Mañana = not today

October 16, 2017

Mañana translates as tomorrow.

But a Spaniard told me when referring to a time commitment it means not today which effectively means an undefined, and often distant, time in the future.

Winston Peters allegedly posed as an Italian at university. He might not claim Spanish blood too, but his attitude to time has a similarly frustrating elasticity to that of the Spanish mañana.

In July he said:

“I make this guarantee that whatever decision New Zealand First arrives at post-election, it will be made public by the day the writs are returned, which is within three weeks from polling day.”

Writ day came and went last Thursday and negotiations were wrapped up between Peters’ party and both National and Labour but there was no decision.

All parties have to run what was agreed past their boards before anything is made public. That shouldn’t be difficult but of course nothing with NZ First is simple.

Given Peters’ guarantee, about the date, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that his board would have made travel arrangements earlier and been prepared to meet on Friday or over the weekend.

But they hadn’t and weren’t.

. . . “We are doing the best we can in the way we can best organise it … this country is the same size as Japan. The same size as the UK. We are not a little island nation. It takes people time to organise things, particularly since we are coming up to Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Peters told media this afternoon. . . 

Instead, the board is expected to meet today.

Whether they’re able to come to the serious consensus Peters said would be required, is open to question.

Little in known about the board members and Peters declined to give their names.

Such secrecy from any other party would have Peters advancing conspiracy theories and thundering about the need for transparency. But of course, it’s one rule for him and another for everyone else.

RNZ found a list of probable board members and Newshub got some brief information on most of them.

But whoever they are, only Peters’ biggest fans would believe that they wouldn’t agree to whatever he says.

So it is possible there will be consensus and maybe we’ll know the makeup of the next government soon, though that might be not be today, or even tomorrow, which could mean the Spanish not today rather than the day after today.

But whenever he makes his decision and announcement, Peters’ propensity to mean anything but what he says, leaves me thinking that no government is preferable to one with him in it.

That isn’t a long term option which leads to the question I think people on both the blue and red side of the political spectrum are wondering about:  is being out of government preferable to being in one with NZ First?

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Winners losers, losers winners?

October 12, 2017

Karl du Fresne is right – this is all arse-about-face:

. . . In any half-rational political system, it would be the parties which between them won more than 81 percent of the vote, not Peters with his measly share, that determined the course of negotiations. A minor player such as New Zealand First, if it had genuine respect for democracy, would accept that its negotiating strength should be proportionate with its level of popular support. But again, this is Peters we’re talking about. And sadly he’s encouraged in his delusions by both the media, which can’t resist stroking his ego (for example, by calling him the kingmaker), and by the major parties, whose attempts to appease Peters come perilously close to grovelling.

Pardon the expression, but this is all arse-about-face. It’s demeaning to democracy. We’ve heard a lot over the years about the tail-wagging-the-dog scenario under MMP. Well, here it is writ large, and unfolding before our very eyes.

It’s a situation rich in irony. We voted for the introduction of MMP primarily to punish our politicians and bring them to heal. We were fed up with their broken promises. We wanted to make them more accountable.

Only now are New Zealanders realising that we achieved the exact reverse. Voters have no control whatsoever over whatever’s going on right now behind closed doors at Parliament. In effect, we have placed still more power in the hands of the political elites. This is the antithesis of what the promoters of MMP promised (and perhaps naively believed themselves). . . 

The situation is made even worse because whatever decision Peters and his negotiating team make has to be approved by serious consensus from the party board – the members of which have not been made public.

Frustrating as the protracted negotiations  and the secrecy over the board membership are, my fear is that the government that eventuates might be even worse.

It is possible Winston Peters and New Zealand First have learned from previous failures and will be determined to ensure strong and stable government in the best long term interests of  New Zealand.

But it is at least as likely that they haven’t and that both they and any coalition partners will be damaged by whatever permutation of government is foisted on us.

I dearly want Bill English to continue as Prime Minister but not at any price.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association warns that the country will come to a grinding halt if there are drastic changes to immigration; NZ First’s anti-trade and foreign investment rhetoric contradicts its assertion it wants what’s best for the regions and mining the misery of the Pike River families is simply despicable.

Like David Farrar, I think it will be better for the country to have National leading the government, but it might be better for the party to be a formidable opposition – what Emma Espiner calls the opposition from hell – instead.

I have a lot of confidence in the ability of Bill English and his team. Nine years leading the country through financial and natural disasters has proved they are more than capable. But they will need all their skill and experience, and more than a little luck to govern in coalition with, or the support of, Peters and his party.

Even then, there is a risk that whoever wins in the short  term might become the losers and the losers might turn out to be the winners in the medium to longer term.

P.S. Apropos of foreign investment – Eric Crampton gives some context:

 New Zealand is the most restrictive country in the entire OECD. It is the seventh most restrictive country of the 62 countries they surveyed.


Compromise more likely than consensus

October 9, 2017

One of the supposed virtues of MMP is that it could lead to government by consensus.

In practice it’s much more likely to require compromise.

The Green Party doesn’t  understand this.

If it did, it would be negotiating from a position of strength with both National and Labour.

Instead, its been sidelined, leaving policy gains for New Zealand First with the possibility of some crumbs only if Winston Peters opts for a Labour-led government.

It might look like a principled position to its left-wing supporters.

It looks more like impotence to those for whom the environment isn’t partisan.

Whatever permutation we end up with in government, there will be a strong focus on the environment in general and water quality in particular.

If the Greens moved into the real world and accepted the need for compromise, recognising that some gains are better than none, they could play a leading role in policy development.

Instead, they’ll remain marooned on the far left of the political spectrum, a powerless outpost of Labour, having to accept New Zealand First policies which could well be even less palatable to Green supporters than many of National’s.

 


Rural round-up

October 7, 2017

Time to end cartoon days for meat industry – Pam Tipa:

Meat Industry veteran Sir Graeme Harrison reckons the sector was summed up by a 1994 cartoon captioned, ‘we can’t see, we don’t hear and we don’t talk’.

“I think that is pretty typical of a lot of New Zealand’s export sector to be frank,” the ANZCO Foods Ltd founder and chairman told the recent ExportNZ conference in Auckland.

“Really what we’ve got to do is join hands and collaborate. That is certainly what ANZCO has done in its business relationships around the world.” . . 

Commodities and cost savings drive Fonterra’s performance – Keith Woodford:

Fonterra’s 2017 financial performance was a solid result, despite profits dropping 11 percent to $745 million. The main cause of the drop was the higher farm-gate price of milk supplied by its farmers, which is a cost to corporate Fonterra.

This farm-gate price is based on commodity returns and is largely beyond the control of Fonterra. The decline in profit would have been much greater if it were not for a six percent reduction in operating costs.

It is these operating cost savings which have fuelled the more than $5 million bonus payments this year to CEO Theo Spierings. These savings can be directly attributed to the so-called V3 strategy which was Spierings’ baby. . . 

Fonterra’s payout may be at risk after global dairy prices undershoot – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Dairy prices undershot expectations in the overnight auction and some economists say it points to weaker demand and stronger supply, threatening Fonterra Cooperative Group’s forecast payout.

The NZX Dairy Derivatives market pointed to around a 5 percent lift but instead the GDT price index – which covers a variety of products and contract periods – fell 2.4 percent from the previous auction two weeks ago to US$3,223.

“The fall was a surprise and must be telling us something about demand that the market did not already know,” said Westpac Banking Corp chief economist Dominick Stephens. . . 

Meet the  new King of the North – Pam Tipa:

New National MP-elect for Northland Matt King, who took the seat off Winston Peters, is not taking anything for granted until the special votes are counted.

Although he is about 1300 votes ahead and has been told that is a safe margin, he will wait and see before making any big decisions.

They will include whether to lease out the 283ha beef farm at Okaihau that he bought only six months ago from his father, having leased it himself for the past 10 years. He has lived on the farm most of his life.

But he says there is no way he could give his best to his new role as an MP and continue to run the farm himself. . . 

Farm Plan focus in Central Hawke’s Bay:

Hawkes Bay Regional Council’s land advisors met with 34 Farm Plan providers in Waipawa on Wednesday to tackle the challenge of delivering 1,100 Central HB farm plans by 31 May 2018.

The regional council’s Tukituki Plan will lead to better water quality in the Tukituki catchment through land use practice improvements and landowner-led innovation. At this stage, the pressure is on individual landowners to commit to work with Farm Plan providers. The Farm Plans are not a solution in themselves, but spell out the adjustments to make to reduce individual farm impacts on the environment. . . 


Rural round-up

October 5, 2017

2018 Zanda McDonald Award shortlist announced:

A record number of applicants have been narrowed down to a shortlist of seven for the prestigious agribusiness badge of honour, the Zanda McDonald Award.

The trans-Tasman award, now in its fourth year, recognises agriculture’s most innovative young professionals. The four New Zealand and three Australian finalists for the 2018 award were selected for their strong leadership skills, passion for agriculture, and their vision and inspiration for the primary industry.

The Kiwi finalists are Thomas MacDonald, 24, Business Manager of Spring Sheep Milk Company in Waikato and Sir Don Llewellyn scholar, Lisa Kendall, 25, owner/operator of Nuture Farming Ltd and vice-chair of the Franklin Young Farmers Club, Ashley Waterworth 34, who manages and co-owns the family sheep and beef farm in Waikato, and Hamish Clarke, 27, third generation farm manager in the Northern King Country. . . 

Alliance calls fro more merinos and hoggets – Jemma Brakebush:

The country’s biggest sheep meat processor Alliance is calling for more merino farmer suppliers for its Silere brand, as Asian demand for the meat grows.

Alliance took over the brand Silere from New Zealand Merino and Silver Fern Farms last year, when it wanted to expand its portfolio of premium products.

Silere Merino’s season is very short and more lambs are needed to meet the strong demand, Alliance marketing manager for premium products Wayne Cameron said.

Processing here started at the end of September and goes through until Christmas, which is winter in Asia and when consumers prefer to eat lamb. . . 

Life on Muzzle Station – the most remote farm in NZ – Pat Deavoll:

On a bend in the Clarence River, tucked between the Inland and Seaward Kaikoura ranges under the distant towers of Mt Tapuaenuku is New Zealand’s most remote high country station.

Muzzle Station is only accessible by 40 kilometres of rugged, muddy 4WD track that connects it to the Inland Kaikoura road. The track crosses the Clarence and a 1300 metre pass on the Seaward Range.

Deep snow makes it impassible in winter. It takes about three hours to get from Muzzle to Kaikoura and that’s on a good day when the river is fordable and the pass ice-free. . .

Foreign investment crucial for forestry industry – Jemma Brakebush:

Foreign investment in forestry is crucial and New Zealand could never afford to buy back all the forests it has sold, the Forest Owners Association says.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the future of forestry and timber supplies for local mills is one of his party’s priorities as it heads into coalition talks.

He wanted the next government to protect wood supply to domestic mills by creating a Forest Service, and had previously stuck-up for Northland wood processors who said they were being squeezed out of the market by foreign forest owners and buyers.

Commercial forestry is a much bigger industry than most people think, with $25 billion to $30bn invested in plantations, the association’s president Peter Clark said. . . 

Pipfruit industry alarmed at new port fees – Alexa Cook:

The Hawkes Bay apple industry is negotiating with Napier’s port over two proposed levies the sector says could cost it millions of dollars.

The first levy is to cover an extra $2 million in insurance premiums, which have risen because of quake damage in Lyttelton and Wellington.

The second is aimed at the pipfruit sector during peak season. The port is proposing a fee of $100 per 20,000-foot refrigerated container, starting in February. . . 

Lasers from above to zap weeds causing billion-dollar headache:

Drone-mounted lasers could be used to zap weeds that are posing a billion-dollar problem for New Zealand agriculture, AgResearch scientists say.

AgResearch – with partners the Universities of Auckland and Michigan and NZ-based technology firm Redfern Solutions Limited – has been awarded just under $1 million from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund to look into how to “map and zap” the many weeds plaguing productive land.

A recent study led by AgResearch concluded from available research that the known costs of weeds to New Zealand agriculture was at least $1.685 billion a year, but that the true cost from all weeds was likely to be much higher. Environmentally friendly tools are being urgently sought for the early control of these weeds. . . 

Last chance for free DDT Muster:

Farmers are being urged to check sheds and chemical stores for DDT or other banned pesticides as The Great DDT Muster does a final sweep of the country.

Funding for this free collection and disposal service for persistent organic pesticides (POPs) is coming to an end but the company responsible for the service, 3R Group Ltd, believes there is still more out there. 

3R’s ChemCollect manager, Jason Richards, says they’ve been running rural chemical collections for a number of years but knew that farmers weren’t having DDT and other POPs picked up simply because it was too expensive. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 27, 2017

Fear and loathing in the farming press – Colin Peacock:

Claims that the election pitted town against country were strongly echoed in the media – especially the farming press.

Hundreds of farmers beat a path to Jacinda Ardern’s home town of Morrinsville last Monday.

They feared a change of government would hit their bottom line and that they were being blamed too much for the state of the environment. Their strength of feeling prompted many pundits and reporters to say the gulf between town and country was widening. . .

Farmers ‘ batten down their hatches’ post election – Alexa Cook:

Some farmers are “genuinely worried” about the uncertain outcome of the election and are keeping their wallets in their pockets, Federated Farmers says.

Farmers have demonstrated against several Labour Party policies – including a proposal to introduce a charge for irrigation, and to include agricultural in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Last week New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he would not support National or Labour’s policies to impose new taxes on farmers nor include agriculture in the emissions scheme. . .

World Rivers Day heralds boost for water quality data:

Understanding and improving our waterways requires high quality information and communities can now access the latest on their rivers, lakes and streams thanks to fresh data available today. World Rivers Day highlights the value many people see in rivers, and strives to increase public awareness and improved stewardship of rivers around the world.

Water quality is of high importance to many across New Zealand and became a key election issue. It is clear New Zealanders want to see a lift in the quality of our fresh water resources.

This World Rivers Day environmental monitoring organisation Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) is adding the latest fresh water quality data at lawa.org.nz, where communities can easily access data from over 1400 lakes and river monitoring sites. . .

Synlait to invest in Palmerston North research and development centre – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – Synlait Milk, the South Island-based milk processor, will establish a research and development centre in Palmerston North to drive new product development, process technology and packaging.

Rakaia-based Synlait is partnering with Massey University and FoodPilot, which is located at the university’s Palmerston North campus and houses the largest collection of pilot-scale food processing equipment in the southern hemisphere. The business-to-business dairy products manufacturer, which counts milk marketer A2 Milk as a key customer, announced last week that it’s looking to enter the market for branded consumer products for the first time. . .

Where are they now?  – Anne-Marie Case-Miller;

The winners of the 2003 New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year title believe the Dairy Industry Awards are an important part of the industry and career succession, and potential entrants should prepare well and have a go.

It took Andrew and Alison Watters two attempts to win what was then called Sharemilker of the Year, now known as Share Farmer of the Year competition. . .

Zespri chooses head of sales Dan Mathieson as new CEO – Sophie Boot:

(BusinessDesk) – Zespri, New Zealand’s statutory kiwifruit exporter, has chosen its global president of sales and marketing Dan Mathieson as its new chief executive.

Mathieson, who first joined Zespri in 2003, has worked in multiple roles in the business primarily based in Asia. Chair Peter McBride said Mathieson has an impressive track record and in his time leading the company’s sales and marketing he had grown Zespri’s mature markets and diversified the business into new markets. . .


Is this really what NZ wanted?

September 26, 2017

Preliminary election results give no certainty as to which party will lead the next government.

Prime Minister Bill English led National to 46% support, an astounding result for a party seeking a fourth term in office.

But that 46% is only 50 seats which is not enough for a majority government.

Labour’s 35.8% was far more than its supporters could have hoped for before its leadership change but even further away from a majority. It would need both New Zealand First and the Green Party.

This means that Winston Peters, and it is the leader not his party who counts, has almost all the say on what happens next.

NZ First got only 7.5% of the vote. Polls before the election showed that its supporters were fairly evening divided on whether Peters should choose National or Labour should it be in the position to do so.

A criticism of First Past the Post was that voters in marginal seats had too much power.

But MMP has given more power to fewer people by allowing a minor party to choose the government and half of  its supporters will be disappointed regardless of whichever it is.

Is this really what New Zealand wanted?


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