Rural round-up

February 5, 2013

ECann Rakaia River recommendation accepted:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the Government has accepted Environment Canterbury’s recommendation to change the water conservation order that covers the Rakaia River.

The change will allow TrustPower to release water from Lake Coleridge for irrigation when the river is low, increasing the reliability of the water supply.

“Environment Canterbury’s report and recommendation is a good example of both environmental considerations and the needs of the farming community being taken into account,” Mr Brownlee says. . .

Why wash clean linen in public – Alan Emerson:

Farming is certainly in the mainstream media. 

Most outlets are covering the DCD saga and they weren’t helped by some woolly statements from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Fonterra.

I thought the two fertiliser co-operatives, Ballance and Ravensdown, handled the issue well, with their media releases being factual and unemotive. Both withdrew their DCD product and that, in my opinion, should have been the end of the story.

The issue is simple – DCD is safe. It has been around since the 1920s and used in its current form since 1981 and that is the problem.

Because it isn’t a new product but an adaption of an existing chemical, it is not classified under the international Codex Alimentarium. For that reason there is no minimum or maximum allowable level.

The problem is technical and procedural – it is not a chemical or health issue. Googling DCD you can identify all the many countries using it. You can also read glowing references about the product’s ability to increase yields in tomatoes, wheat, barley, rice and grass. . .

Lessons learned on managing perception – Alan Williams:

THE DCD issue has thrown up some lessons on how to manage market perceptions when the debate gets away from the science, Ministry for Primary Industries deputy director general (Standards) Carol Barnao says.

MPI’s risk assessment team discovered quickly there were no food safety concerns from traces of DCD found in whole milk powder, but the time taken for action was seen by some people as too slow and the presence of an unexpected compound was linked with tainted food in some markets.

More than three months passed between Fonterra’s product testing and the withdrawal from the market of the fertilisers containing DCD.

If there had been food safety concerns action would have happened much sooner, Barnao said.

Working groups were set up as soon as MPI was alerted in early November but it took time to complete the testing methodology and the why, when, and how of what happened, she said. . .

Happy to break new ground – Hannah Lynch:

Primary industries might be getting a new minister, but it’s in the associate role where a woman will be getting to make a mark for the first time. Hannah Lynch reports from Parliament.

The first woman appointed to a ministerial role in agriculture is not afraid of bringing a touch of femininity to the job, revealing she wears high-heeled boots on the family farm. 

Jo Goodhew has just been made Associate Primary Industries Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle that elevated the previous associate, Nathan Guy, into the main role.

“It is exciting but it is part of the general trend we are seeing where women who have the right skills are doing anything,” Goodhew said. 

“Women are going into roles that were previously held by men but now it’s just recognition that if you have got the skills it doesn’t matter what gender you are.”  . . .

MyFarm expanding to sheep and beef farms – Hugh Stringleman:

MyFarm intends to use its farm ownership syndication model for sheep and beef farms as well as dairy farms.

It put together one sheep and beef farm syndicate in 2010, for Kaiangaroa farm east of Taihape, and during this year will offer several more.

MyFarm director Andrew Watters would not specify the locations but gave parameters for the suitable properties and regions.

They would be mainly sheep-breeding and lamb-finishing properties, with beef cattle only additional. . .

Farmers Preparing to Steak Their Claim :

Farmers across the country are selecting their entries for the 2013 Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin.

The competition to find the country’s most tender and tasty steak is entering its 11th year and is keenly contested nationwide.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO, Dr Scott Champion, says the competition is taken very seriously and winning has become a badge of honour.

“The Steak of Origin rewards farmers for their efforts and showcases the skill in the New Zealand beef farming industry,” says Champion. . .

Freshman Sire Highlights Final Day of Karaka 2013:

New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2013 National Yearling Sales Series has drawn to a close today at Karaka with the final 212 yearlings of the Festival Sale concluding a bumper seven days of selling that has seen a total of 1021 lots traded for $72,387,700.

For the third day in a row Westbury Stud’s first season sire Swiss Ace (Secret Savings) provided the top price of the day, this time it was the colt at Lot 1353 from the four-time winning Stravinsky mare Poetic Music bought by Rogerson Bloodstock for $95,000.
1353 web
Top lot of the day the Swiss Ace colt (Lot 1353) purchased by Rogerson Bloodstock for $95,000

“He was the nicest horse here today and he proved that because he was the top lot of the day.

http://www.fwplus.co.nz/article/alternative-view-why-wash-clean-linen-in-public?p=6


Greenmail or compensation?

February 16, 2009

When is money paid by the applicant for resouce consent to an individual or body objecting to the consent greenmail and when is it compensation?

The question has come up as the story (three posts back) about Meridian Energy paying DOC has developed.

John Key says the payments would be okay if it was to offset environmental impacts  but not if it’s hush money.

Director-General Al Morrison said a suggestion DOC accepted money in a secret deal to remain quiet over the windfarm proposal is totally inaccurate.

“In this case an agreement was reached which resulted in $175,000 being set aside to improve public access to nearby conservation land and for a series of plant and birdlife issues to be addressed,” Mr Morrison said. . .

. . . “Clauses were specifically entered into the agreements to ensure the details could be publicly released once signed and they have already been fully tabled, including the amount agreed, before the Environment Court,” he said.

Trust Power spokesman Graeme Purches says it  also had an agreement with DOC but:

Mr Purches said some people are calling these deals bribery but that is wrong.

“It’s about working with stake-holders to get a win-win. It’s not about bribery. I think anyone who suggests you can bribe a Government department like DoC has got rocks in their head,” Mr Purches said.

The Resource Management Act allows for payments to be made to mitigate or compensate for adverse effects of any development.

What raised hackles with this example was the suspicion DOC had accepted the payment to remain silent and had done that because of a decision by the previous government to take a whole of government approach in support of the application.

P.S.

Kathryn Ryan had extended interviews and also covered the issue in this morning’s political slot on Nine to Noon;  and Mary Wilson interviewed Al Morrison on Checkpoint.

Alf Grumble  asks, what’s up Doc?


Consumers flee Contact

October 25, 2008

Contact Energy customers are taking their business to other electricity companies in the wake of its decision to increase its prices and the pool of money available for directors’ fees.

Electricity retailers yesterday reported a flood of inquiries during the past two days from Contact customers considering switching suppliers.

Many were from the South Island.

Meridian Energy reported a 200% increase in calls to its call centre on Thursday, a pace which continued yesterday.

TrustPower had 800 callers on Thursday inquiring about changing, equivalent to the normal volume of callers it received in a month.

A Genesis Energy spokesman said inquiries through its call centre on Thursday and Friday were nearly 50% higher than forecast.

Mercury Energy began its marketing push into Dunedin at 3.30pm on Thursday and confirmed its first customer in the city at 3.33pm.

Mercury retail manager Richard De Luca said an average Dunedin household would pay $200 less a year for its electricity than it would from Contact.

I’ve never been 100% convinced about the merits of competition for utilities because of the hassle involved in changing suppliers.

If I don’t like the service or price at one supermarket it’s easy enough to go to another. Changing power or telephone companies is more complicated and usually requires dealing with call centres which I approach with great reluctance.

However, this story proves me wrong, if customers are disgruntled enough with one electricity supplier they will go to the trouble of finding another. Only time will tell if they’re better off for doing it.


Bomb Scare Costs

June 27, 2008

Offices, shops, the museum, library and several shops in Oamaru’s CBD  were evacuated yesterday, about an hour after a phone call at 1.50 warned of a bomb in the Trust Power call centre.

A sniffer dog could have been sent from Christchurch by helicoptor but a policeman told some of the evacuees that they’d been told that would be too expensive so  the dog was driven down by road – a trip of about 3 1/2 hours.

It arrived at about 6.20 and the building was declared safe by 8pm.

The helicoptor, according to the grapevine which I accept is not a reliable source of information, would have cost $1,200.

I don’t know the cost of a seven hour return trip by road for the dog and its handler, and for the police officers who had to keep people at bay for nearly six hours. Nor do I know the cost to the businesses which had to close; the return trip a Dunedin accountant had to make today because he had to leave his laptop in an office when it was evacuated yesterday; the revenue lost by around 20 retailers, the call centre, a physiotherapist, and other businesses,  which were evacuated or closed beccause the main street was shut off; and the power from the lights, heaters, computers  and all the other electrical bits and pieces which were left on when people left their buildings and not turned off over night as usual.

The police did all they should have yesterday: the evacuation and street closure were prudent and the Oamaru Mail reports they are following “a positive line of enquiry” in the serach for the person who made the hoax call.

But had the dog come by air rather than land everything would have been back to normal nearly four hours earlier. Those people who lost time and business would no doubt think that the cost of the helicoptor would have been worth it.

Footnote: Poneke left this comment on a previous post:

For most of the 290-plus years I was a journalist, the media had a policy of not giving oxygen to bomb and similar hoaxers. We simply did not report them, except in the rare circumstance of them causing massive disruption such as to peak traffic in downtown Auckland, where the public deserved to know what had caused the chaos.

Now every piddly little hoax, of which there are several a week, is reported everywhere.

I wonder if the reporting fuels their frequency?

Yesterday’s court news in the ODT has a report on the trial of a man accused of making a hoax call about a bomb scare at an Oamaru Service Station a few months again, but police don’t think there are any connections between this and yesterday’s call.

The building where the bomb was said to be is directly opposite the ODT and around 100 metres from the Oamaru Mail so it was going to be noticed by the media; and shutting down about a third of the CBD is big news in a small town.

I don’t know whether reporting every little hoax fuels more. Do people who do this sort of thing take any notice of what’s in the news? 

In this case, the grapevine – which again I’ll admit is not always reliable – has many tales about the hard calls that are being made from call centres to people who can’t, or won’t, pay their bills. We’ll have to wait until the court case, if there is one, to know whether this was the act of an aggrieved debtor or not.


Bomb Scare a Hoax

June 27, 2008

No surprise here, yesterday’s bomb scare  which led to the evacuation of shops and offices in Oamaru’s main street was a hoax.

A bomb scare closed part of the Oamaru central business district for more than five hours yesterday in a hoax police branded “irresponsible”.

The business district in lower Thames St was brought to a halt just before 3pm as police evacuated buildings and cordoned off the area after a bomb threat was received at 1.50pm through a call centre operator at TrustPower in Tauranga.

The target was Oamaru’s three-storey TrustPower and Pulse Business Solutions building, which houses TrustPower’s South Island call centre.

 

 


Trust Power Counters Sydney

June 9, 2008

Graeme Purches, community relations manager for Trust Power counters Grahame Sydney’s criticism of Project Hayes   which I commented on here.

Purches says Sydney’s figures about wind strength are wrong and I suspect he’s right if only because it would be stupid to go to the expense of building a wind farm if there wasn’t enough wind to make it viable. However, he makes no comment on Sydney’s contention that self sufficiency and micro generation would be better than large-scale wind generation.


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