Rural coverage not sparking

May 23, 2017

Technological progress ought to bring better mobile coverage but we’ve found it’s got  worse when we’re on the road.

We used to get good reception up the Waitaki Valley from Duntroon to the Otematata saddle, now it’s intermittent.

State Highway 1 from Christchurch south has suffered a similar drop in reliable reception and on other roads we use often, coverage is no longer consistent.

My farmer and I were blaming new phones and called into a Spark shop to discuss the issue last week.

The helpful young man who served us fired up his computer which told him that the changeover to 3G means rural coverage isn’t sparking as it used to. It’s led to patchy reception in many of the areas where it used to be better.

Friends who use Vodafone and 2Degrees tell us they are faring no better.

This isn’t just a matter of convenience.

Reliable mobile coverage is necessary for many rural businesses and it can also be a matter of safety when there’s an accident or illness.

We’re in desperate need of a bright spark to come up with a solution to improve reception and ensure mobile coverage is at its sparkling best.

 


Rural round-up

April 5, 2017

Kiwi lamb supply helps UK farmers – Colin Ley:

A significant drop in New Zealand lamb exports to the United Kingdom this year has been noted by Scottish farm economist Stuart Ashworth as a key factor in a recent improvement in lamb values on the British market.  

“NZ data suggests that their lamb kill in the run-up to the key Easter period has been lower than last year and exports to the UK and Europe have been running significantly below last year’s levels,” Ashworth said during a press briefing in Edinburgh that focused on how Scotland’s livestock farmers might fare over the next two years of Brexit negotiations.  

While he believed it would be “pretty much business as usual” for the UK’s overseas meat trade in general, he agreed British sheep prices, since the turn of the year, had been at their lowest level for four years. . . 

Impressive line-up for Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year 2017:

Three of New Zealand’s emerging dairy industry leaders are finalists in the sixth annual Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year.

They are Claire Nicholson from Bay of Plenty, Jessie Chan-Dorman from Canterbury and Jolene Germann from Southland.

Claire Nicholson (Ngāti Ruanui) is a Director of Paraninihi Ki Waitotara (PKW) and Chief Executive of Sirona Animal Health, Jessie Chan-Dorman is a Fonterra Shareholders Councillor and a Director of the Ashburton Trading Society, and Jolene Germann is an Agribusiness Consultants dairy consultant and Chair of Rural Business Network Southland.

One of them will receive the coveted Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year title at an awards evening during the annual Dairy Women’s Network conference, this year held in Queenstown, 11-12 May. . . .

Poaching reward no April Fools’ joke – Grant Shimmin:

A Timaru businessman who last week offered a substantial reward in connection with the alleged poaching of rare white tahr has stressed it was not an April Fool’s gag.

Neville Cunningham announced on Friday he was putting up a reward of $25,000 for information leading to a successful prosecution for the poaching of animals on a leased conservation block in the Mackenzie Basin. He asked people with information to contact him directly.

He and business partner Ray Harrington are trying to obtain resource consent for a conservation attraction, where visitors will be able to photograph New Zealand game animals, on the 100-hectare Twizel block. . . 

Pieces of Clydesdale history go under auction hammer in Pirongia – Cailtin Morrby:

It will be an emotional moment for Nick and Jill van der Sande when the auction hammer falls on their original DB Clydesdale wagon.

A selection of heavy and light horse wagons, carriages and gigs will be up for auction at Pirongia Clydesdales at 10.30am on Saturday.

The van der Sande family has owned the Waikato attraction since 1999 and are ready to take a step back. . . 

Dozens of Wisconsin farmers lose their milk contracts – Anna-Lisa Laca:

Imagine walking to the mailbox on a Monday only to find a note from your processor that in one month they will no longer be picking up your milk. That’s what happened to several Grasslands producers in Southern Wisconsin this week.

Grasslands handles the majority of cream sold in Wisconsin. The generic, unsigned letter producers received cited issues selling product to Canada as the reason for their decision to cut ties with some of their producer suppliers, but some producers aren’t buying it. For the approximately 75 producers reportedly being dropped, distance from the milk plant appears to be a factor in determining to kill their contracts.

At press time, Grasslands had not responded to a request for comments. . . 

Primary sector exports continue to grow:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming new figures forecasting that primary sector exports will reach $37.5 billion for the year ending June 2017, up $0.8 billion from the previous December forecast.

“This is the first time the Ministry for Primary Industries has produced a quarterly update of its Situation Outlook for Primary Industries (SOPI) which will give us a more accurate picture during the year,” says Mr Guy.

“Next year overall primary sector exports are expected to grow by 9.7% to $41 billion. It shows we have a strong and diversified primary sector with sectors like forestry and horticulture continuing to do well. It’s also pleasing to see dairy on the rebound after a tough few seasons. . . 

A Man for All Seasons:

Allan Fong, the Pukekohoe market gardener and face of The Fresh Grower, who’s introduced New Zealanders to an exciting menu of versatile and flavourful vegetables, has been recognised as an outstanding leader and innovator winning a prestigious Australasian agribusiness award for all-round excellence.

“Our seasonal selections reinvent familiar veges but with a fresh take and grown to fit the current generation’s values, lifestyles and tastes for natural, convenient, whole foods that are safe and delicious to eat,” says Allan, who runs The Fresh Grower with brother Colin. “We take what are niche or exotic products like baby cos and fancy lettuces or slender broccoli stems and make them readily accessible, mainstream lines that add variety and versatility to every day meals.” . . 

 

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If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying until you’re really screwed.

Dairy farm with options placed on the market for sale:

An easy-to-manage dairy farm near the Waikato township of Pipiroa has been placed on the market for sale.

The 59 hectare flat and fertile property is made up of 14 individual land titles of varying sizes. The farm milks 144 fresian and fresian-cross cows – producing 52,101 kilograms of milk solids last season with a contract to Open Country Dairy – and is located at 1460 State highway 25, Pipiroa beside the banks of the Piako River.

The property’s 47 paddocks are separated with a mix of one and two-wire electric fencing – with a loop race ensuring ease of both stock and farm machinery movement across the land. The farm water source is from a quality council-supplied water line. Bought-in feed has been up to 150 bales of silage over the past two summers to supplement the chicory grown on-site. . . 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand resolutions pass:

Farmers have supported the three resolutions made at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Annual Meeting on 30 March 2017.

They related to changes to the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Constitution, changing the directors’ fees pool and appointing an auditor.

The official results from Electionz.com who conducted the vote on behalf of Beef + Lamb New Zealand are:- . . 

Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees submit joint proposal to enhance broadband and mobile services for rural communities:

Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees today announced a joint proposal to improve rural broadband and mobile infrastructure. The three telecommunications providers have made a submission to the Government for the delivery of high speed broadband and mobile infrastructure using the Rural Broadband Initiative Extension (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot Fund.

If successful, the bid would see Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the project, including a capital contribution of $75m to establish the infrastructure. The investment package also includes the contribution of spectrum, ongoing operating expenditure and other resources required to deliver and run this significant infrastructure deployment programme. This more than matches the Government’s own contribution of $150m, via the Telecommunications Development Levy (TDL). . . 


Rural round-up

October 21, 2016

The causes of the great cheese glut –  Mitch McCann:

There’s a big problem in United States right now. No, not that – America’s got too much cheese.

According to Vox, 453 million kilograms sits in cold storage warehouses across the country.

There’s a few reasons for what’s being labelled “America’s cheese glut”.

Around 2014, China’s economy was growing fast.

They were buying up heaps of US dairy products, like milk powder and cheese.

American farmers stepped up to meet demand, then China’s economy slowed, and with it – cheese sales. . . 

Forestry Industry Helps Grow Kiwi Population:

A new set of guidelines to help forest owners protect kiwi will help increase kiwi population numbers across New Zealand.

The guidelines, created by Kiwis for kiwi’s National Mentor for Advocacy, Wendy Sporle, have also been developed into a short training module to educate forestry crews about on-the-ground kiwi management.

Wendy Sporle has been a Northland farm forester for 40 years and has decades of forestry and kiwi management experience. . . 

Tirau’s iconic sheep, ram, and dog buildings for sale:

After 23 years, the creators and owners of the iconic Sheep, Ram and Dog buildings in Tirau are putting them up for sale.

Sitting on a prime corner on State Highway 1, the buildings have been much-loved  and photographed by locals, tourists and people passing through the town since their creation. 

John and Nancy Drake, the creators and current owners of the buildings, built the sheep back in 1994. . . 

Fonterra Showcases Clean Water Commitments at Global Summit:

All Fonterra manufacturing sites are aiming for globally-leading industry standards for wastewater treatment within 10 years according to COO Global Consumer & Foodservice Jacqueline Chow.

The Co-operative, which uses some 45 million cubic metres of water in processing in New Zealand, currently recycles close to six per cent or an average 2.5 million cubic metres annually.

“As new capacity is built, Fonterra is investing in resource-efficient plants such as our upgraded Pahiatua site which recovers and recycles 90 per cent of condensate from powder processing for irrigation to nearby farmland.” . . .

Extra 3825km2 of cell coverage delivered to rural areas:

An area the size of 450,000 rugby fields has been added to the country’s cell network in just two years, says Communications Minister Amy Adams

Thirty-four new cell towers have expanded coverage by an extra 3825 square kilometres to rural areas previously without coverage.

The new towers are a result of requirements set in the auction of the 700 MHz band of radio spectrum, won by Spark and Vodafone in 2014. Under the auction agreement Spark and Vodafone were required to build new towers in new rural areas in the first five years after the purchase.

“Thirty four towers were completed by the end of the second year, which is four sites more than required by the auction agreement. Seventeen have come online in the last year,” says Ms Adams. . .  

CropLogic Recognised At Annual TIN100 Awards:

Precision agriculture firm, CropLogic, has been named one of the most promising early stage companies at the annual TIN100 Awards announced in Auckland last night.

The TIN100 Awards recognise the leading technology exporters in New Zealand following the release of the annual TIN100 Report. The Report analyses the performance of the country’s largest exporters in the areas of ICT, High-tech Manufacturing and Biotechnology.

CropLogic was amongst ten shortlisted companies including 8i, BioLumic, Engender Technologies, Footfalls & Heartbeats, Hydroxsys, Invert Robotics, Mars Bio-imaging Ltd, Parrot Analytics and Timely. . . 

Entries open for the 2017 New Zealand Dairy Awards:

The window of opportunity to make a difference to your farming career has arrived! Entries will be accepted for the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards from today, Thursday 20th October, until midnight 30th November. Competitions categories include the New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year, New Zealand Dairy Manager of the Year and New Zealand Dairy Trainee of the Year.

All entries are received online at www.dairyindustryawards.co.nz. The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards are supported by national sponsors Westpac, DairyNZ, DeLaval, Ecolab, Federated Farmers, Fonterra Farm Source, Honda Motorcycles, LIC, Meridian Energy and Ravensdown, along with industry partner Primary ITO. . . 

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Those who say you shouldn’t take your work home with you don’t know lambing season.


Pay rise ought to be commended

August 17, 2016

Spark is  introducing a benchmark salary above which its staff are paid.

All non-commission full-time staff will earn at least $40,000 a year, and front-line commission employees who earn a lower base salary will earn an average of $42,000.

If compared to the current living wage of $19.80 an hour, $40,000 a year minimum falls short at $19.23 an hour.

Spark general manager of human resources Danielle George said the company wanted to “do the right thing” for its staff and attract the best talent, as well as contribute to turning New Zealand into a higher wage economy. . . 

“We have revised our entire value proposition, exploring how we can best deliver base pay and meaningful benefits, all designed to meet the needs of a very diverse workforce.”

The new Spark pay policy has benefited more than 250 staff who have received pay increases over the past two years to bring them up to the new level. . . 

That ought to be cause for commendation but the Council of Trade Unions’ Richard Wagstaff doesn’t think so:

“Their $40,000 salary that they’re promoting is actually a little under the living wage which doesn’t really inspire too much in terms of fair pay for people.”

Spark says the pay scheme is a commitment to a higher-wage economy, and once you take into account staff benefits, the overall package is better than the living wage.

“We want to do the right thing for our people and to attract the best people to a career in Spark,” says general manager of human resources Danielle George.

“If that sets a standard that encourages others to follow, that’s got to be a good thing for New Zealand.”

Benefits include credit towards Spark products and services, life and income insurance, flexible working arrangements and interest-free loans to buy company shares. . .

Spark is offering more than $4.00 an hour more than the minimum wage which is $15.25.

Paying that is a legal requirement and it’s reviewed each year, taking into account that increasing it could price some people out of jobs and threaten some businesses. The living wage is an artificial construct which takes no account of what’s affordable.

Another union, the PSA is praising three Wellington mayoral candidates who support the living wage:

The PSA held a forum for candidates which was attended by Justin Lester, Jo Coughlan, Helene Ritchie, Keith Johnson, Andy Foster, Nicola Young and Nick Leggett.

Mr Lester, Ms Ritchie and Mr Leggett confirmed they support the Living Wage for all council workers, including those employed through contractors and council-controlled organisations.

“We’re extremely pleased to hear three candidates plan to build on the good work already done by Wellington City Council towards making this a fairer city”, PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay says.

“The PSA decided to hold this forum to hear from the candidates first-hand about their vision for Wellington – including their stance on local ownership of local services and privatisation.

“Wellington City Council has already taken great strides towards becoming New Zealand’s first accredited Living Wage council since it voted to do so in 2013.
“We know this has the backing of Wellington’s voters – what’s now needed is a mayor and a council that will deliver on the promises and finish the job.”

Do voters really support that and if they do, are they happy to be rated more to pay for it?

Unlike the minimum wage, the living wage takes no account of the value of work being done or the danger that some businesses couldn’t survive if they were forced to pay it.

It’s also based on what a vicar thinks a family of four needs to participate in society which ignores the fact that not everyone has to support a family of four on their wages, and if they do Working For Families would give them a generous top-up if they were on a low wage.

New Zealand isn’t a high-wage economy and that’s a weakness. But the solution is increased productivity and upskilling, not the job-threatening imposition of the so-called living wage.


Rural round-up

June 3, 2016

Dairy price estimates are consistently wrong – Keith Woodford:

As occurs each year, the media have focused on Fonterra’s opening forecast for the coming year, predicted this year to be $4.25, as if it has significant meaning. To put that in perspective, here are Fonterra’s opening forecasts and actual payments for the last five years.
Fonterra price estimates

The overall tendency has been for Fonterra to be over-optimistic by $0.58 c per year. However, the average error in the prediction is $1.27c, ranging from minus $2.60 to plus $1.40. In three of the five years, Fonterra has been out by more than $1.30. . . 

NZ Merino inks 5-year, $45M contract with Italy’s Reda, supplier to Armani, Gucci – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – The New Zealand Merino Company, which markets the nation’s wool to customers on behalf of suppliers, has signed a five-year, $45 million deal to supply fine wool to Italian luxury fabric manufacturer Successori Reda, its longest-ever contract.

The fixed-price contract for 2,500 tonnes of fine wool in the 15.8 to 19.2-micron range effectively locks up supply for all of the qualifying wool that New Zealand will produce over the five-year period, said NZ Merino chief executive John Brakenridge. Previously, NZ Merino’s longest contract period covered three years. . . 

Changes to firearms’ licensing programme will have a major negative impact on rural communities

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is very concerned about the changes to firearms’ licensing, training and testing, being proposed by the Mountain Safety Council (MSC). The MSC executive has been announcing these changes in a series of road shows around the country. Volunteer instructors are being told their services are no longer required.

The current MSC Firearms Safety Programme has about 480 volunteers with significant hunting and shooting experience. They are based in 150 locations in New Zealand. MSC propose to significantly reduce the number of trainers and the number of locations. . . 

China ‘a big country with lots of different moving parts’ – Tony Benny:

A group of Silver Fern Farms shareholder suppliers are back on their farms following a week-long tour of China where they discovered just how complex the market there is. Tony Benny joined them on tour.

As a 30-strong group of New Zealand farmers, Silver Fern Farms staff and guides – and including three reporters – streak into central Shanghai from Pudong airport aboard the Maglev train, the display in the carriage reads 315kmh.

They’re on the world’s fastest train service, even if this morning it’s down on its usual top operating speed 431kmh.  It will deliver them into a city of 36 million people, the sophisticated, vibrant and stylish heart of shipping and finance in China. . . 

Separation of South Island eel stock:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced changes to quota management for eels in the South Island which will see the current single stock split into two – longfin and shortfin eels.

“Longfin eels are more vulnerable to environmental and other factors, compared to shortfin eels. Therefore it’s important to manage the two species as separate stocks with their own catch limits and sustainability settings,” says Mr Guy. 

“It means we can take into account the different characteristics and value of each species when setting limits, and take a more precautionary approach to longfin eels which are more vulnerable. It is also consistent with how eels are managed in the North Island and the Chathams.”   . . 

Agreement will build a stronger future for the golden breed:

Two organisations committed to the Jersey breed are joining forces and expertise to breed even better dairy cows into the future.

The breed society, Jersey New Zealand, and herd improvement company, Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), have signed an agreement to work together to jointly select and prove the genetic merit of additional top young Jersey bulls.

The programme will add eight extra bulls to LIC’s current Jersey breeding programme, and will statistically lift the rate of genetic and productive gain for the breed within the industry. . . 

Farm Environment Trust Head Steps Down After Ten Years:

New Zealand Farm Environment Trust general manager David Natzke is stepping down after a decade at the helm of the organisation that administers the highly successful Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

New Zealand Farm Environment (NZFE) Trust chairman Simon Saunders said Mr Natzke has made a huge contribution to the Trust since his appointment in March 2006.

“Under David’s management the Trust has developed into a highly professional organisation that has grown the Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) into one of our primary sector’s premier events.”

Mr Natzke worked with trustees to manage the Awards programme and expand the list of Trust activities. . . 

RBI cell tower completion boosts rural coverage:

Communications Minister Amy Adams today announced the completion of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) Phase 1 new tower programme with 154 new cell towers now built ahead of schedule.

Ms Adams was on site to celebrate the completion of the programme in Waipu, and said that under the RBI, nearly 300,000 rural families and businesses are now able to access high speed 3G and 4G broadband services.

Under original specifications, the fixed wireless broadband service was to provide at least 5Mbps peak download speeds. Recent testing shows the 4G service is delivering speeds nine times faster than originally promised.. . .

Kiwi Farmers plough through the most 4G data:

Spark has found that farmers and the rural sector are consistently the highest users of 4G data across all of New Zealand.

When analysing data traffic over the last month, Spark’s cell towers in both Waiuku and Te Puke show the highest use in all of New Zealand. Farmers and rural residents in these two locations are consistently using over 1 terrabyte of data every week – which is the equivalent of watching 1000 hours (or nearly 42 days!) of non-stop online TV content like Lightbox each week.

Other rural sites including Pukekura, Te Awamutu, Pukekohe and Te Kawa also rank extremely high in 4G data usage, demonstrating that Kiwi farmers are now using mobile technology to enhance their businesses – whether that’s at the farm-gate, on the road or in the paddock. . . 


Rural round-up

August 29, 2014

Synlait Milk receives MPI approval:

Synlait Milk has received approval of its Risk Management Programme from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for its dry blending and consumer packaging plant.

The approval enables Synlait Milk to now pack and export retail-ready product from its manufacturing site, having met the New Zealand food safety requirements of the Animal Products Act 1999.

The only exception is for exports of finished infant formula to China. Documentation required to support Synlait Milk’s application for registration as an exporter of finished infant formula to China was sent to the Chinese regulatory body today by MPI. . . .

Beef + Lamb NZ expenditure on overseas promotion under review – Allan Barber:

Next year sheep and beef farmers will have their five yearly referendum under the Commodity Levies Act when they get to vote on whether they wish to continue funding Beef + Lamb New Zealand as their industry good body.

It was a fairly close run thing last time and actually resulted in the motion to continue with wool promotion being defeated, although this is now back on the agenda. However there is obviously some nervousness about the likely outcome of the next referendum, although this may be unfounded if farmer returns continue to be positive

One element of B+LNZ’s activity which tends to provoke debate among farmers is the use of funds for overseas promotion. Within the last 20 years, and especially more recently, there has been an agreement within the meat industry that promotion should be jointly funded by MIA members and B+LNZ. . .

Westland farmers braced for hard season:

Farmer-shareholders of the dairy cooperative, Westland Milk Products, will be watching spending very closely as the country’s number two dairy cooperative has cut 60 cents per kilogram of Milksolids (kg/MS) to a range of $5.40 – $5.80 kg/MS before retentions.

“Given Fonterra’s hold on its benchmark payout forecast, this isn’t exactly the best news to go into spring with,” says Renee Rooney, Federated Farmers West Coast Dairy Chairperson.

“The fact the world produced seven billion litres of milk for export in the first half of 2014 isn’t a secret and hasn’t happened overnight, so this further revision is disappointing. . . .

TNZ and NZ Winegrowers sign MOU:

Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand Winegrowers have today announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to jointly promote New Zealand as a visitor destination and premium wine producer internationally.

The two-year MOU will see the organisations formalise their activity to enhance both brands, ultimately driving more visitors to New Zealand and increasing the sales of New Zealand wine in key markets.

The MOU was jointly signed by Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler and Phillip Gregan Chief Executive Officer for New Zealand Winegrowers, at the wine organisation’s annual conference in Blenheim.

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says that the MOU will see both parties work together to leverage and enhance each other’s international profiles. . .

 

Possum-fur yarn makes double debut at NZ Fashion Week

Wellington yarn maker, Woolyarns New Zealand were rapt to find out this week two designers, Zambesi and Maree MacLean, are featuring their luxury possum fur product, Perino in collections for New Zealand Fashion Week 2014.

Up until now the luxury yarn has been used exclusively in the tourist market. Woolyarns NZ Marketing manager Jimad Khan says the move into high fashion is an exciting development for the company.

Both Zambesi and Maree MacLean are using the top-end yarn as features in their New Zealand Fashion Week collections.

“Zambesi is very keen to source local, sustainable product and on being approached by Woolyarns New Zealand got excited by the idea of possum yarn,” says Zambesi designer Dayne Johnston. . . .

Spark brings high speed mobile broadband to rural New Zealand:

Spark New Zealand announced today that it has begun its rollout of 4G services on the recently acquired 700MHz spectrum in the Waikato, enabling 12 sites with 4G in the region.

Following a successful trial earlier this year Spark, in conjunction with Huawei Technologies has now livened up sites with 4G in Te Aroha, central Hamilton, Morrinsville, Mystery Creek and other surrounding areas in the Waikato – allowing customers to access high speed mobile broadband over the 700 MHz spectrum.

Spark Networks Chief Operating Officer, David Havercroft, said: “Today marks the start of an accelerated rollout of 4G services to regional New Zealand. Over the next few months we’ll continue to widen our 4G footprint in the Waikato region, including the Coromandel, and will bring this technology to existing sites by February 2015. . .

Finally, a cloud based solution even the number crunchers can get excited about:

Xerocon Australia 2014 proved to be the perfect launch pad for iAgri, the agri-add on partner for Xero’s farm accountancy solution.

With more than 1,300 delegates cramming into the Dome in Sydney to hear the latest news from Xero and check out the latest add-ons and services from 82 exhibitors, the Canterbury based farm software company was one of the real winners.

iAgri CEO John Lay says there was a huge degree of interest in the product. “Farming is as important in Australia as it is in New Zealand so we fielded a lot of enquiry. Plainly, a lot of the accountants and bankers, many of whom had travelled from all over Australia specifically to view the iAgri add-on, have been waiting for a comprehensive solution like this to take to their clients and they were super excited – about as excited as an accountant can get anyway.”  . . .

 


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