The NZ system for GHG reporting will be crucial

Big decisions still lie ahead as to how New Zealand reports its GHGs to the United Nations. Keeping short and long-life gases separate in the reporting headlines is vital.

A key forthcoming decision for New Zealand is how it will report to the United Nations on its Paris Agreement milestones.  On the surface, this many seem something for the bureaucracy to deal with, but the reality is very different. The issue is of fundamental importance.

The big question is whether New Zealand highlights the so-called total carbon dioxide equivalent number (CO2e) or whether it highlights the separate targets and achievements for short and long-lived gases. Once determined, the reporting metrics are locked in.

This question has been raised by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) in its draft report. Unfortunately, the issue has subsequently been largely ignored by the media, by commentators and also by rural industry groups, all of which have failed to recognise its importance in shaping the issues. Continue reading

Posted in greenhouse gases, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Forestry issues still need much debate

Land-use decisions between farm and forest need unbiased information from within New Zealand, without Government screwing the scrum towards foreign investors

In my last article on forestry, a little over two months ago, I ended by saying that “there is a need for an informed and wide-ranging debate as we search for the path that will lead to the right trees in the right place, planted and owned by the right people”. Here I take up that issue again.

In the interim, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) has published its draft report on how New Zealand might meet its Paris obligations through to 2050. A key message in the report is that forestry must not be used as the ‘get out of jail card’ (my term) that avoids facing hard decisions elsewhere in the economy. Continue reading

Posted in forestry, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Zespri faces a China conundrum

China is New Zealand’s biggest kiwifruit market. Growth of this market has been spectacular with the Zespri-owned SunGold variety much-loved by Chinese consumers. The problem is that the Chinese are also growing at least 4000 hectares of SunGold without the permission of Zespri. 

That compares to about 7000 hectares of SunGold grown in New Zealand.

The question now facing Zespri and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry is what to do about it.  There are no easy solutions. Continue reading

Posted in Agribusiness, China, horticulture, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New Zealand’s internal inflation is not benign

New Zealand’s internal inflation from non-tradables is well alight at 2.8 percent for the last year. In contrast, prices for items traded internationally declined by 0.3%.  Understanding these differences and the reasons for these differences lies at the heart of the inflation issue. Non-tradables comprise 60 percent of the CPI with tradables comprising only 40 percent.

In recent times, the much-repeated mantra from the Reserve Bank has been that inflation is too low. Much of the mainstream media has then spread that message without critical analysis. Continue reading

Posted in macroeconomics, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Dairy markets have hit a sweet spot but big challenges remain

 Global dairy markets continue to grow despite negative sentiment in some quarters. The Climate Change Commission expects less cows to be balanced by more milk per cow. Man-made ‘udder factories’ are yet to emerge.

The combined effect of the three latest global dairy auctions has been that US-dollar prices for dairy have risen eleven percent since Christmas. A farmgate payment above $NZ7 for each kg of milksolids (MS) of fat plus protein for the dairy year ending in May 2021 now looks close to ‘baked in’. Continue reading

Posted in Composting mootels, Dairy, greenhouse gases, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The winding path of COVID-19

The COVID-19 path is turning a corner but there are still huge challenges ahead. 2021 will be another year where lifestyles and the economy will be dominated by COVID-19

This is the nineteenth time I have written about COVID-19 since early February 2020 but I have not written about it since September.  In those early months , my key perspective was that we were under-estimating the impact that COVID-19 would have, both here in New Zealand and globally, and that some of our responses were too slow. I also saw a need, in an environment when people were looking for certainties, to articulate the uncertainties.

For a while, things looked real wobbly as the Ministry of Health was poorly organised and there was confusion until late March as to whether New Zealand would aim for elimination or simply flattening of the curve.  The Level-4 lockdown came only just in time. The full story of the debates within the Ministry of Health, and exactly how the Prime Minister came to make the subsequent decision for elimination, has yet to be told.  It could well have gone the other way.

By September, the key issue in NZ seemed to be underestimating the risks associated with an increasing proportion of returnees who would be COVID-19 positive. So I wrote about that.  Thereafter, I saw no great need to say much more. It was just a case of waiting for the Northern Hemisphere winter to play out, with inevitable impact. And that is where we are at right now. Continue reading

Posted in COVID-19, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Rolleston Rescue 1968

In June 1968, a group of four Lincoln University friends comprising John Metherell, John Beresford,  Limbo Thompson and myself set off for a winter climb of Mt Rolleston, the best-known peak in Arthur’s Pass National Park. The weather was less than perfect, but we continued up through the snow in cloud and mist. On a rocky section about 250 metres below the Low Peak, John Beresford took a small fall on iced-up rock. It was only about three metres, but it was enough to break an ankle.

Back in those days there were no cell phones, and there were also no satellites to receive distress calls.  Bringing in a rescue team would have meant a 24-hour wait for their arrival and would have created a further set of risks. Just two years previously, four climbers and a rescuer all died just a few hundred metres from here in stormy conditions. The priority was to get off the mountain quickly.

So, we set about doing a self-rescue.  We fashioned a combined stretcher and sledge made from two Mountain Mule packs, lashed together with ice axes. With one of the team in front to guide the sledge and two acting as anchors, we slowly lowered John B down the upper mountain. John B helped at times, being keen to contribute to his own rescue, by pushing with his good leg while still sitting on the sledge. We then descended down into the Bealey Valley. Continue reading

Posted in Mountain adventures, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Farewell to Sir Bob Elliott

When I wrote the book ‘Devil in the Milk’ back in 2007, I introduced Bob Elliott in the very first paragraph. Bob was the Auckland paediatrician who first identified A1 beta-casein from milk as a big risk factor for Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is the form of the disease that often strikes in childhood and then requires daily insulin injections throughout life.

In the years since then I have often thought that history will in time regard Bob as one of the great heroes of modern medicine. He sowed the seeds on which others have continued to build, with a particular focus on A1 beta casein but with those findings also having relevance to other food-derived opioids.

When Bob Elliott finally became ‘Sir Bob’, or more formally ‘Sir Robert’, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2020, he had less than three months to live before succumbing to cancer at the age of 86.  I wrote to him on hearing of his knighthood, and asked him how he was going with his memoirs. Continue reading

Posted in A1 and A2 milk, Dairy, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Pivoting from production to permanent forests

A fundamental change is occurring in the economics of production versus permanent forests. The policy environment is getting left behind

During 2019, I wrote five articles discussing land-use transformation that would be driven by forthcoming forestry investments.  One of the key themes of those articles was that New Zealand’s forestry policies are a mess. The rules are complex and confusing. Also, the alignment of those rules with the overall public good is at best debatable.

I wrote about how policy communication by Government has been driven by public relations spin about the so-called billion trees programme. It has been virtue signalling but little else.

I also wrote that the investor focus to date has largely been driven by production forestry with that focus shaped by proximity to ports rather than the most appropriate land-use.  In that context, selling carbon units has been seen as a bonus.

In contrast, I suggested that the future would be dominated more by the price of carbon than the value of production forests.  I also stated that I would much prefer New Zealand’s carbon-forestry investments to be funded by New Zealanders, with there being no need for overseas funds for any permanent forests.

It is now 13 months since I wrote the last article, so what has changed in the meantime?

The biggest change is that the price of carbon units (NZUs) has risen from around $25 to $37.50 per tonne of carbon dioxide. That in itself is not a total surprise. But there is always a difference in the decision-making weight to be placed on what might happen and what is happening. So, this price rise is a big reinforcement of the upward trend. Continue reading

Posted in carbon farming, forestry | 14 Comments

House-price inflation and interest rates are bound at the hip

Reducing house-price inflation depends on identifying the drivers. Right now, that means interest rate policy and quantitative easing must change. Everything else is band-aid as the fireball grows

House-price inflation is New Zealand’s hot-fire issue. Look back a year and very few people were predicting the fire. Now we have a fireball.

Quite simply, house-price inflation is driven by citizens’ loss of confidence in fiat currency. Having money in the bank has become a mug’s game.  As long as post-tax interest rates on savings are well below inflation rates, then the fireball cannot be doused. Investors have to find somewhere for their savings.

Prior to COVID19, there was a valid argument that urban planning rules combined with high immigration were the key drivers of house-price inflation. Those urban-planning issues had been in the background for many years but were then fanned by high immigration. 

 However, it is COVID-19 and the reactions of the State, particularly monetary policy under the control of the Reserve Bank, that have created the current fireball. Continue reading

Posted in macroeconomics, The economy, Uncategorized | 15 Comments