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News Worthy, 20 June 2008

News Worthy
Richard Worth

20 June 2008 - No. 251

The continuing loss of our forest cover

The worst ever loss of 13,600 hectares of forest last year is a disaster for the environment.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's National Exotic Forest Description Annual Report was released on 10 June 2008.

New Zealand planted more trees than it felled every year from 1951 until 2003, building a forestry resource of 1.9 million hectares of trees.

The last four years has seen ever-growing levels of deforestation. The 12,900 hectares of forests cleared and not replanted in 2006 had grown to 13,600 hectares in these latest figures.

In 2002, only 2.8% of harvested forest was not replanted. By 2003 this had grown to 3.6%. In 2004, 4.2% of all forest harvested was not replanted and in 2005 it was 18%. In 2006 it was 33% and these latest shocking statistics, for the 2007 year, show 35% of felled forests remain so.

This huge felling of 3.4 million trees is a direct consequence of the Government's climate change policies. The felling has occurred for three reasons:

* Early clearing in advance of the 2008 deforestation tax that effectively locks in current forestry land use. The compensation package on offer is both inadequate and poorly targeted.

* Unequal treatment of forestry and agriculture under the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme - favouring agricultural land use despite the higher negative environmental impacts.

* Low forestry profitability

* Lack of investment in wood processing.

Figures show major gaps in nursing
Recently released figures under the Official Information Act reveal the cost of the health workforce crisis, with hundreds of operations being cancelled due to nursing shortages.

This is the human face of the workforce crisis.

The figures show there has been a 46% increase in the average number of nurse vacancies across the country between 2005/06 and 2007/08. The same figures shows hundreds of operations are being cancelled because of the crisis.

The three Auckland health boards have cancelled nearly 1,000 theatre lists due to the nursing shortage. It's becoming harder and harder to recruit and retain our nurses. OECD figures have shown that 23% of NZ-born nurses are now working overseas.

A recent snapshot of DHB nursing vacancies reveals as many as 63% of the vacancies are for medical and surgical specialist nurses.

Surely it is time to implement a number of measures to start dealing with the workforce crisis, such as bonding nurses in hard-to-staff areas, and engaging frontline medical professionals more in the running of health services.

A reflective moment

The famous 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas tells the story of a man who heard about a very special ox and became obsessed by the need to purchase the animal. He travelled from place to place, spending all his money and his life looking for this ox. Just before he died he made a depressing discovery. He had been riding that ox all along.

Political Quote of the Week

"The empires of the future are the empires of the mind." Sir Winston Churchill

Dr Richard Worth
National Party MP


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