Presbyterian approach to recovery prudent

December 24, 2013

The ODT opines:

Even though the Treasury forecasts have been notoriously cautious for many years, there is a general feeling within the business and economic communities that New Zealand is about to start a purple patch of economic growth.

With the economy set to grow by 3.6% in the coming financial year, followed by annual growth of between 2.1% and 2.4% for the following two years, New Zealand’s economy may well be the envy of many in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development. Mr English is rated with restoring the Crown accounts to surplus and doing more than his fair share of the heavy lifting on policy by the publication Trans Tasman. The deputy prime minister has driven reform in the state sector to use resources more effectively and deliver higher quality services. In the House, he has become a commanding performer, blunting Opposition attacks. . .

In past times of good fortune, government finance ministers have come under strong pressure to try to ensure re-election by making big-spending election promises. Those times have hopefully passed. The importance of having a sound economy, the growing of employment, certainty for businesses and households must overshadow the individual ambitions of politicians. . .

We must take the opportunity the sunnier outlook provides to make hay and put away a good harvest like good ants rather than squander it like grasshoppers.

The Southland Times also combines praise with the need for caution:

A slew of economic reports in the past week or two have shown an ever-sunnier view ahead for New Zealand, and especially Otago and Southland.

Business New Zealand’s latest surveys of services and manufacturing sectors showed strong expansion under way across the country but with stellar scores Otago-Southland region far eclipsing all other regions. In Westpac’s survey of regional economic confidence Southland scored second highest. . .

It is not hard to pick the source of the extra optimism here in the south. Take a bow, Mrs Cow. . .

The glow from the white gold is spreading throughout the economy, earning money and creating jobs not just on-farm but in servicing and supplying them and the people who live on them.

Treasury is forecasting economic growth next year of 3.6 per cent.

Barely a day later Statistics NZ announced that a 17 per cent surge in agricultural production had helped growth to hit 3.5 per cent already. Higher than Australia.

We can laugh at that, but it should be remembered that it is not unusual for New Zealand to grow faster than Australia, or even beat them at cricket. The problem is that it always proves a one-off. While the Kiwi economy puts on bursts of speed, the Aussie trucks along steadily and just like the fabled tortoise, wins the race.

Just as on the rugby field, the champion team is the one that performs consistently, week-in, week-out, not the one that plays the occasional blinder, then falls apart a week later. Graphs of New Zealand’s growth rate tend to be too much like Fiordland’s landscape: leaping and plunging in a fashion adventure tourism operators might appreciate but stolid Southlanders should not.

In the past, the attitude of both individuals and Governments has all too often been “Great! Crisis over. Lets go back to the bad habits that created it.”

That would be easy and wrong, not just for individuals but the country.

That is an important  message for the run-up to next year’s election.

A change in government would undo all the good that’s been done and take us back to the over taxing, over spending policies of the Labour-led government which put the country into recession before the rest of the world.

We still carry too much debt. We continue to run nasty current account deficits. And the evidence is that Aucklanders at least have not yet cured their mania for property bubbles.

It is easy to go on a diet, to quit smoking, to start saving for the future. The harder part is to keep doing it. The reward for losing a kilogram is a cream cake. And all too quickly, the old habits return.

The secret to sustained economic success is not a bottle of miracle oil, or a lucky puff of the economic trade winds. It is discipline and perseverance.

Solid southern men and women know that. We should set an example for those northerly types: eat the cupcake, but sell the cream.

We can celebrate the purple patch but can’t afford to squander the opportunities it will provide to strengthen the economy and help people most in need.

As the ODT says:

. . . Balancing the budget is important. Taking on less debt is important. Ensuring business confidence leads to job growth is important. Ensuring social justice remains a key part of the country’s psyche is important. Mr English knows the challenges. In 2014, he must balance the needs of the Government with the needs of the people.

A Presbyterian approach to the recovery is prudent and necessary to ensure we don’t return to the bad habits of the past and to provide weather-proofing to help us withstand the next storms.

The need for this isn’t just economic but social. A strong economy is the only sustainable way to provide first-world health, education and other services that address the needs of the people.


We’re in the final

October 19, 2012

Twelve months is a long time in rugby.

A year ago Otago was in the doldrums, tonight the team beat Tasman 41 – 34 to secure a spot in the final.

Is it too much to hope that Southland will beat Counties Manakau tomorrow to provide a Southern showdown and give Otago a home final?

 


North soaked, south parched

January 5, 2012

While the north has had an excess of wet weather and holiday makers in the southern South Island have been enjoying the sun, farmers in Southland are desperate for rain.

The lush Southland landscape is rapidly turning lifeless and brown.

Dairy farmers are using their winter feed as summer crops fail to sprout, water deliveries to homes are increasing, river levels are dropping and volunteers are rescuing trapped trout as ponds dry out.

As some Southlanders anxiously wait for rain, they have had to take drastic measures to keep their farms and homes running, and as the prospect of rain looks bleak, some farmers have started to panic.

When you’re used to stretches of weeks, sometimes months, without significant rainfalls as we are in North Otago, it is easy to think the Southlanders are over-reacting.

But if you depend on frequent rain as they do there, relatively short stretches of dry weather is as serious as far longer dry spells for us.


A tale of two headlines

July 23, 2011

The Press: Southland lift Ranfurly Shield – last minute drop goal steals shield

Southland Times: Southland’s shield again – late drop-goal gets Stags up


Homes cost less, food costs more

June 21, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Untrue colours

May 30, 2011

Towards the end of my time at high school the board decided on a uniform change.

The grey gym frock which we wore with short sleeved shirts and socks in summer and long sleeved shirts and black tights in winters was to be replaced with a red tartan kilt in winter and a blue dress in summer.

“Blue? Why blue when the school colours were red and black?” we asked.

Those on the right side of the Waitaki River who are interested in rugby, and some who are not, are asking a similar question today: green, why green?

The question comes in response to the decision to change the Highlanders’ jersey from blue, gold and maroon the colours of Otago, North Otago and Southland, to green the colour of um, the grass they play on and some other province.

Respondents to an ODT poll have voted 90% (1321) to 10% (148) to keep the southern colours.

The Facebook page has attracted 1,853 likes and lots of comments including this from National’s Dunedin MP (and rugby referee) Michael Woodhouse:

 . . .  As for this happening because of the many players drafted in from outside the franchise area – sorry to be blunt but it’s not about you! You will leave. The fans won’t. this is about the thousands of fans who support this team through thick and thin over the past 15 years. Not a single one of them relates to anything but blue, maroon and gold. C’mon guys, be big enough to stop or reverse the announcement.

And an online petition has been launched saying:

Tradition and recognition is a huge part of the sport and yet the Highlanders Management seek to dissociate the Highlanders from the region. Sign this petition and Boycott the Force game!

The Highlanders have struggled for several seasons, severely testing the loyalty of fans. This year they’ve had some good wins and have been  regaining  support. This silly change in colours threatens to lose it again.

Have the people behind it spent too much time at the bottom of rucks?


North Otago won – now it’s Southland’s turn

October 9, 2010

North Otago leads the Heartland rugby race for the Meads Cup after a 21-16 win against W(h)anganui in Oamaru this afternoon.

Pleased as I am about that, I won’t be celebrating until the end of the Ranfurly Shield challenge tonight.

I’d back Canterbury against any team from the north but my first allegiance is with teams from the right side of the Waitaki River so I’m hoping Southland holds tight to the shield tonight.

UPDATE: 26-16. Ah well, at least the shield is still on the Mainland.


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