Opinion & Analysis
While the government continues to push ahead on its asset sales, I note that consumers are still faced with rising electricity prices. This is despite repeated assurances that selling off these assets will make these companies as efficient as possible. While that may be the case, it is already clear that efficiency does not mean cheaper electricity.
The latest news is that Solid Energy, which has been removed from the immediate sale list due to a financial rough spot, is shedding 123 jobs from Huntly East Coal Mine. Faltering contract negotiations with New Zealand Steel have been blamed, but is this actually a bid to trim down the company's expense sheet to make it more palatable for potential investors?
It may seem like a good idea for the government to sell off these assets, but that will not help these workers, nor the community which relies on their incomes to survive. Whatever your views on asset sales, I believe there is a bigger picture to be considered here. Is it right that these companies raise their prices and slash their staff just so they can be sold off to make a quick buck for the government? Should there be a bit more consideration of the greater good?
When it comes to animal welfare, Federated Farmers backs the proper treatment of the animals in our care. After all, these creatures rely on us to look after them at all times. Treating them well is the least we can do when they are the basis of our farming businesses.
This is why I have been very interested and involved with the development of the Ministry for Primary Industry's (MPI) new animal welfare code, which has recently been released for public consultation.
I am all for updating and tightening up the requirements in the code. I want to see our animals being treated better, because it is the right thing to do.
Some of MPI's statements around this process have, I believe, looked at the issue of animal welfare from the angle of maintaining access to increasingly aware and discerning international markets. To me, it is more important we do these things because they are the right actions to take not just to protect against welfare issues becoming trade barriers.
Whatever the reasoning behind the changes, I hope we see care of our animals lifting to a new level. The public consultation period is open until September 28.
Helicopter effluent monitoring is starting up again in September as is Waikato Regional Council's (WRC) new and more focused compliance monitoring system. This will target around 500 dairy farms in high risk soil areas to carry out more ground-based compliance monitoring.
There are no surprises in this new system, which has been well signalled. Farmers will receive letters giving them notice they will be visited this year, giving them some time to ensure their systems are up to scratch.
This is not about simply being able to tick the box on the day the inspectors come knocking. Farms need to be able to tick all the boxes 365 days of the year. Some farmers have worked hard to comply with the conditions of their effluent consents, but others have chosen to ignore them. I hope this new approach by WRC will finally get those who have been hoping compliance issues will simply disappear to take some real and positive action.
There will be continued helicopter monitoring. We must remain vigilant and keep our standards high. As I have noted in the past, I see it as no different to driving down the road in front of a police car. If your warrant and registration are up to scratch and you are not speeding, you will have nothing to fear.
For farmers who have used the Livestock Improvement Corporation's (LIC) problematic Matrix semen, LIC has kindly offered to DNA test these animals. This is at no cost to the farmers involved. To lessen the impact on your business, I believe it would be good practice for you to take up this offer. If you feel that LIC has not handled the situation well, contact your local LIC shareholder councillor and make your views known.
The reappearance of the sun last week was a welcome start to spring after a very wet winter. It has been quite some time since we had more than two consecutive days of fine weather and the blue skies and sunshine will have boosted pasture growth at a critical time of year. While this week has started with some more stormy weather, we can hope the spring will deliver the right mix of sunshine and moisture our pastures need. It is certainly best to make the most of the opportunity.
James Houghton is Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president.
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