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The Press- News column Feb 18

A Poisonous Wrong.

As a ridiculously precocious and defiant young St. Albans boy, I smoked a cigarette for the first time in my life, on my fourth birthday. Seated in my grandfather’s car, after sneaking into it, I gave myself a rather rogue birthday gift, by helping myself to the packet on the dashboard, lighting up and puffing on one of his tailor-mades. I knew exactly what I was doing, after watching and admiring him emit billowing clouds of sweet vapours, every time I was ensconced in the back-seat of his smoke-choked car. Not only was I frequently exposed to second-hand smoke, but it lit the fuse on what would become an abiding fascination and fixation.  Ever since, my tug of war with tobacco has been an up-and-down, on-and-off again battle. A yo-yo war of will power to match the interminable bore of Oprah Winfrey’s oscillating weight battle.  The drum beats are building for New Zealand to outlaw smoking in cars, when children are present. The British Parliament has just voted overwhelmingly in favour of the crackdown, joining Canada and Australia, in making it a fineable offence. Otago University’s recent research indicates that a quarter of New Zealand children are regularly subjected to smoke in cars. And the predictable ethnic and socio-economic suspects feature prominently. Should we resist the nanny state nosing into more of our daily affairs? Well, on this score, I’m with the bossy britches brigade. Subjecting kids in cars to second-hand smoke is such a disgusting and poisonous wrong, the civil liberties argument looks rather perverse. In fact, I think it should also be an actionable offence for a child to repeatedly turn up to school hungry, and without a packed lunch. On both counts, such defective parental behaviour is inexcusable and indefensible. Fresh legislation cannot magic away feckless parenting, but it can send a potent message that there will consequences for the violators of the most basic, bottom-line expectations. That is society’s desire.

Adapting Dairy.

As every farmer will tell you, a big issue du jour is nitrate pollution, with Environment Canterbury’s Land and Water Plan placing stringent limits on nitrate leaching, in an historic first. Lincoln University’s dairy farm, managed by the incredibly innovative South Island Dairying Development Centre, has been actively front-footing the issue. Recently, I joined one of their weekly farm walks for a first-hand look at the various farm practises that are being adapted and trialled, as economic and environmental imperatives are re-balanced.  On Thursday, the farm is hosting a public focus day, with a wealth of experts, which you are very welcome to attend.

Mike Yardley’s current affairs column in The Press. First published on Feb 18.

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