Rural round-up

05/01/2021

Cherry crops ruined by rain – Jared Morgan:

Central Otago cherry growers have lost millions of dollars of crop after 36 hours of persistent and heavy rain destroyed yet-to-be-picked fruit.

While damage was still being assessed some growers estimate losses at between 30% and 60% and more rain is forecast.

Growers in Earnscleugh, near Clyde, took advantage of a brief reprieve from the rain yesterday morning to assess the damage to what were bumper crops in a season plagued by concerns about labour shortages.

The area was one of the hardest hit by the rain which began on New Year’s Day and did not let up until about 8.30am yesterday, causing the Fraser River to breach its banks coupled with localised runoff from the hills. . . 

Waitaki District flooding: clean-up underway :

Farmers in the Waitaki District, which was inundated with heavy rain at the weekend, remain in clean-up mode today.

Parts of the region were battered by torrential rain on Saturday, flooding streets and closing roads.

Campers at the Otematata River had to be evacuated as the river threatened to break the flood bank.

Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher said it’s been a mixed bag for farmers in the district. . .  

Plea to report farm thefts as high season for crime nears – Lawrence Gullery:

Police and rural leaders are urging those living and working on the land to report crime as the traditional spike in summer theft approaches.

FMG Insurance said its claims data showed January was when thieves set out to steal from rural properties.

And FMG manager advice services Stephen Cantwell said theft was the leading cause of farm contents claims.

“In our experience lower value quad bikes are the most common stolen item on the farm. . . 

New Zealand cheeses could face renaming under EU rules – Dave Gooselink:

There could be some new names on your cheeseboards in summers to come if the European Union gets its way. It wants to stop Kiwi cheesemakers from using names like feta and gorgonzola.

This creamy cheese has been in development at Whitestone for the last two years, using a unique mould strain found in North Otago.

“When we talk about it, it’s like that style of a gorgonzola, but we’re calling it Oamaru blue because it’s here from Oamaru,” says Simon Berry, managing director of Whitestone Cheese and spokesperson for New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association.

Developing unique varieties is set to become more important. The European Union wants to ban other countries from using ‘their’ cheese names in local products. . .

Chops gained with time – Abbey Palmer:

For 15-year-old wood-chopper Jack Richards, it is all about not trying to “run before you can crawl’’.

The Eastern Bush resident was one of the youngest contestants to have a crack at this year’s Tuatapere Sports Day wood-chopping competition, an event he has taken part in for the past four years.

Axemen from across the country made their way to the Southland town yesterday for the annual event on the first day of 2021 to go head to head in the challenge.

When Jack was watching his parents take part in the sport when he was just 11 years old he thought, “why not give it a go?”. . . 

Carter joins Ruralco board – Sudesh Kissun:

Former Agriculture Minister and Banks Peninsula farmer David Carter has been elected to the board of rural trader, Ruralco.

Carter took up his directorship at the co-operative’s annual meeting last month, replacing former chairman Alister Body who stepped down after nine years on the board.

Carter, one of National’s longest serving MPs, retired at the last general elections after serving as a parliamentarian for 26 years and in a number of National governments as a cabinet minister, including Agriculture Minister and Speaker of the House.

He says joining the Ruralco Board is a chance to offer his experience to his first passion—New Zealand agriculture. . . 

UK farming to begin ‘new era’ in 2021, NFU president says

British farming is set to begin a ‘new era’ in 2021 as the UK leaves the Brexit transition period and implements a new agriculture policy for the first time in 70 years.

This is according to NFU President Minette Batters, who said in her new year message that 2020 was a ‘year like no other’ for British food producers.

“While we have all seen significant changes and challenges in the past 12 months, I would like to thank the public for their continued support for British farming and all it delivers; we simply wouldn’t be where we are today without it.”

She added that the successful conclusion of a deal between the UK and EU was a ‘very positive step forward’, and it should ‘provide comfort’ to farmers and the public. . . 


5 Waitaki wonders

02/01/2021

Tourism Waitaki highlights five of the District’s wonders:

Air NZ recently took to our crystal clear skies to find the 8th wonder of the world within Aotearoa.

The Moeraki Boulders got a shout out so we thought we’d divulge a little more information on the many wonders of the Waitaki, just as Antipater of Sidon did in the 2nd century B.C. creating the first wonders of the world list as a guide for tourists in the ancient world.

While only one of the original wonders of the world still exists, these five destinations on our list have all withstood the test of time.

They’re all part of the Vanished World trail within the aspiring Waitaki Whitestone Geoparkand are perfect spots to visit this summer:

1. The Moeraki Boulders

Alien eggs, giant gobstoppers, the Stonehenge of New Zealand—however you refer to the spherical boulders they’re a mysterious must-see!

According to Maori legend, the Arai-te-uru canoe, one of the earliest to reach the South Island crashed on the golden shores of Shag Point, casting the food baskets into the sea, and they washed ashore along a stretch of Koekohe beach where they still exist today, as the Moeraki boulders.

Formed around 60 million years ago, each boulder started life as a pebble or fossil on an ancient sea floor. Over time, the boulders grew into spherical wonders by mud accretion and calcification.

Some of these boulders weigh several tonnes and the most impressive are over two metres wide so don’t even think about bringing one of these onto your Air NZ flights. 

2. Valley of the Whales

With steep limestone walls either side of you, standing in the Valley of the Whales you can almost imagine you’re at the bottom of the world. All along the Awamoko stream that weaves through the lush country land here, the bones and remains of ancient marine creatures, including sea urchins, dolphins, and rare whales can be found.

You’re likely to see more than you expected at this underrated site.

3. Elephant Rocks

You won’t see any actual Elephants roaming the plains south of Duntroon. Nor, are there fossilised remains of the delightful pachyderm. You’ll have to use your imagination!

The large mass of weathered limestone scattered across the grassy fields look like strange creatures made of stone.

There is some debate about which ones resemble the humble elephant…

4. Anatini

Millions of years ago, Anatini was at the bottom of the sea, and now the curious limestone outcrops and caves that remain make the perfect locale for a picnic, 400 metres above sea level.

The name Anatini stems from Maori meaning many caves, and yes there is a lot to explore throughout the sheltered valley.

Hide and seek could last a long time here. Fossils can be spotted in the limestone, including the main drawcard, the partially exposed remains of a baleen whale, which has been placed under plexiglass to ensure its protection.

5. Paritea Clay Cliffs

The striking landforms of the Paritea Clay Cliffs were originally formed as gravels, sands and silt in fresh water lakes and rivers.

The sediments, which were deposited around 20 million years ago, were over time buried and compressed, then uplifted and eroded.

Standing in the heart of the canyon surrounded by sharp pinnacles and steep ravines you’ll feel a flourish within your souls, awe-struck, and possibly feel quite small.

If you want to see photos of these sites, click on the links.


Rural round-up

22/10/2020

Drought fears for South Canterbury, North Otago farmers – Maja Burry, Eleisha Foon:

South Canterbury and North Otago farmers are concerned they are on the precipice of a drought.

NIWA’s latest hotspot report showed the driest soils in the South Island and both winter and spring had so far failed to deliver meaningful rain.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said the Waimate and Waitaki districts had received little rain since autumn and pasture covers are low for this time of year.

MPI’s rural communities and farming support director, Nick Story, said farmers were feeding out grain, destocking and looking for alternative grazing. . . 

Wildlife rules for private land queried by owners and businesses – Farah Hancock:

A policy aimed at protecting indigenous wildlife, which has struggled to gain consensus, is on its final dash to the finish line. Public support is strong, but landowners and industry still have concerns

The National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity, which will force councils to identify significant natural areas, including on private land, is hoped to improve the outlook for New Zealand’s 4000 threatened species

Not all are happy with the proposed policy, with submissions expressing concern about how areas on private land will be identified, and the impact on private landowners’ ability to use their land. . . .

 

Watermelon shortage predicted as biosecurity concerns hold up Tongan supply – Maja

Supermarket shelves could soon run dry of watermelons with all import channels for the fruit currently closed due to biosecurity concerns.

Imports of the fruit from Tonga were halted last week after live fruit fly larvae were detected at the New Zealand border on a consignment of watermelons from the country.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said there would now be an investigation into the non-compliance by the Ministry of Agriculture Food, Forestry and Fisheries in Tonga.

“Until the suspension is lifted, all consignments of watermelons from Tonga arriving at New Zealand’s border will be held with the option of destruction or re-shipment in accordance with the Import Health Standard,” MPI said in a statement. . . 

Green lipped mussels are becoming heavy lifters – Keith Woodford:

Hatchery technologies and open-sea farms provide the platform for new endeavours with green-lipped mussels

A little over five years ago, I asked the question as to whether green-lipped mussels could be the next heavy lifter for the New Zealand export economy. At the time, the Government had a goal of doubling exports by 2025, which seemed exceedingly optimistic.

Both then and since then I have been frustrated by what I see as naivety within the broader community as to how New Zealand is going to pay its way in a complex and competitive world. There often seems to be unwillingness to grapple with the hard realities of a small isolated country in the South Pacific with a rapidly growing population and increasing inequalities.

I have listened many times to speakers who say that services rather than goods are going to be our salvation. When I ask where within that framework might we find a competitive advantage, I typically hear only generic terms such as ‘technology’   Our two big service industries are tourism and the education of foreign students. . . 

Election 2020, the red tsunami – Elbow Deep:

I had intended to use this month’s column to look back at the three years which have passed since the farmer protests in Morrinsville and determine if a Labour/New Zealand First/Greens Government was as scary as predicted.

Events overtook me and clearly, since Labour won the party vote in all but four electorates, it wasn’t that scary at all.

At the last election farming issues were front and centre in a highly divisive campaign that left farmers feeling kicked around like the proverbial political football. At the heart of this division was the proposed water levy, a proposal that didn’t even make it past coalition negotiations, which generated a lot of heat while distracting from the real message David Parker was trying to push; freshwater reform.

This election, in the wake of plummeting tax receipts and a higher than normal reliance on income from agricultural exports, every single political party was courting the farming vote. . . 

Agricultural equipment sector remains positive :

The agricultural equipment sector remains in a positive mood throughout the country says the Tractor and Machinery Association (TAMA), which represents the sector in manufacturing, retailing and distribution.

TAMA sales statistics for the year to date (September 30) are down around 18 percent compared with 2019‘s record-breaking year, however indicators remain positive as New Zealand enters the peak of another growing season.

TAMA president Kyle Baxter said despite sales volumes being down in some equipment ranges, members were confident regarding business trading across dealerships and local equipment manufacturing. . . 


Rural round-up

01/07/2020

Regenerative ag’s mythology questioned – David Anderson:

The “mythology” of regenerative agriculture and lack of scientific evidence has prompted two renowned plant scientists to write to Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.

In the letter, Lincoln University’s Professor Derek Moot and retired plant scientist Professor Warwick Scott, express their concerns about the increased profile of regenerative agriculture in New Zealand media and farming sectors.

They have called on the minister to convene an expert panel of scientists to review all the claims made about practice.

“It is important that sound science drives our agricultural systems,” they say. “We believe such a panel should provide a robust critique of the claims made about ‘regenerative agriculture’ to ensure the public, industry and policy makers have a balanced and scientifically informed view of the ideas promulgated.” . .

Rachel Stewart on the Green Party and farmers:

To say Rachel Stewart isn’t backward in coming forward is somewhat of an understatement.

The self-described “ex-media, ex-farmer, ex-train driver” falconer has often ruffled feathers with her forthright opinions – especially when it comes agriculture.

So Stewart’s’ recent Twitter activity, criticising the Green Party and coming out in support of farmers, caught the attention of The Country’s Jamie Mackay, who invited her to talk on today’s show.

The Greens are moving away from their environmental roots and becoming too urban, Stewart told Mackay. . . 

Seeking new markets in the West – Keith Woodford:

Neither Europe nor the USA are going to do us any trading favours. It is all about self-interest

In recent weeks I have been exploring and writing about some of the challenges in finding new markets that would allow New Zealand to stem its increasing reliance on China. My focus in the last three trade articles has been first on North East Asia, then the ASEAN countries of South East Asia, then South Asia and Iran. This week I look further west to Europe and the Americas before completing the circle.

First to recap a little.

The emergence of China as the most important trading partner of New Zealand has been a function of natural alignment between what New Zealand produces and what China wanted, complemented by New Zealand also wanting what China has been producing at lower cost than anyone else. . .

Tomato red spider mite pest discovered in New Zealand for first time – Maja Burry:

A pest known for damaging tomato plants and other crops has been detected in New Zealand for the first time

Biosecurity New Zealand said two populations of the tomato red spider mite (Tetranychus evansi) were found near Auckland Airport and in Pakuranga as part of routine surveillance several weeks ago.

Tomato red spider mites are the size of a full stop and are very difficult to identify. The mite’s main hosts are plants in the Solanaceae family, including tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants. They also attack beans, kumara and some ornamentals – roses and orchids. . .

Juniper hunt seedlings could grow New Zealand’s first gin berry plantation – Robin Martin:

New Zealand is one step closer to establishing the country’s first plantation of Juniperus communis – whose berries are the key ingredient of gin – following a nationwide search for the elusive conifer.

About 40 trees were discovered as part of the Great New Zealand Juniper Hunt, and seedlings are now being nurtured at Massey University and at two locations in Taranaki.

Egmont Village lifestyle block owner Marlene Busby had aspirations of making gin herself when she snipped a bit of juniper bush at a garden centre some 30 years ago.

“At the time I sort of took a little bit. They were going to pull them out anyway so it didn’t really [matter] any way. . . 

Waitaki’s geological wonderland – Mike Yardley:

Crossing the border dividing Canterbury from Otago, the Waitaki River, is like a pathway into another world. A region built on the remains of prehistoric creatures from a vanished world. The wondrous Waitaki District has always been proud of its rocks, lustily exemplified by the creamy pure texture of Oamaru Stone that underpins the classic good looks of the historic town’s Victorian Precinct. But before hitting town, I ventured west into the heart of the Waitaki Valley, to delightful Duntroon, with its pending designation as a Global Geopark by UNESCO. As Australasia’s first Geopark, it threads together the spell-binding natural landforms, abundant fossil finds and rich cultural history of the Waitaki Valley, which was under sea when Zealandia drifted away from Gondwana. Seismic forces later thrust the ancient seabed upwards, at the same time that the Southern Alps were formed.

Robert Campbell, the wealthy land-owner and runholder established Duntroon in 1864, naming it in honour of his Scottish birthplace. This cute-as-a-button village is home to the Vanished World Fossil Centre, but before heading there, don’t miss Duntroon’s assorted trove of evocative landmarks. . .


That’s no way to say goodbye

13/05/2020

National is threatening to fight Level 2 enforcement law if the rule on tangi and funerals isn’t changed:

Under level 2, only 10 people can attend a tangi or church service at any given time. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she, like other world leaders, struggled with the decision, but had to play it safe. . . 

But what’s safe and what’s not doesn’t seem to be consistent.

National Leader Simon Bridges said the public had been writing to him raising the point that people could still go to a restaurant or movies with 100 people at the venue.

Yet at one of the most tragic defining points of life, at a funeral, direct family members cannot attend them under those rules. That’s not just unkind, it’s inhumane, and I think we can do better than that,” he said.

One of the doctors who looked after our son and was there when when he died told us that it was very important to say goodbye properly.

We didn’t know much about funerals and others said it would be best to keep it private.

Tom was only 20 weeks old, had spent almost a third of his life in hospital and few outside the family and hospital staff had met him so we followed that advice.

It was a mistake. We had afternoon tea after the service then our parents and siblings went home leaving us alone with our young daughter and our grief.

We learned from that and when our second son died we had a public service.

It was so much better. Some people left after the service, others stayed to talk, to listen, to comfort us.

That’s how saying goodbye  should be, a service about the one who has died to for the ones who are left, and for most that needs more than 10 people.

Anger and upset over this is made worse by inconsistencies:

Grieving families are distraught over inconsistencies with the COVID-19 alert level 2 rules, baffled that the Government will trust people to go to the movies, gyms and malls but not to farewell friends and whānau. 

Kiwis will be privy to a whole lot of new freedoms on Thursday when the level 2 rules come into play, but it won’t bring satisfaction to the family of Southland man Maurice Skinner, who passed away last week, three months before his 90th birthday. 

A former jockey and racing trainer, Maurice Skinner was a well-known Southland figure, and a funeral could’ve drawn hundreds. But his family just wanted a small private service – 21 people – so they delayed until alert level 2. 

But holding off has left them disappointed because the level 2 rules don’t allow it. 

“We can’t even do that now, so we’re absolutely devastated,” his daughter told Newshub. “One of the worst things you can stop people doing is being able to farewell their loved ones.”

Under level 2 there’s a cap on gatherings – no more than 10 people. And yet, up to 100 people could be in a gym, a restaurant or the movies, as long as they’re socially-distanced. 

In the normal course of events, people would be much closer than two metres and part of comforting the bereaved would be hongi and hugs. But funeral directors and celebrants, as required under health and safety legislation, could make sure that social distancing was maintained.

We know this is causing pain but we equally have tried to be really consistent,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. 

But it doesn’t feel consistent for grieving families. 

“The Government is telling us we need to be kind but where on earth is the kindness in that? It’s actually inhumane,” Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker told Newshub.  . .

Those in mourning want the Government to trust them. 

The woman Newshub spoke to anonymously is from a family of medical professionals including a COVID-19 nurse, and they know full-well how to manage the risks. 

“We can be responsible with our loved ones and the people that are around us – just give us the benefit of the doubt,” she said.  . . 

Ten is a very small number for most families. We had 11 adults and six children at Tom’s private service.

It is possible for far more than 10 to join via electronic communication but that is a very poor second to being there, with the people you care about, albeit two metres apart.

If there was widespread community transmission of Covid-19 the insistence on no more than 10 people at a funeral would be more easily understood.

But there is not.

Yesterday’s ODT reported no new cases of the disease in the Southern District Health Board area for 16 days and the Waitaki District, like several others has recorded no cases at all.

It defies logic that the government trusts casinos, bars and movie theatres to have up to 100 people but no more than 10 at a funeral.

Preventing people from saying goodbye properly is the antithesis of the kindness we’re all exhorted to show.

It’s inhumane and the rule must be relaxed to allow families and whanau to farewell the dead and comfort the living.


Culinary capital

29/11/2019

Cuisine’s list of 100 top New Zealand restaurants includes three from the Waitaki District – Cucina in Oamaru, Riverstone Kitchen a few kilometres north of the town and Fleurs Place in Moeraki a few kilometres south.

Given the District has only around 22,000 people it is a contender for the most top restaurants per head of population in the country.

Queenstown Lakes, with nearly twice as many people,  would come a close second with Bistro Gentil and Kika in Wanaka; Botswana Butchery and Sherwood in Queenstown and Amisfield Bistro  at Lake Hayes on the list.

An out-of-town friend asked me which of the Waitaki restaurants was best. I couldn’t answer, they are all different and all serve delicious food, using the freshest ingredients, locally sourced where possible; and their food is enhanced by wonderful waiting staff.

We’re spoilt for choice in the country’s culinary capital.


New nesters

14/07/2019

Stories from migrants to the Waitaki District:


Taxpayer paying business to compete with other business

16/11/2018

An advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport is the latest beneficiary of taxpayer largesse through a donation from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The Taxpayers’ Union says the government is picking winners:

The Government should be delivering tax cuts to all businesses, not spending $48 million picking winners says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, responding to the Government’s announcement of Provincial Growth Fund spending in the region.

The Union’s Executive Director Jordan Williams says “Government should not be in the business of picking winners. Instead of spending $48 million on an array of projects in Manawatu-Whanganui, the Government should give all businesses tax relief.”

“If the business case for projects receiving funding from the Government stands up, they should be able to secure private finance. Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidise businesses that cannot stand on their own two legs. Taxing more for Shane Jones to play Father Christmas is just a provincial merry-go-round.”

It’s worse than picking winners – it’s using taxpayers’ money to fund a business that is competing with another existing one.

An international flight school started operating at Oamaru airport a few months ago.

. . .Students from ”all over” would train in single-engine Tecnam aircraft, with one plane for every five students.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he was ”very pleased” the airline academy chose the Waitaki district ”to kick-start their operation”.

”As there’ll be a significant number of trainees and staff living and learning here, this is a win-win for everyone.”

Ten jobs would be created and up to 50 commercial pilot trainees would be in the Waitaki district over the next three years.

Council chief executive Fergus Power said each trainee would add an estimated $20,000 to Oamaru’s economy while living in the district for up to a year. . .

If a flight school can be established at Oamaru Airport without subsidies the Whanganui one shouldn’t need government assistance and it certainly shouldn’t be getting taxpayers’ money to compete with an existing business.

 

 


Census coverage more important than cost

28/02/2018

The Waitaki District was used as a trial for the online collection of data for the census in 2013.

Everyone got a visit from someone who delivered the papers and explained there was choice of filling in the paper form or doing it online.

The trial was declared a success and this year the on-line census is being done nation-wide.

But unlike the trial in Waitaki, people will have to opt-out of the online  option if they can’t or don’t want to do it that way.

Instead of someone calling with forms, everyone will get a letter explaining how to fill the census in online and what to do if they’d rather have a paper form to fill in.

That sounds easy enough but the ODT reported on concerns for elderly, those with poor sight and others who don’t have computers.

These concerns have been echoed on Facebook where people are complaining about the difficulties faced by elderly relatives who rang the 0800 number to request forms.

There’s also concerns about people who can’t read and write.

The slowness of the postal system is another problem.

Mail is delivered only three days a week, if people didn’t get a form by yesterday, it will be tomorrow before one arrives. Even if they phone for a paper form straight away it could well be next Tuesday, census day, or later before the form arrives.

Completing the census is a legal requirement. It’s important that everyone is counted or districts will get less funding for health, education and other services and infrastructure which are allocated on a population basis.

The 2013 census showed only a tiny increase in the Waitaki District’s population.

That is difficult to understand when irrigation has created so many jobs on farms and in businesses which supply and service them.

There were 4 houses on our farm and our two immediate neighbours’ before irrigation, now there are 15. We’re the oldest in any of those houses by more than 15 years.

Most of the occupants are in their 20s and 30s and many have young families. This pattern has been repeated all around the district.

Irrigation hasn’t just created jobs on farms there are more in businesses which service and supply them and most of the people in those jobs live in the district.

Intensification hasn’t just happened on farms, there’s been a growth in lifestyle blocks too. There’s also a lot of new building in town and there     aren’t a large number of unoccupied houses.

Why weren’t these signs of population growth reflected in the census?

Could it be that a lot of people didn’t bother to fill in their forms, whether on paper or online five years ago?

With no one visiting each house as they used to do, it will be far easier for those who don’t want to fill in a form to ignore it, and far more difficult for those who would but can’t without help, to do so.

It will be much cheaper if more people do their census on-line but coverage is much more important than cost.

The on-line option should be the opt-in one rather than the paper one.


Put away begging bowl Auckland

11/10/2017

Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher tells Aucklanndd mayor Phil Goff the city must put away the begging bowl:

Auckland, Put Away The Begging Bowl and Deal With Your Problems.

The picture I used was about Queen St beggars, but I figured it was apt given that Auckland City Council has become the biggest beggar on Queen St… I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing that every problem that Auckland has, can only be fixed with money from all of us! Housing crisis, transport crisis, waste water crisis, port crisis, fuel line crisis, teacher crisis… The list appears almost endless! And the solution? They go to the government and tell them they need money from the rest of New Zealand. The latest call by Mayor Phil Goff is to have the GST that is paid on Auckland rates to be given to them. That is as much their money as it is yours or mine. We all pay GST, we all contribute, but it is only Auckland which is so consistently putting out their hand to central government. Our Waitaki District Council has long been criticised for having high rates. Residential rates across Waitaki were recently measured by the Taxpayers Union as being about 29th highest out of 66. It has been higher but we are driving efficiency hard. Perhaps too hard in some areas. However, we are paying our way.

Waitaki has dealt with almost all of its water and waste water issues, it maintains an extensive roading network and needs to improve that, it has a reasonable number of very good facilities and amenities, and it is successfully delivering economic development. There’s not a lot of bells and whistles, but we do ok for a district our size. Importantly, we have no external debt, and instead have been able to invest in our future through loans to irrigation and the community-owned Observatory Retirement Village.

Contrast that with Auckland… Indebted up to its maximum limit, paying staff outrageously high salaries which are exceeding the private sector, suffering from a massive infrastructural deficit, and spending money like it’s going out of fashion so that they can become one of the world’s most liveable cities. The Auckland Council has 11,893 staff. Over 20% of them earn more than $100,000, and 194 staff earn more than $200,000. The city spills diluted sewage into its own harbour every time it rains, and that will cost $1,800,000,000 to fix it! NZTA is spending up large to deal with their road problems, and the bill for light rail grows higher and higher by the day. This infrastructural deficit is huge, and is a result of slack governance over a long time. A lot of central government money is going into Auckland now, but still they want more. Waitaki is compared to Auckland frequently when it comes to our rates, but if they’d paid what our ratepayers have had to over the years, they wouldn’t be as (literally) in the crap as they are now.

Usually Mayors are reticent to comment about the activities in other districts and cities, but when Auckland so often has its begging bowl out to central government asking for money that belongs to all of us, then I say enough is enough!

Phil Goff – put away the begging bowl for a while please. Put Auckland rates up to pay for the things yourself, in the same way that most of the country has been paying for itself for years. Sort out your staff salaries so they stop putting pressure on the private sector and the rest of local government across NZ; and take ownership of Auckland’s problems. I know you’re worried that borrowing more to deal with the issues will affect Auckland’s credit rating and possibly that of other Councils, but I can assure you that when you have put money aside responsibly as Waitaki has, you won’t have to worry about credit ratings. Bite the bullet, and get it sorted.

Auckland is proof that when it comes to councils, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Some of its problems are an indictment on successive governments – local and central.

But the current council must accept responsibility for current problems and be prepared to make hard decisions about how to pay for solving them.

It could start by following the example of a smaller council like Waitaki which pretty much sticks to its knitting and looks after its core business rather than empire building.

It must look at ways it can fund solutions itself, including cutting costs and at least the partial sale of some of its assets, before it asks for yet more help from the taxpayer.


Voting age women outnumber men

19/09/2016

Statistics New Zealand has marked Suffrage Day with a media release which says voting-age women in New Zealand outnumbered men by about 137,000 at the 2013 Census, and women are more likely to vote.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation in the world to grant women the right to vote. This year, Suffrage Day (September 19) comes just as local government voting papers go out on 16–21 September.

Census figures showed there were more than 1.66 million women in New Zealand aged 18 years and over (18+), compared with about 1.53 million men.

Women on average live longer than men which will account for some of the difference but just as women are more likely to vote, I wonder if they’re more likely to fill out census forms.

Women are more likely than men to vote in general and local government elections, according to past Statistics NZ General Social Surveys. In a survey after the 2011 general election more than 80 percent of women said they voted, compared with about 77 percent of men.

Almost 95 percent of women and men aged 65+ years said they voted in the 2011 general election, compared with just over half of those aged 18 to 24.

Voter turnout is lower for local government elections, at less than 65 percent for women and 62 percent for men. However, 87 percent of all those aged 65+ said they’d voted in local elections in a 2012 survey, compared with just 28 percent of people aged 18 to 24.

Census figures for 2013 showed there were 1.19 million European women in New Zealand aged 18+ years. There were about 193,000 Māori women in that age group, closely followed by almost 187,000 Asian women. Pacific women aged 18+ totalled about 90,000.

The candidates in my district and regional council wards have been elected unopposed which means the only decision I’ll have to make is whether to support the sitting mayor, Gary Kircher, or his challenger whose name escapes me.

The mayor is generally considered to have worked well in his first term so I’ll be voting to give him a second one.


366 days of gratitude

19/01/2016

North Otago didn’t used to feature on many people’s tourist itineraries and Oamaru was once just another town to crawl through for people driving on State Highway 1.

But the growing popularity of the little blue penguins which nest around the harbour, the town’s stunning old (by New Zealand standards) buildings and its Victorian precinct and becoming the country’s Steampunk capital  started attracting more visitors.

Oamaru was dubbed New Zealand’s coolest town by Lonely Planet which has helped attract more visitors and help locals appreciate what we have on our doorstep.

Visitors’ appreciation isn’t confined to the town and exploration of the wider district has been boosted by the development of the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycleway which has been recognised as one of the world’s leading attractions:

North Otago’s Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail has made it on to a list of the world’s best destinations in 2016 by travel publishers Frommer’s.

The trail runs from Aoraki-Mt Cook to the coastal town of Oamaru in North Otago.

Being named as one of 16 of the “Best Places to Go” in the world in 2016 is priceless marketing and “something that the whole region should be really proud of”, Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill says.

“It’ll be an amazing thing for the trail,” Mr Gaskill said.

“This is extremely important – it’s recognition that the trail itself, the infrastructure around it, the people who are operating on it and the people who are supplying it are operating to a standard that people feel comfortable to promote.”

Frommer’s describes the trail as ‘‘stunning and cheerfully hospitable” and starting the trail at Aoraki-Mt Cook “sets a perfect standard for awesome”.

“Your local hosts along the trail are happy to greet you and warmly organise food and lodging – after all, they pitched in to create this route for tourists – so come meet them under wide landscapes and huge skies… before the hordes find their way here,” the Frommer’s website said.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is the only New Zealand attraction to feature on the list and appears alongside destinations including Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and Mongolia. . . 

The A2O isn’t finished yet but is already bringing lots of visitors and providing business opportunities for people servicing and selling to tourists.

Tourism is broadening the district’s economy, lessening its reliance of agriculture and it’s opening the eyes of locals to the many charms of our home patch.

Today I’m grateful for visitors who appreciate what we’ve got and help us appreciate it to.

P.S. The Frommer’s Best Places to Go list is here.

 


Council + community = progress

14/04/2015

A challenge from Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher has resulted in the main road in to Moeraki being rebuilt:

. . . Haven St has been closed to through traffic since August 2013 when a 350m to 400m section collapsed following heavy rain.

The road is being rebuilt as part of a push by the Moeraki community to reopen the road because of concerns about the width of the alternative route via Tenby St and that visitors were having problems finding their way to local restaurants and accommodation providers.

A group was formed to work with the Waitaki District Council and manage offers of help and material from local people to tackle the work under the supervision of an engineer and work on the road began in February.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the rebuilt section of street was ”very impressive”. He was ”blown away” by what had been a ”fairly unique partnership” between the Waitaki District Council, the Moeraki community and local contractors.

”Numerous community members have done so well getting the road to this stage.”

He did not believe so much work had ever gone into the stretch of road, which had been notorious for slips for many years.

”Time will be the real test, of course. This work has been the chance to give it our very best effort. If this doesn’t succeed, I’m sure that nothing will, short of spending millions on it.”.

The project started as a challenge the mayor gave to the community at the meeting at the Moeraki Marae late last year.

”They more than met that challenge.”

An NZTA subsidy was not available for the road, and the district council offered to help pay if the community matched it in cash or in kind.

In the end the council would have spent about $60,000 of ratepayers’ money on the road.

He was keen to publicly acknowledge the huge impact the Moeraki community had made. . .

The popularity of the harbour,  Fleurs Place and the tavern leads to a lot of traffic on this road and the detour was less than optimal.

The rebuilding is a tribute to the people who accepted the mayor’s challenge.

This project could be a template for progress in other areas where there’s an opportunity for the council and community to work together.


GROW Oamaru

26/01/2015

A new business network is aiming to energise the Waitaki District:

Members of a group called GROW North Otago have taken it upon themselves to develop and launch a video highlighting the benefits of living and doing business in Oamaru and the wider Waitaki district. The private group of new-generation business owners was established last year. Rebecca Ryan finds out who they are and what they want to achieve.

Sometimes the best ideas do come over a drink.

For four new generation Oamaru business owners, a night out at a charity boxing event last year has set off a chain of events they hope will promote change in North Otago and encourage new business.

Heliventures New Zealand Ltd owners Craig McMillan and Nicki Perniskie, Whitestone Cheese chief executive Simon Berry and his wife, Annabel, director of Design Federation, have developed a business networking group called ”GROW North Otago”.

The group, based in Oamaru, aims to make the region a more interesting place to live for business owners and forward-thinking, motivated people, targeting the 20 to 40 age bracket.

It was launched last year with the intention of supporting the new generation of business people, promoting collaborations and ”having fun along the way”, with further aspirations of attracting new talent to the region and bolstering community participation.

The way forward was to lead by example and that was what they had decided to do.

”This was our way of ensuring we have sustainable growth and long-term economic prosperity for the region,” Mrs Berry said. . .

This is a wonderful initiative providing mutual support for members and helping to encourage more young business people to the district.


Things to do in Oamaru

30/12/2014

A few years ago friends came to stay a couple of nights on their way to Wanaka.

They ended up forgoing the trip to Central Otago in favour of staying longer with us.

It was one of those golden summers when days at the river a few kilometres from home were far more attractive than coping with holidaying hordes in more populous spots.

Not every summer is like that but the last few days have been good for holiday makers. We’ve had enough heat to enjoy the beaches or rivers but not too much to make other attractions too much of an effort.

When our friends visited, nearly three decades ago, Oamaru wasn’t regarded as a holiday destination.

That’s changed.

Lonely Planet, which had just two pages on the town five years ago now gives it nine and has dubbed Oamaru the coolest town in New Zealand.

An Explore Waitaki App will help you discover the district’s charms, find what’s where and how to get there.

I have yet to download it so don’t know if it will take you to places the locals go to cool off when the weather cooperates.

Rivers change and Gemmels Crossing where I spent many summer days as a child is no longer so good for swimming.

But there are still good swimming holes further up the Kakanui River near Clifton Falls and the Waitaki River also has some great picnic and swimming spots.

For those who prefer beaches, there’s Campbells Bay, All Day Bay and Moeraki.

Oamaru and the Waitaki District  hinterland have lots of other attractions.

Oamaru Today is very good at highlighting things to see and do and I’m planning to write posts about the area over the next few days.

You’re welcome to add your own ideas for holiday makers in North Otago of further afield.

 

 

 


The other election

17/09/2014

Ratepayers and residents in Waitaki District’s Corriedale ward have had another election.

It was occasioned by the resignation of a councillor owing to ill health.

The result was a foregone conclusion and we would have been saved the costs of the election if a serial candidate who had no hope of winning had not stood.

But stand he did, and losing he is:

Corriedale Ward by-election progress result:

 


Waitaki weather

18/04/2014

From the Facebook page of Waitaki Mayor, Gary Kircher:

Gary Kircher – Mayor for Waitaki

Latest update on river levels:

North Otago
Kakanui at Clifton Falls has peaked at 580m3/s at 12:30pm and currently at 495m3/s and still receding.
Kakanui at Mill Dam is at 550m3/s and still rising, the water from Clifton falls will take approx. 4 hours to reach this site. This will continue to rise and then slowly recede after. The SH1 at Maheno is closed.
Shag at the Grange is holding at 230m3/s

The rainfall for the North Otago catchment has slightly eased off with hourly accumulations now at 5-7mm and hour.

 


Standing up for Otago

19/01/2014

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull’s campaign to Stand Up Otago has gone quiet with his less than enthusiastic response to the news that Shell plans to drill for oil and gas in the Great South Basin.

But Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher is happy to stand up for jobs.

Anadarko is due to start exploratory deep-sea drilling in the next few weeks, and Mr Kircher said yesterday’s meeting had provided a chance to ensure that safeguards were taken to protect the environment, as well as a chance to ensure the district was well placed to take advantage of any opportunities that could arise.

”The potential is absolutely enormous for our region. Oil and gas has transformed the Taranaki region, bringing prosperity, jobs and opportunities for the whole area. Test results indicate that the area being tested off Otago may have much greater reserves than Taranaki.

”I was elected on the basis of growing our economy in the Waitaki district and I see this as a major possible game-changer for us all.

”Even if the production is based in Dunedin, the flow-on effects for our district will be significant.”

He said he would always be willing to listen to any concerns people might have about oil and gas exploration.

”I represent our district and will do what I can to pass on those concerns and ensure they are dealt with properly.” . . .

Otago won’t be as strong as it should be if Dunedin is weak.

The jobs and economic growth that would flow from Shell basing its exploration in Dunedin would benefit the whole province.

This prospect has its detractors but there’s more than a little hypocrisy in their protests as these letters to the editor in the weekend ODT says:

The front page article (ODT, 13.1.14) regarding the small group of protesters who want to block the offshore drilling by Anadarko gave prominence to an incredibly small proportion of the Dunedin population; as such it did not deserve front page positioning. That said it was interesting to note these people who wish to limit oil exploration were using boats and boards, wetsuits and probably vehicles to get to Port Chalmers, all of which need petroleum products in their manufacture.

This group would carry a greater message if they used wooden canoes, dressed in wool, and used cork as their flotation aid. If this group want alternatives why can’t they come up with bright ideas and interesting conversations, not protests and negativity? R.J. McKenzie.

Oh the irony of the Oil Free Otago rent-a-mob pictured on the front page. Virtually every object and action in your pictures of the so-called protesters is ultimately derived from the use of fossil fuels – including the PVC jackets, neoprene wetsuits, plastic kayaks, the paint on the banners to the smart phones and computers used to organise the mob. It even appears as though the majority of protesters travelled to Port Chalmers from Dunedin in private motor cars and one wonders how much fossil fuel was burnt in travelling to Dunedin by participants in the Oil Free Future Summit. When will these people learn that in every single moment of every day everybody uses something that is either drilled or mined and that include the alternative future technologies so beloved of the rent-a-mob. The alternative is the Stone-Age. Peter Dymock.

Anti-tobacco lobbyists who smoked would have no credibility, anti-progress protesters who use the fuels against which the rail and provide no alternatives for sustainable growth are little better.

Waitaki’s mayor understands the importance of economic growth in the region and is standing up for Otago, I’m not sure Dunedin’s does and is.


Free publicity pays off

17/10/2013

Oamaru’s entry and subsequent win in Seven Sharp’s Sharpest Town competition gave the Waitaki District free publicity which is paying off:

. . . In July, Oamaru took the title of Seven Sharp’s New Zealand’s Sharpest Town competition in a landslide victory.

As a result, Oamaru played host to the Seven Sharp team for a live broadcast from the Victorian Precinct on August 5.

All things good about the district, including Alps 2 Ocean, businesses, education, steampunk, the Victorian Precinct, the Penguin Colony and the people, were showcased to about 409,700 people around the country.

LJ Hooker’s Stephen Robertson said the company had noted a 30 per cent increase in the volume of sales since the Seven Sharp publicity.

Of the 30 per cent increase, about 60 per cent of inquiries had come from out of town, with some specifically mentioning the TVNZ exposure. . . .

There will be other factors influencing the increased sales but the television programme has had a positive impact.

It’s also helped locals look at the District with a fresh appreciation of its charms and given us a welcome infusion of positivity.


Why and where’s Waitaki grown?

08/10/2013

Population projections for the Waitaki District have been gloomy for years.

The trend has been for fewer people and the average age of those left getting higher.

But yesterday’s announcement by Statistics New Zealand of electorate populations from this year’s census shows that the Waitaki Electorate’s population has increased from 60,135 to 64, 962.

The electorate includes not just the Waitaki District but most of Central Otago, all of Waimate and Mackenzie Districts, part of Queenstown Lakes and part of Timaru City.

QLDC was expected to increase in population because of Queenstown’s growth but that town is in neighbouring Clutha Southland electorate, not Waitaki.

Wanaka, which is in Waitaki, has grown but more than 3,000 extra people would almost have doubled its population which is unlikely.

There’s been a mini boom in grape growing in Central which will have brought more people into the area but again I’d be surprised if it’s thousands.

Both Waimate and Waitaki Districts have had a big increase in dairy farming which increases employment opportunities on and off farm.

Could it be that anecdotal evidence of a population increase, and a lowering of the average age, because of dairying is reflected in official statistics?

The answer to why Waitaki has grown and where will come when more census data is released.


%d bloggers like this: