the health system.

Mr Key said nurses and specially-trained youth workers will be added to lower-decile schools to help identify students who have a mental illness and get them appropriate care. The Positive Behaviour School Wide programme will also be rolled out across all secondary schools to improve the environment young people are learning in.

In return, Mr Key said schools will be asked to take more responsibility for the wellbeing of their students.

“The Education Review Office will begin measuring how well schools are doing when it comes to student wellbeing, and over time we expect them to show improvements in areas like bullying,” Mr Key said.

The Youth Mental Health package also includes several initiatives to modernise the way government reaches mentally ill young people.

“We need to lift our game to keep up with these kids, who are quickly adopting new technology like Smartphones or using Twitter and Facebook,” Mr Key said.

Along with an overhaul of existing mental health resources, new ideas will be sought through a Social Media Innovations Fund to keep providers of youth services technologically up to date.

The package also contains several other initiatives including a lift in funding for primary mental health care, new wait-time targets for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and a new Whānau Ora approach.

“Parents can often find it hard to tell the difference between normal teenage behaviour and mild to moderate mental illness,” Mr Key said.

“To help parents, families and friends we are also going to fund NGOs to get more information out to them about what to look for and where to get help.”

“The Youth Mental Health package fills gaps in our current system and builds on the good work our mental health professionals are already doing in this area.

“We’ll be reviewing all of the initiatives in two years’ time to ensure we are hitting the mark and helping our young people.”

If someone has a physical injury or illness we can usually see they are unwell.

When it’s the spirit that’s broken or mind that’s ill it can be less obvious to other people. Even when family and friends are aware of problems they are usually ill-equipped to help.

There is no one answer to the mental health problems but this package will help address some of the short-comings in current services.

The full speech is here.

FAQs are here.

Information on :health sector initiatives are here;  school-based initiatives are here; on-line initiatives are here; and family and community initiatives are here.


Pharming for farmaceuticals

July 28, 2011

Sir Peter Gluckman says New Zealand is better placed  than other countries to develop health enhancing foods but we are behind in research.

Pharming and the development of farmaceuticals – food as medicine or with health enhancing properties has huge potential, especially in Asia.

We have had some successes with manuka honey and, while it’s not food, merino is a natural, farmed product which is used for compression bandages by Encircle.

But we have a long way to go to realise the potential for farmaceuticals from New Zealand produce.

 

 


Who do we trust?

June 20, 2011

The top three places in the Readers Digest Most Trusted people in 2011 go to scientists:

1. Sir Ray Avery, scientist, inventor, New Zealander of the Year 2010
2. Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister
3. Sir Paul Callaghan, physicist and New Zealander of the Year 2011

That is good publicity for scientists and science, although it is important to keep in mind the survey is biased from the start because participants are asked to rank people already selected not choose them themselves.

The others in the top 10 are:

4. The Hon. Justice Helen Winkelmann, Chief High Court Judge 
5. Roger Hall, film, TV and theatre actor, playwright
6. Bret McKenzie, comedian, actor, and musician 
7. Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, fashion designer
8. Jemaine Clement, comedian, actor, and musician
9. Simon Salt Gault, celebrity chef and MasterChef judge
10. Tony Kokshoorn, Grey District Mayor

Is this the first time a politician has appeared this high?

Certainly other politicians don’t score well:

The Rt. Hon. John Key, current Prime Minister (90);  Paul Holmes, broadcaster (91);  Paul Henry, journalist, radio and TV presenter (92);  Jim Anderton, Progressive Party leader (93);  The Hon. Bill English, Deputy Prime Minister (94); The Hon. Pita Sharples, Minister of Maori Affairs (95);  The Hon. Phil Goff, Labour Party leader (96);  The Hon. Tariana Turia, Maori Party co-leader (97); The Rt. Hon. Winston Peters, New Zealand First leader (98); The Hon. Rodney Hide, Minister of Local Government (99); The Hon. Hone Harawira, activist, and Member for Te Tai Tokerau (100).

Politician isn’t the least trusted profession though, that honour goes to journalists (sigh) and real estate agents. 

Fire fighters, rescue volunteers and paramedics are the most trusted professions (passing quickly over the point that volunteers aren’t professionals).

Participants weren’t asked if they trust this type of survey.


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