Sustainable Wool Research Programme Backed by Government

The government is backing a sustainable wool research programme which it hopes will generate better returns for farmers and keep carpet production in New Zealand.

The carpet company Bremworth has launched a three year programme to research and develop natural and green chemistry-based alternatives to the few remaining synthetic components of woollen carpets.

Bremworth is a subsidiary of Cavalier Corporation Limited. The listed company last year announced a new strategy of moving away from synthetics and only producing woollen carpets.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is contributing $1.9 million from the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund towards the $4.9 million dollar programme.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor hoped the research would benefit the strong wool sector and help keep carpet manufacturing in the country, preserving jobs.

O’Connor said the rise of synthetic carpets in the last few decades had severely affected the wool industry.

“I’m told that an average Kiwi household laid with synthetic carpet is estimated to have the equivalent weight of 22,000 plastic shopping bags on its floor. That’s a compelling reason to use sustainable wool wherever we can to make healthy homes for Kiwis and the world.

“We believe this programme will spur demand for New Zealand strong wool and enhance our manufacturing competitiveness through strong environmental credentials that challenge industry norms.”

Bremworth chief executive Paul Alston said the programme would also look at how it could make the manufacturing process more sustainable.

“It’s full look at sustainability, [including] how we make the carpet and also what that means for end of life,” he said.

“We’ve signalled the change that we are no longer going to be producing plastic carpets and we are going to be a wool only, or natural fibre company and this is an important part of that process.”

Source: www.rnz.co.nz, Republished by arrangement.

Government Plans to Scrap 30-Year-Old Resource Management Act

The government will scrap the Resource Management Act (RMA) and replace it with three new pieces of legislation.

Environment Minister David Parker ordered a review last term saying the 30 year old law was “too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment”.

The plan announced today is broadly in line with the findings of the independent review panel, led by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC, which recommended a “completely different approach, while also incorporating some of the key principles of the previous legislation”.

The three new Acts will be:

  • Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) to provide for land use and environmental regulation,
  • Strategic Planning Act (SPA) to integrate with other legislation relevant to development, and require long-term regional spatial strategies,
  • Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA) to address complex issues associated with managed retreat and funding and financing adaptation.

The Randerson review highlighted “the significant pressure the country’s natural environment is under” and “the way we use land and water has proved to be unsustainable for the natural environment”.

“Freshwater, coastal and marine environments are in “serious decline” and “biodiversity is under significant threat”, it said.

Poorly managed urban growth was said to have “led to increasing difficulty in providing affordable housing, worsening traffic congestion, greater pollution and reduced productivity”.

Labour campaigned on repealing and replacing the RMA, and Parker said the new law would “improve the natural environment, enable more development within environmental limits, provide an effective role for Māori, and improve housing supply and affordability”.

“Planning processes will be simplified and costs and times reduced,” he said.

Other “key changes” include “stronger national direction and one single combined plan per region,” the minister said.

“And there will be more focus on natural environmental outcomes and less on subjective amenity matters that favour the status quo. Better urban design will be pursued.”

The RMA has long been blamed for putting a brake on housing development and Parker said the new laws would address that “by improving how central and local government plan for housing and urban development”.

“This includes better coordination of future infrastructure with land use, development and urban growth,” he said.

The NBA would be the main law to replace the RMA; it will include a “mandatory set of national policies and standards to support the natural environmental limits, outcomes and targets specified in the new law,” said Parker, that will be incorporated into combined regional plans prepared by local and central government and mana whenua.

“The existing 100-plus RMA council planning documents will be reduced to about 14.”

The Strategic Planning Act will “integrate functions under the RMA, Local Government Act 2002, Land Transport Management Act 2003 and the Climate Change Response Act 2002 to enable clearer and more efficient decision-making and investment,” he said.

“New spatial strategies will enable regions to plan for the wellbeing of future generations, ensuring development and infrastructure occurs in the right places at the right times.”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw will be responsible for the Climate Change Adaptation Act.

The Natural and Built Environments Act will be progressed first and a special select committee inquiry will consider a draft version from mid-year. This will include the “most important elements of the legislation”, including the replacement of Part 2 of the RMA, Parker said.

“I expect that the complete NBA and the SPA will be formally introduced into Parliament by the end of 2021, with the NBA passed by the end of 2022,” he said.

And he said the the government was working with a collective of pan Māori entities on key elements of the NBA including the strengthened recognition of tikanga Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and local government.

Parker told Midday Report the reform was needed to improve both competitive land markets and environmental outcomes.

“The RMA hasn’t stopped our water quality degrading nor reduced our climate change emissions so it hasn’t been doing its job properly.”

Opposition leader Judith Collins says she offered the government the “olive branch” of working constructively to overhaul the system, but as of Tuesday had not heard from the minister.

Parker said yesterday he hadn’t yet talked to National because “they’re not the government”.

But he said he did intend to “reach out” and had had some initial discussions with National’s environment spokesperson Scott Simpson at Waitangi.

Shaw said addressing the climate emergency required an across-the-board approach that included both emissions reductions and building community resilience – both of which were priorities for the government.

“It was clear from New Zealand’s first ever National Climate Change Risk Assessment published last year that the work to adapt and build resilience needs to start now. Failing to do so will only put communities and livelihoods at risk and store up problems for the future.

“We are already working on New Zealand’s first National Adaptation Plan, which will be informed by last year’s risk assessment and set out our long term approach to adapting to the effects of climate change. Today we have announced that we will also progress legislation to provide a framework that can support local councils and communities in how they adapt to climate change.

Source: rnz.co.nz, Republished by arrangement
Related Links: www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/middayreport/audio/2018782971/labour-scraps-rma

Despite Improvements, ICC Fails On Obligations, Ombudsman Says

Invercargill City Council has seen improvements since a new chief executive took over two years ago, but there’s still work to do, chief ombudsman Peter Boshier says.

Boshier’s comments came in a report, released this week, which assessed how well the city council (ICC) was meeting its obligations under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act – which governs what information can be kept from the public.

The council has been under siege as internal standoffs between elected members and staff spilled into the public.

An independent review into growing problems at ICC, released in November, found Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt had been increasingly unable to fulfil his duties.

That review was sparked by concerns raised by the Department of Internal Affairs, and the ICC appointed two external appointees to address the issues it raised.

Today’s report by Boshier into practices at ICC was one of four such reviews, alongside others looking into Buller District Council and Tauranga, and Porirua City Councils.

“This latest batch of investigations confirms that in councils of every size and type, strong and positive leadership is the most important element in establishing a culture of openness and backing that up with the right tools and training,” Boshier said.

There was an increasing culture of openness and transparency at ICC since Hadley joined in 2018, he said.

“I am encouraged to find that overall, the council has an increasing culture of openness driven by dedicated leaders. However, there is still work to do. I found no evidence of explicit messaging from senior leaders to staff about the importance of LGOIMA in particular, as distinct from messaging about openness and transparency more generally,” Boshier’s report said.

Boshier made six recommendations and suggested 34 actions to improve ICC’s official information practices – all of which were accepted.

Chief ombudsman Peter Boshier. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

“A significant culture shift has been initiated at Invercargill City Council, and this is an opportunity to build on that and increase the council’s LGOIMA capability,” Boshier said.

“I’m confident that the chief executive is committed to building capability and implementing my recommendations to effect positive change.”

He was concerned by the lack of official information policy, procedures, or guidance on the council’s obligations under the Act and a minimal training provided to staff.

Overall, the council had unreasonably failed to implement effective official information practice, he said.

“Overall, my opinion is that the council has unreasonably failed to implement an effective official information practice.

“In addition, I have also identified occasions where the council failed to inform a requester of the reasons for refusing a LGOIMA request and failed to inform requesters of their right to complain to the Ombudsman when LGOIMA requests had been refused. It is my opinion this was contrary to law.”

Boshier’s recommendations:

    • Create an official information request webpage and incorporate a link on the council website home page that goes directly to this webpage;
    • develop an official information training programme which includes more comprehensive induction training, as well as training for all current staff, refresher courses and targeted training for specific roles
    • Develop a written policy and procedures on official information requests
    • Develop guidance resources for staff on how to apply LGOIMA to information requests;

establish a formalised peer review process

  • Ensure all LGOIMA responses, which contain a full or partial refusal, include the reason for withholding information and a reference to the requester’s right to complain to the Ombudsman

In response, ICC said the report contained several positive and encouraging comments, along with the recommendations which were “important … to act upon”.

ICC chief executive Clare Hadley said she was pleased to see acknowledgement of the commitment the council had made to develop a culture of openness.

“We all know we can do more, especially in the areas Mr Boshier has commented on and particularly the need for better public information sharing and two-way communication. We accept his comments and endorse his recommended actions,” she said.

Source: rnz.co.nz Republished by arrangement.

Mulitnational Company Promises Quick Builds in NZ

An overseas building company has entered the New Zealand market, promising to build affordable houses in half the normal time.

Panasonic Homes, part of the giant Japanese multinational Panasonic Corporation, has partnered with New Zealand residential building company Mike Greer Commercial.

It is the first time Panasonic Homes has expanded outside of Asia.

The company builds prefabricated house panels, such as external walls, floors and the roof, for stand-alone houses and rental apartments.

Having ready-made components could reduce the typical build time for a New Zealand house from about seven months to three.

Panasonic Homes representative Anna Filippova said the company had built a prototype in Te Kauwhata and was on the lookout for new sites.

“We are committed to helping to grow New Zealand’s housing stock for families who are in need of affordable homes,” she said.

Panasonic Homes is also working on 10 terraced-type houses in Mt Roskill and has other projects in the pipeline.

Mike Greer Commercial will own the land and oversee construction, while Panasonic Homes will supply prefabricated panels.

Panasonic Homes has built houses in Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Source: rnz.co.nz, Republished by arragnement.

Queenstown Woman Sets New Record For Running The Length of NZ: ‘It’s such an adventure’

A Queenstown nurse has become the fastest woman to run the length of the country, in 57 days and 12 hours.

Brooke Thomas crossed the finish line of the Te Araroa trail in Bluff last night, after covering more than 3006 kilometres.

She beat the previous record by a week and fundraised $22,000 for the HeartKids charity.

Brooke Thomas at Bluff

Brooke Thomas started in Cape Reinga at the end of November and finished in Bluff on 22 January Photo: SUPPLIED

Thomas has a pacemaker and said she wanted to test her limits.

She said her achievement had not sunk in yet, but it had been strange to have a relaxed day today after weeks of hard work.

“It’s such an adventure, and I’m just so excited that I finally got to do it. I’m sure it’s going to hit home over the next couple of days, when things slow down a bit. It’s been amazing.”

Thomas said the rough trail made created many challenging moments.

“Navigation isn’t always and you’re over pretty high mountain climbs, but I had a fair amount of time on my own to think about what it is that drives me, and the answer that keeps coming up is: whenever it felt tough – keeping it in perspective, I’m not at war, I’m not struggling in a hospital bed, I’m just out doing something I’ve chosen to do and love doing.”

Up to 60 Overseas Shearers to be Granted Border Exemptions

Up to 60 overseas shearers will be allowed to enter the country between January and March to help fill a gap in the local workforce.

The New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association (NZSCA) told the government in July that keeping shearers out because of Covid-19 travel restrictions could harm farmers’ incomes and cause animal welfare issues for unshorn sheep wilting in the summer heat.

There were further talks this month, and on Friday Immigration New Zealand said border exemptions had been granted for up to 60 shearers to enter the country between January and March.

Conditions include that they have to have at least two years’ experience and be contracted by an approved NZSCA employer.

The association’s president, Mark Barrowcliffe, said it would now be working with overseas shearers to make sure the right paperwork had been completed, so that when spots in managed isolation became available after Christmas, they would be able to take advantage of them.

Barrowcliffe said while the industry waited for help from overseas to arrive, it was utilising the local workforce as best as it possibly could, including moving shearers between the North and the South Island.

“Every shearer we can get now is helping out, every fine day at the moment is helping out, so we’re working at ticking off the boxes day by day … and everyone is working to help mitigate a problem that’s looming around the corner.”

Federated Farmers meat and wool chair William Beetham said the decision was fantastic news for farmers and the shearing industry.

“We really appreciate how hard it has been for the government to manage this issue and keep New Zealand safe and we really appreciate the fact that they understand the importance of animal welfare and have provided these exemptions.”

Beetham said demand for shearers peaked in January and February, so getting the workers through managed isolation and onto farms as fast as possible would be the priority.

“We now have an opportunity to work with the authorities and with the government to do our best to get the shearers on the ground and shearing as quickly as possible.”

Beetham said Covid-19 had highlighted the local workforce shortage within New Zealand, and hoped this would lead to change.

“I also would like to think its been a really big wake-up call for the industry how we need to focus on capability within New Zealand, so there’s a real opportunity for us there going forward to be better at developing our own capability.”

Source: rnz.co.nz, Republished by arrangement

Brexit: UK-EU Deal Hurts New Zealand Exporters, Says Beef and Lamb

The meat industry is urging the government to fight new quotas for local exporters as part of new trade deal between the UK and European Union.

The post-Brexit agreement will mean access will be more controlled.

A new quota will force Kiwi sheep and beef exporters to split their product between the UK and EU, even if one of the markets is not going well.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said it was a major step back in trade.

She said not only would farmers get lower returns, they may not get market access rights guaranteed by the World Trade Organisation.

Beef and Lamb chief executive Sam McIvor told Morning Report prior to Brexit there was 228,000 tonnes of sheep meat access into the EU, including the UK, and 1300 tonnes of high-quality beef.

“What’s happening with those quotas is that they now have roughly been split 50/50 between the UK and the EU so overnight we’ve had a significant reduction in the flexibility and the value that we can accrue from those quotas because we’ve lost the flexibility to put product into either the EU or the UK as customers demand it.”

He said the export markets were massively important to New Zealand.

“What we’ll see here is potentially reductions in export revenue to New Zealand. That affects farmers, it affects rural communities and that knocks on to every community in New Zealand.”

McIvor said there was fear there would be future tariffs for importers like those in New Zealand.

Beef and Lamb are calling for flexibility in the quota.

He said the government had done a great job advocating on the behalf of exporters and Beef and Lamb now expected the EU and UK to live up to their word that New Zealand would be no worse off under Brexit.

Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor told Morning Report he did not expect any more tariffs.

He said New Zealand was in trade negotiations with both the UK and EU.

“We have a great team of trade negotiators, we’re upfront, we’re honest, and we will do our very best to make sure our exporters get at least the equivalent deal that we’ve had and where even possible a better deal.”

He said the government was aware of the potential split in quotas and had been trying to assure the UK and EU the flexibility would assist their producers so that there was not oversupply at certain times of the year and undersupply at others.

Source: rnz.co.nz, Republished by arrangement
Related Links:
Beef & Lamb thinks NZ will lose out from Brexit
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor on hailstorm and Brexit

Dairy Prices up 3.9% in Global Auction

Whole Milk Powder – the most important product for New Zealand farmers – lifted 3.1 percent to $US3306 a tonne, to reach the highest level in 12 months.

Prices for other products sold were higher across the board, with strong rises for butter which was up by 7.2 percent to $US4526 a tonne and anhydrous milk fat which was up 5.5 percent to $US4604 per tonne.

ANZ agriculture economist Susan Kilsby said the results came as a great surprise.

“It’s a really positive start to the season for our farmers and it means the likelihood of the milk price being at the higher end of the range that Fonterra is currently forecasting, is much greater.”

Kilsby said it was not just dairy farmers who would benefit.

“It certainly does flow through, a lot of the spending in our rural communities is funded from incomes that come from dairy farmers so it definitely flows through to our rural communities. so it’s really positive that we’re seeing a good level of milk price there at the moment.”

Source: rnz.co.nz, Republished by arrangement.

Covid-19: Boris Johnson – England Back In Lockdown

Everyone in England must stay at home except for permitted reasons during a new coronavirus lockdown beginning at midnight, Boris Johnson has announced.

All schools and colleges will close to most pupils and switch to remote learning until the middle of February.

In a televised address, the prime minister urged people to follow the rules immediately amid surging cases and patient numbers.

He said those in the top four priority groups would receive a first vaccine dose by mid-February.

Speaking from Downing Street, Johnson said the weeks ahead would be the “hardest yet”.

But he added that he believed the country was entering “the last phase of the struggle”.

Scotland earlier issued a stay-at-home order and joined Wales in closing classrooms for most pupils.

Northern Ireland’s Stormont Executive are also meeting to discuss possible new measures.

On Monday, the UK recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed Covid cases for the seventh day in a row.

A further 58,784 cases and an additional 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive test result were reported, though deaths in Scotland were not recorded.

Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be contacted by letter and should now shield once more, Johnson said.

Support and childcare bubbles will continue under the new measures – and people can meet one person from another household for outdoor exercise.

The government has published a 22-page document outlining the new rules in detail.

Johnson’s spoke after UK chief medical officers recommended the Covid threat level be increased to five – its highest level.

They warned of a “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed” in several areas over the next 21 days.

Level five means the NHS may soon be unable to handle a further sustained rise in cases, the medical officers said in a joint statement.

NHS Providers, which represents health service trusts, said hospitals were at a “critical point” and that “immediate and decisive action” was needed.

A new variant – first identified in Kent and since seen across the UK and other parts of the world – has been found to spread much more easily than earlier variants.

-BBC

Source: rnz.co.nz Republished by arrangement.

Jupiter and Saturn To Be Seen In ‘Incredibly Rare’ Event

New Zealand stargazers will be able to witness a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event.

It has been hundreds of years since Jupiter and Saturn appeared this close together – as viewed from Earth – and it will be a long time before it happens again.

It’s known by some as the ‘Bethlehem Star’.

Otago Museum director and astronomer Dr Ian Griffin told Morning Report over the next couple of nights, the planets Jupiter and Saturn would get remarkably close.

“They are going to be so close together, you won’t be able to separate them … you’ll need binoculars and a telescope to split them, and this is something called a conjunction.”

Jupiter and Saturn come together roughly every 20 years, “that’s nothing particularly special,” he said, but “to get this close together in the sky is incredibly rare”.

Griffin said some astronomers’ calculations suggested the two planets had been seen this close back in 1226.

“And you’re not going to see them this close together until the year 2080.”

To spot the planets, he explained: “Go out tonight, find the moon, and then look down to the left and you should see a bright star and that is Jupiter and Saturn.

“Then if you point your telescope or even a pair of binoculars at that bright star you’ll see there are two planets – Jupiter and Saturn with its wonderful rings.

“And you if look really carefully you’ll see … four of Jupiter’s moons and one of Saturn’s. It will be seven planetary bodies all in that one field of view.”

It is called the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ because “in 7BC there was a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, and back then the ‘wise men’ were astrologers and this would have had some significance to them” and it was mentioned in the Bible as well.

Griffin said anywhere with clear skies tonight and tomorrow night would make for perfect viewing, ideally looking towards the southwest.

“They disappear by 11.15pm, so you need to be out just after sunset – [until] about an hour and half later.”

Griffin will be going to the Mt John Observatory in Tekapo to view the conjunction of the planets.

Source: rnz.co.nz Republished by arrangement.