News and Updates

25 April 2016

I have decided that the content of this website, Robin's papers, should be available under a Creative Commons license. I chose the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License as it is the most open of the Creative Commons licenses. In other words, please feel free to copy, distribute, and adapt this content with the only proviso being to give a citation to the original content. Remember there is no 't' in 'Johnson'.

22 May 2013

Here is a nice photo of Robin. I am not sure exactly when it was taken or what the event was. Robin Johnson

27 January 2013

I have updated the bibliography. It now has 250 entries.

18 June 2012

Life Membership of New Zealand Agricultural Economics Society (NZAES). In 1996, Robin was made the first life member of the New Zealand Agricultural Economics Society (NZAES). This is the recommendation, moved by Ram SriRamaratnam, the 1996 President.

2 June 2012

I have just added the paper Livestock and Feed Policy in New Zealand: 1975 to the Present which Robin wrote in 1985 and 1986 when he worked for the Centre for Applied Economics and Policy Studies at Massey University.

19 May 2012

New on the site is Cost benefit and the environment debate which Robin wrote in 1996 about the proposed Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Bill (or "HASNO").

28 January 2012

I have just uploaded a book review Robin wrote 'Book Review' of Social Policy in Aotearoa New Zealand, (Fishpond Google Books) by Christine Cheyne, Mike O'Brien and Michael Belgrave, Oxford University Press, Auckland 1997. 281 pp. This book review was appeared in the periodical Public Sector, Vol 20, No. 3, p 26. in September 1997.

10 July 2011

I have scanned edited and uploaded a new paper: The Changing Institutional Environment, a paper presented for the Massey Centre for Agricultural Policy Studies.

16 October 2010

Here is a newly edited paper on the website: Johnson R W M (1992)  Resource management, sustainability and property rights: are our structures adequate?

12 August 2010

I have just uploaded a new paper to Robin's website. It is:

RWMJ (1992m) 'Impact assessment and risk management in New Zealand agriculture: integrating local, regional and national farm models', In: 'Regional and Catchment Modelling', Agricultural Systems & Information Technology, Vol 4, No 2, November 1992, Bureau of Resources, ACT, Australia. From the abstract: 'This paper describes methodologies and results achieved with local and regional models for agricultural impact analysis both within the agricultural sector and on other sectors in New Zealand.'

7 August 2010

I have just uploaded a new paper to Robin's website. It is:

RWMJ (1988e) 'Adjustment in agriculture: agribusiness', Discussion Paper 121, Vol 1: 103-112, Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit, Lincoln College, University of Canterbury.

This was a paper presented to the July 1988 annual meeting of the NZ branch of the Australasian Agricultural Economics Society. Here is the abstract.

This paper reviews changes in the agribusiness sector since 1984. Evidence is based on available statistics and some anecdotal information. Considerable changes are identified in factor markets, input markets and service markets. Main features include rapid increases in factor productivity, stabilization of service prices (except interest), a decline in investment and a decline in balance sheet assets. Amalgamation and restructuring has occurred in the input and service industries and surplus capacity still exists at several points. Outputs can only be maintained at current high levels by disinvestment in the capital base. The agribusiness sector is likely to settle down at some new lower level of output and investment with increased levels of productivity in the medium term.

10 February 2010.

John Key's statement to Parliament of 9 February 2010 proposes more economic growth through more mining in conservation areas. He states that mining uses only 40 square kilometres of land which is less than 0.015 percent of NZ's total land; that new mining will meet strict environmental tests and that increased mining will improve the natural environment via an "off-setting" conservation fund. I have included his words at the end of the post

I immediately sent this email to John Key.

Dear Mr Key,

I have just read your Statement to Parliament about economic goals. I am absolutely shocked and disappointed that your Government intends to increase mining on conservation lands via a review of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. That policy is completely contrary to the statutory conservation management purpose of those lands.

I am astounded that you as the Minister of Tourism cannot see how damaging this is to 'Brand New Zealand', our clean and green image.

I am also completely unconvinced by your assertion that mining will have to meet strict environmental tests and your comment that mining only occupies 40 hectares of land in the whole of New Zealand. The area of land occupied is not a good indicator of the level of adverse effects of mining. Have you not heard of acid mine drainage, the water pollution from heavy metals which flows out from mines and into rivers? Does your quoted return per hectare from mining include rehabilitation of water ways?

It is clear to me that of all land uses in New Zealand, mining has the highest adverse environmental impact per hectare. It is simply nonsense to suggest that this damage can be either mitigated or compensated for.

I urge you instead to do two things.

The first is to provide statutory protection from mining for all conservation land as if Schedule 4 included all conservation land.

Secondly I urge you to follow up on the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's recommendation that current mines on conservation land be required to replace their antiquated mining permits that have no environmental safeguards with adequate consents with up to date mitigation conditions.

Yours sincerely

Here are the paragraphs of his statement concerning mining in conservation areas.

"There is also extraordinary economic potential in the mineral estate residing in Crown-owned land. Mining in New Zealand uses just 40 square kilometres of land, less than 0.015 percent of our total land area. The export value of that land however is $175,000 per hectare, which makes mining an extremely valuable use of land.

The Government will shortly be releasing a discussion document for public consultation on potential changes to Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. Schedule 4 is the part of the Crown Minerals Act which prohibits mining or prospecting on specified areas of Crown land.

The discussion document will recommend that some areas of Crown land be removed from Schedule 4 and in addition that some areas currently not in Schedule 4 be added to it.

Notwithstanding the public consultation process, it is my expectation that the Government will act on at least some of these recommendations and make significant changes to Schedule 4. This is because new mining on Crown land has the potential to increase economic growth and create jobs.

I know some people have expressed concern about increased mining but I can assure New Zealanders that any new mines on conservation land will have to meet strict environmental tests.

Moreover, the Government is also proposing to establish a new Conservation Fund, potentially drawing on royalty revenue from mining operations on Crown land. The Conservation Fund would resource special conservation projects around the country. That means that if there is an increase in mining activity, New Zealandís natural environment would also be improved."

6 February 2010 New Zealand's climate change policy takes us down the Yale Environment Performance Index

Kiwiblog notes that New Zealand ranks 15th in the Environmental Performance Index 2010. No Right Turn notes that New Zealand's rank has fallen from 7th to 15th.

Rather than blog about it I thought I would graph it. Note that New Zealand is doing worst in all the climate change categories. That high score for agricultural subsidies, fourth in the list, is because the taxpayer is going to subsidise the agriculture sector under the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme.

To see or download the dotchart, it is on Wikimedia Commons.

23 January 2010 Seventy percent fossil fooled

Quite often I hear politicians or journalists say that New Zealand can't really be expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels as 70% of our energy is renewable, due mainly to our hydro power schemes. A typical recent example was business journalist Fran O'Sullivan, writing in the New Zealand Herald on December 9, 2009.

O'Sullivan wrote this about NZ's positioning on climate change prior to the UNFCCC summit at Copenhagen.

"Where the Government negotiators will focus is on getting across New Zealand's position...the fact that 70 per cent of energy is renewable leaves little room for gains on that score"

The trouble is this 'truism' is not only a bad reason for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is also factually incorrect. As the barchart shows, renewable energy including Hydro power supplies 30% of New Zealand's energy supply. Fossil fuels supply 70%.

So, I sent Fran an email.

"Fran, You state; "Where the Government negotiators will focus is [in respect of climate change negotiations] on getting across New Zealand's position...the fact that 70 per cent of energy is renewable leaves little room for gains on that score, and that agriculture makes up 50 per cent of emissions." I think you are confusing electricity generation with NZ's gross energy supply. Only 30 percent of NZ's gross energy supply is renewable. Refer to and the Ministry of Economic Development 2009 energy figures. Kind regards"

Fran replied the same morning "Yes you are right. Real oversight on my behalf will get it corrected on website".

As I write this, six weeks later, the '70%-renewable' statement is still on the NZ Herald website. We seem doomed to be seventy percent fossil fooled for a while longer.


The source of the data for the barplot is the Ministry of Economic Development 2009 Energy File. I created the barplot with the R programme. The commands were:

engy<-c(83.1, 280.8,159.9,80.3,113.2,47.4, 1.2)
names(engy)<-c('Coal','Oil','Gas','Hydro','Geothermal','Other renewable','Waste')
cols <- c("brown4","green","green","brown4","green","brown4","brown4")
png(file="NZ_Energy4.png",pointsize = 14,width=650,height=550)
barplot(sort(engy),horiz=T, las=1,xlim=c(0,300), border=1, space=0.8,col=cols)
legend(165, 4, c("Non-renewable 69%", "Renewable 31%"), lty = 1, lwd=4,col = c("brown4", "green"))
title(main="New Zealand Primary Energy Supply 2008",xlab="Gross Petajoules")
mtext(side=3,line=0.25,"Source: Ministry of Economic Development")

I have uploaded two versions to the Wikimedia Commons website; an SVG chart and a PNG chart.

9 January 2010 More on the Story of Cap and Trade

This post will also appear on the Project Rameka blog. It includes the Story of Cap and Trade video again.

My friends Jonathan Kennett and Bronwen Wall set up 'Project Rameka', a carbon sink project near Takaka. I am one of the trustees of this project.

The three of us are climate-change junkies and we have been going to some talks about climate change hosted by Victoria University of Wellington.

Jonathan has posted on a talk by NIWA's main climate scientist David Wratt and on a talk about sea level rise and the Antarctic 'Andrill' ice-core drilling project.

Usually, we grab something to eat afterwards, and have a yarn about what we thought of the talk.

One talk I went to by myself was about the NZ emissions trading scheme. I caught up with Bronwen and Jonathan soon afterwards and filled them in on the talk. They both thought I should post on the Project Rameka blog about the NZ emissions trading scheme (or "ETS" for short), as it has implications for the carbon credits that Project Rameka, as a carbon sink, will be eligible to receive.

Also, shortly afterwards, Climate Issues Minister Nick Smith rammed through some major changes to the 2008 Labour version of the ETS, in a big rush so New Zealand would look like a country with a good climate change policy at the UN climate summit at Copenhagen. Yeah, right!

I have been trying to write this post for a while now. It's a massively complex scheme and I had been struggling to come up with something readable about it. Jonathan has said, correctly of course, that it's got to be short and easy to read, each post no longer than about 500 words, and not too technical. 'Mission impossible', I thought, then I joked to Jonathan: "What say I sum it up in a cartoon?"

But, joking aside, I found a video about emissions trading! That's got to be easier to take in than reading some jargon-heavy blurb about economics and climate change! Here it is!

The video is called The Story of Cap and Trade from Annie Leonard who was behind the Story of Stuff viral video.

'The Story of Cap and Trade' gives us a nice simple definition of an emissions trading scheme.

  1. There has to be an annual limit on carbon emissions, a 'Cap'.
  2. The 'Cap' is the total number of 'permits to pollute' or emissions permits.
  3. The 'Cap', and obviously the number of permits, declines over time.
  4. Within the 'Cap', innovative companies that reduce their emissions can sell permits to other companies, the 'Trade'.

Annie Leonard says 'we get rich and we save the planet! What's not to like'.

But, seriously, Annie Leonard says there are several pretty major things not to like about emissions trading:

  1. Free 'giveaways' of permits to the polluters (which undermines the price incentive not to emit).
  2. Offsetting - polluters may buy unverified permits that do not represent valid emissions reductions, so emissions don't reduce.
  3. Climate injustice to less-developed countries, where many 'offset' projects are set up.
  4. The lack of internationally agreed Caps.

Consequently, Annie Leonard concludes that 'Cap and Trade' is a distraction from real policies that reduce emissions, and is really about maintaining 'business as usual'.

There is also a 'Story of Cap and Trade' annotated referenced script (PDF), and a FAQ.

What do you think of the video? I think it's great explanation of a hard topic.

23 December 2009 The Story of cap and trade

I have been meaning to write something about emissions trading and the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme for a while. Instead here is a video by Annie Leonard which describes emissions trading in a fairly simple way.

The Story of Cap & Trade from Story of Stuff Project on Vimeo.

Leonard's main criticisms are:

  1. emission permits will be given away free to emitters, in effect, rewarding them for causing the problem. That will certainly be the case in New Zealand, where billions of $NZ worth of permits will be allocated to agriculture and trade exposed and emissions intensive industries over an 80-year period.
  2. emission offsets (carbon offsets) will be fraudulently obtained, thus undermining the cap on emissions.
  3. caps on emissions are essential to a cap and trade scheme, but there are no internationally agreed caps.
  4. emissions trading is a distraction from the real measures to decarbonise economies, and as such it encourages 'business as usual'.

Kate Sheppard, writing on the Mother Jones website, says that Leonard grossly simplifies emissions trading. I am not so sure.

23 October 2009. I have uploaded another paper. It is 'The Resource Management Act and property rights', from the Proceedings of the Annual Conference New Zealand Association of Economists and the Agricultural Economics Society (NZ Branch), 24-26 August 1992.

4 October 2009. I have scanned and edited another paper from Robin's collection and uploaded it. It is; 'RWMJ1995a'; 'Further Thoughts on Constitutions, Institutions and Collective Decision Making', Contributed Paper, 39th Annual Conference of the Australian Agricultural Economics Society, Perth, WA, February 14-16 1995.

23 September 2009. I have just added a new paper to the bibliography and to the web site. Johnson R W M (1999h), Assessing the Implementation of Government Policy: International Experience, Australian Agricultural & Resource Economics Society News & Views 11:3, December 1999.

9 September 2009. Updated papers.

  1. Public Investment in Agricultural Research in New Zealand
  2. Econometric Analysis of some Trade Issues for Meat

To Do List

19 August 2009. Updated pages that could be tidied.

  1. Public Investment in Agricultural Research in New Zealand (rwmj2006b) needs work on tables
  2. 'Econometric Analysis of some Trade Issues for Meat' (rwmj2004c.html) needs work on tables

23 July 2009. At Robin's funeral we had a 'memory board' - a display of photos of Robin. Based largely on the same photos here is an image gallery for Robins webpage. It features images of Robin on mountaineering trips in the Southern Alps from the late 1940s to early 1950s.

18 July 2009. Today is the first anniversary of Robin's death. I marked the day by walking from Karori West via Makara Road and Johnston's Hill to Mt Kaukau, along the ridges just west of Karori, Wilton, Chartwell and Ngaio. Although I had not walked to Mt Kaukau for at least fifteen years, Robin and I had walked from Mt Kaukau many times.

The overcast weather cleared as I walked and the afternoon became fine and warm until the final gentle climb to Mt Kaukau when the sun was low over the Tasman Sea. There was no wind and no movement of the Makara 'West Wind' turbines. The Ohariu valley farmland was a gleaming shade of green in the low winter sun.

When Robin and I first walked from Mt Kaukau to Johnston's Hill, in the 1970s, the walk was an informal route mostly over private farmland. Now, Wellington City Council has negotiated formal access for both walkers and mountain bikes, the route is sign-posted as are the ways off the main route to the suburbs, and it has a name. "the Skyline". Robin just used to call the walk 'Mt Kaukau to Johnston's Hill'.

I left home in Allington Road at 11:30am, started 'the Skyline' route at 11:45am at Makara Road, and reached Mt Kaukau at 3:15pm. I walked down to Nairnville Park (Cockayne Road) and caught a No 44 bus to the Railway Station then a No 3 bus back to Karori.

16 May 2009. Investment in private R & D before 1989: use of proxies is now tidied up.

15 May 2009. I must start a "To Tidy" list of web pages to tidy up. rwmj2006c.html needs work on tables and quote marks (Now done). The Structure and Economic Impact of R & D Organisation in New Zealand (rwmj2005d.html) needs a bit of editing (Now done). On the R & D page the pdf link needs fixing. 'Methodologies for Measuring the Accumulated Knowledge Base in R & D (Download PDF)'.

12 May 2009. I have set a blog at Google's Blogger for Robins Economics Web page. It will help point search engines to the new URL at Telstra-Clear. It is

6 May 2009. Most of the the material from the Robin's Economics Web Page has now been uploaded to it's new home.

2 May 2009. Robin's home page is now being hosted by Telstra-Clear's Paradise free web hosting service. Robin's email address for many years was via Clear, then Paradise. So we are eligible for some free hosting. Thank you Paradise.

Yahoo is closing all the 'free' Geocities home pages. I won't miss Yahoo Geocities. I am looking forward to advertisement-free webapages that print easily and that can be validated with the W3C. Valid html mark-up is mangled as soon as it is uploaded as the Yahoo Geocities server inserts bizarre scripts to display the advertisements panel. I agree with this Geocities user on CNET reviews: terrible long-term choice...No tool that creates code this strange should be given a favorable rating without some serious qualifiers.

Other comments on Yahoo Geocities include; terrible, horrific, could only be worse if the power went out, and that Yahoo Geocities is inept, incompetent, imbecilic, wretched in every respect, and utterly breathtaking in the sheer breadth of suckage.

22 April 2009. I have re-edited and uploaded Did Peter Gorringe get it right? reflections on the Williamson diagnosis and Interest Groups, Pressure and Policy Determination (1994).

20 April 2009. I have edited and uploaded two more papers about R & D; Methodologies for Measuring the Accumulated Knowledge Base in R & D. A paper contributed to the Annual Conference of the New Zealand Association of Economists, 2000; and The Structure and Economic Impact of R & D Organisation in New Zealand (2005)

10 April 2009. I have edited and uploaded Impacts of Mandatory Meat Hygiene Regulations on the New Zealand Meat Trade (2006).

9 April 2009. This page now has a a back link to the home page and a print link. The print link, combined with a revised printing cascading style sheet, enables printing of web pages without any of the Yahoo Geocities advertisements. The web page will print text in black in a serif font. I will add the 'print this page' feature to the rest of the website as time allows.

2 April 2009. I have uploaded a html version of The Rate of Return to New Zealand R&D (1999), a contributed paper to Annual Conference of NZ Association of Economists, Rotorua, 29-30 June 1999.

26 March 2009. I have edited and uploaded 'Veterinary Public Health: An Historical Perspective' (2002)

25 March 2009. I have edited the paper 'Crowding out and resulting trends in research fund allocation in New Zealand 1991-2000' (rwmj2000e.html). It was in the bibliography twice, once in 2000 and again incorrectly in 2001.

16 February 2009. The site now has a tidied up html version of Productivity in the Sheep Sector (2004).

9 February 2009. I have uploaded a tidied-up html version of The Analytics of Dairy Company Amalgamation (NZARES 2001).

6 February 2009. I have finally uploaded a tidied-up html version of Is there a measurable aggregate production function: examples from agriculture? (Unpublished 2001).

3 February 2009. I have uploaded a tidied-up html version of The Contribution of Agriculture to the National Economy of New Zealand, a paper contributed to 1999 Annual Conference of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.

29 January 2009. I have uploaded a tidied-up html version of The Challenge of Native Title, (2005), a contributed paper to the 2005 meeting of the Australian Agricultural Economics Society at Coffs Harbour.

27 January 2009. I have uploaded a tidied-up html version of Agriculture and Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review, Outlook on Agriculture 34(2), pp 71-76, 2005.

26 January 2009. I have uploaded an obituary for Robin. Rod Forbes and I wrote it. Its in the family history section

15 November 2008. Recent trends in dairy farm productivity (2002) is now tidied.

11 November 2008. I have found two more papers to include in the bibliography. 'Molesworth - The Economic Record', Tussock Grasslands and Mountain Lands Institute Review, No 14, pages 17-20, March, 1968, and, 'The economics of land retirement. A case study'. Tussock Grasslands and Mountain Lands Institute Review, No 18, pages 8-15, March 1970. The bibliography total is now 158 papers. And 'commissioningdraft2.html' is finished.

23 October 2008. I put some footnotes into 'commissioningdraft2.html'.

17 October 2008. Robin has had another paper published in The New Zealand Genealogist. 'Working with the YMCA during World War One' is an account of the war experience of Robin's father, John Johnson. That increases the number of papers recorded on Robin's bibliography to 156.

To Do List

14 October 2008. Pages that could be tidied.

  1. Public Investment in Agricultural Research in New Zealand (rwmj2006b) needs work on tables
  2. 'Econometric Analysis of some Trade Issues for Meat' (rwmj2004c.html) needs work on tables
  3. rwmj2000a.html 'Recent Trends in New Zealand Agricultural Productivity and its Measurement'
  4. anzsicpaper.html 'Making the ANZSIC work for Economics' rwmj2004e.html
  5. prescriptive.html 'A Prescriptive Approach to Food Safety in Meat Products' (rwmj2004b)
  6. 'Impacts of Mandatory Meat Hygiene Regulations on the New Zealand Meat Trade'
  7. 'Veterinary Public Health: An Historical Perspective'(2002)
  8. Crowding out and resulting trends in research fund allocation in New Zealand 1991-2000 (the tables need formatting
  9. minfm.html 'Food miles : open letter to the Minister of Agriculture'
  10. nzares04paper.html 'Productivity in the Sheep Sector' 2004 Done
  11. dairy01.html The Analytics of Dairy Company AmalgamationDone.
  12. aares99.html 'The Contribution of Agriculture to the National Economy of New Zealand'. Done.
  13. aggprod.html 'Is there a measurable aggregate production function: examples from agriculture?' Done.
  14. indep.html 'Infrastructure Woes' done
  15. subsahara.html 'Agriculture and Trade in Sub-Sahara Africa: A Review' Done
  16. recent.html 'Recent trends in dairy farm productivity'. done
  17. rwmj2000a.html 'Recent Trends in New Zealand Agricultural Productivity and its Measurement' done
  18. assec00.html 'Methodologies for Measuring the Accumulated Knowledge Base in R&D' done
  19. rwmj1990b.html 'Is There Life After Subsidies? A Review' 1990. done
  20. nativetitlepaper.html 'The Challenge of Native Title' done
  21. healthy.html 'Healthy Money Healthy Planet: Developing sustainability through new money systems, by Deirdre Kent, reviewed by Robin Johnson' done 30 Jan 2009

27 September 2008. I have given the index page a makeover and I have created some separate pages for the topics that used to be on the old index.