Sunday, November 27, 2011

Okarito Mussels

I''m just back from the beach with a bag of kutai (50 individual mussels) for my 68th birthday dinner, "tom yum mussels".  

What a taonga are our green-lipped mussels!  Fortunately, they are an acquired taste, leaving plenty for us addicts.  While the farmed product is by and large excellent, nothing beats getting a wet backside gathering your own wild mussels. At Okarito we don't get the former with the main supermarket being 120km away.

Mussel gathering is not easy at Okarito. It is such a wild seacoast churned by large rollers from the southern ocean. Mixed in the turbulent surf are vast amounts of sand and gravel that comes from the glacial rivers. The net result is that  mussels can gain a foothold only well out from the shoreline where they escape the worst of the grinding gravel.  

Humans can only risk access to the mussel zone when calm seas coincide with the lowest of tides.  Even then don't take your eyes off the sea. Tangaroa (the Maori God of the sea) tries to swallow you every seven waves or so.  You work perched on boulders with white-water surf swirling all around. I wear non-slip crocs and a life-jacket to give me some chance in a worst case scenario. The plainly obvious danger protects the mussels from over exploitation.

Once on site there is still no guarantee of satisfaction. Mussels are at their tastiest just before spawning which appears governed by the season and nutrient supply. But there is no way of knowing this without cracking and eating a raw mussel. If it tastes bitter then go back home.

How you pick is also important. Select individuals that are prominent in the clumps or are slightly isolated to get the best. Mussels compete for nutrients so the sweetest and fattest are those that filter the currents first . 

Get all these ducks lined up and you're rewarded with plump orange or cream coloured mussels that taste best immediately after steaming - YUMMMMMM!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wheels falling off the ETS wagon?

Why on earth did NZ follow the Europeans and choose an ETS scheme rather than a simple Carbon Tax option. The logic escapes me.

Two recent articles confirm my opinion and illustrate the "Law of Unintended Consequences".

The first was a Piers McLaren's piece highlighting the planting boom hangover NZ has created in forestry:

"New Zealand’s problem is that we had a massive planting boom in the 1990s followed by very little planting in subsequent years. Steve Wakelin from Scion has calculated that we would need to plant about 50,000 hectares of new land every year, starting in the winter of 2012, to avoid our forest estate becoming a massive carbon source in the period 2023-2038. Why will it become a source? Because this is the logical result of a harvesting boom following one standard rotation after the planting boom of the 1990s. Our forests would pump out up to eighteen million tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year for some of those years. We will curse our forest “sinks”!

The second is a fundamental flaw in our ETS legislation revealed by Rob Stock:

"Motorists are paying up to $25 a tonne for carbon at the petrol pump while the price of carbon credits on the open market is just over $13, leading to windfall profits for petrol companies. New Zealand emitters are able to buy and surrender dubious, but cheap Eastern European "industrial gas" credits, banned or limited in other carbon markets, under New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) at prices far below the expected $25 level when the scheme was established.

What was supposed to be a tax has morphed into a source of revenue for the oil companies! A host of unintended consequences is inevitable when you let bureaucrats loose to create complicated "market driven regulations".

What was wrong with a simple tax on all energy-based carbon emissions? The tax could be raised or lowered as required to change consumer behaviour. It would be a far simpler and justifiable source of revenue for the consolidated fund than the transaction and capital taxes being debated.