Wrestle an opportunity

Paul Burt gets on the blower to chat to a Minister.

In Home Block6 Minutes

Paul Burt gets on the blower to chat to a Minister.

RATHER THAN SKYPE OR ZOOM I PREFER good old fashioned telephone interviews these days.

I do so to avoid unconscious bias creeping into the exchange. Because the other party can’t see me and only hears a lower-octave voice, it should avoid tainted responses because of who I am… obviously a late middle-aged (okay, early old age) white male farmer (you can pick ’em a mile off) and this sub-set carries the baggage of perceived wealth, environmental disregard, chauvinism and general privilege.

It also avoids those other identity issues. I’m pretty sure I’m a Mr but the last thing we want is for someone’s feelings to be hurt because of how they prefer to be known, or how they dress or how much they eat. When you are only using your ears, ignorance is bliss.

Armed with these solid communication principles I sought an interview with the Minister of Conservation.

  1. Good Morning your Honour. Thank you for taking the time for a chat.
  2. You are welcome, but my people haven’t briefed me as to why I’m talking to an average person.
  3. Simply because we share a common occupation and have a lot to offer each other.
  4. How so?
  5. We are both in the business of managing resources. (Depending on who I am talking to I use this phraseology to elevate my occupational status)
  6. That’s interesting, what resources specifically?
  7. The big ones… land, people, water, flora and fauna.
  8. That’s impressive, it’s a wonder we haven’t crossed paths before now.
  9. You need to appreciate, Minister, that despite the common thread our performance indicators are quite different. First, I’ve been at it a lot longer than you, 32 years and counting, and that allows some logical continuity. Secondly, project success is not negotiable. I am history if I fail, the money I invest is my own (okay half is Louise’s and the other half is the bank’s but I’m personally accountable for it all). Thirdly, I can’t abide wastage and inefficiency hence I see asset and opportunity where you see cost and liability.
  10. Well, you can’t hold me to account for being part of the flawed but most acceptable political system available. Do you have a particular area of concern?
  11. I do actually, the price of organic pet food.
  12. Pardon?
  13. It’s about opportunity and the fauna part of your portfolio, animal pests as you call them. Because of your honourable youthfulness you can’t remember when a kilo of wild protein (skin-on venison carcase) was worth an hour of a farm boys’ wages, about $20.00 in today’s minimum wage terminology. Admittedly that was for human consumption but even at half that return for pet food it would be a useful prop to the rural economy.
  14. Stop there. You know that 1080 is our most effective tool for pests and we can’t jeopardise its use with unintended contamination of food products, even pet food.
  15. It’s been spread upstream from my house and I was assured that was safe.
  16. We won’t get into that debate and besides if you give a pest species economic value, people will “farm” them with minimal reduction in numbers.
  17. Worldwide, name me a wild animal species that’s survived when the price on its head is high enough.
  18. My people have to be in control or it will be a shambles.
  19. If the rewards are there nothing will compete with the efficiency of private enterprise.
  20. The set-up costs would cripple the idea before it got up and running.
  21. You were party to the meat for the needy programme where 30 tonnes of wild venison was harvested from Fiordland and distributed to those who can’t normally afford good meat. All parties involved trimmed their costs and made it work. We are already spending vast sums and the resource is being wasted. The hunter/gatherer community in NZ is very active, skilled and responsible. Ask the old guys how scarce deer were when a carcase was worth a week’s wages.
  22. If it is the opportunity you indicate, someone would be involved already.
  23. They are in a small way but bureaucracy hampers them at every turn. Government departments don’t have a reputation for being visionary. Here is your chance to wrestle an opportunity out of a problem and really make a name for yourself.
  24. It’s been nice talking to you. I’ll get my people to make a note and put it on file.