Monday, 28 March 2011

The world economy and Ken Ring

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The world economy and Ken Ring.

Is the global economy going to hell in a handcart or do the woes of Japan present an opportunity for New Zealand farmers? No one likes to benefit from the misery and misfortune of others but Japan is in desperate need of food of the clean, green, nuclear-free variety. With radiation already detected in spinach and milk in Japan, the door is ajar for New Zealand to fill the breach.

As for Ken Ring, the nation and its farmers are divided. No one engenders more negative (and positive) comment on the Farming Show than the Moon Man. Personally, I like him and anyone who knows Ring will attest to his good character. His judgment, however, is questionable at best.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The New Zealand economy and Ken Ring.

As a nation we need to borrow $10 billion to pay for the Christchurch earthquake. There’s no new money for the Budget with $800 million to be pruned from Government expenditure to reallocate to health and education spending. Where are those savings going to be made? Let’s start by gassing some of the ridiculous Ministries (Women’s Affairs springs readily to mind) set up by previous administrations. ACC is a bumbling bureaucracy. The Student Loan scheme is a rort for many. And it beggars belief that any family (regardless of how many kids they have) with a combined household income of $100,000 should qualify for Working For Families. Oh, and while we’re looking at sensible cuts to government spending, let’s chop the number of politicians from 120 (plus) to 90. MMP sees too many no-hopers gainfully employed at our expense.

As for Ken Ring, the politicians led by nerdy Nick Smith, were quick to distance themselves from the lunar looney.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The cracking Crusaders, the crappy Cricket World Cup (pre quarter finals) or the super nova Novak Djokovich. Take your pick.

As for Ken Ring, his predictions for Christchurch on March 20 were not very sporting at all.

# Brickbat: Auckland and Ken Ring.

Auckland is a city of haves and have nots. Go to Parnell, Ponsonby or the Viaduct Basin and enjoy all the glitz and glamour the Queen City has to offer. Spend some time, as I did last weekend, at the Takanini Hilton, and see firsthand some of the squalor the City of Sails has on offer. And Papakura is several rungs up the socio-economic ladder from the likes of Otara and Mangere.

I think of rural servicing towns such as Taihape, Eketahuna and Gore (where I used to live), or bigger cities, the likes of Palmerston North or Timaru, that sometimes wrongly get a bad rap nationally and I can’t help but feel how lucky the citizens of those great towns are, not to live in the rat race which is our biggest city.

As for Ken Ring, he lives in Auckland. Maybe that’s Ken’s real problem?

# Bouquet: The Farmy Army and Ken Ring.

Federated Farmers again led from the front (end loader) in the fight to clean up Christchurch.

As for Ken Ring, love him or loathe him, you have to begrudgingly admire the amount of publicity the former mathematician and magician has conjured up for himself. Guess who’s going to be topping the best-sellers list for his weather Almanac?

# Bugger: North Africa, the Middle East and Ken Ring.

I’ve often mused aloud why all the oil is under the unstable, nutty, despot-ridden countries? Sensible and serene nations such as Switzerland and Sweden would surely have been far more suitable guardians of the black gold that drives the world’s economy. Mind you, having said that, it could be that water is the colourless gold that drives economies in the 21st century. If that’s the case, then New Zealand is poised to cash in as a nation with a plentiful supply of the precious resource. That’s providing, of course, our friend the Moon Man predicts plenty of rain for the remainder of the century!

Footnote: Jamie Mackay is the host of the Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. In a past life a Southland sheep farmer, these days he comments on farming, politics and sport for a living from the relative safety and comfort of his radio studio in Dunedin.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The rise of wool from the ashes

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The rise of wool from the ashes.

While the dairy industry remains the star of the agricultural commodity stable and sheep and beef farmers are enjoying record returns for meat, the wool industry has risen from the dead. Admittedly, this resurrection has been from an appallingly low base but this was an industry on its knees, one that had been confined to a by-product of the sheep meat industry. The current price of $6.40/kg (clean) is the highest since 1988’s $6.88 ($11.50 inflation adjusted), but it’s miniscule compared to the Korean War wool boom of 1951 when prices peaked at the equivalent of $64.60/kg in today's money.

# Big Political Story of the Week: They can’t help themselves!

Politics has quite rightly taken a back seat to some catastrophic global events of late but it doesn’t take some politicians long to forget such trivialities in an effort to score cheap political points. The bipartisan approach which buoyed us after the events of February 22 has largely dissipated and the demise of the Rugby World Cup in Christchurch will be next in line for a cheap political shot.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Rugby’s worst kept secret.

While the Crusaders did their best to perk up dispirited Cantabrians with a spirited display against the Brumbies in Nelson, their home fans will now be jumping on a plane to watch the RWC.

And a “full credit” must go to the Highlanders, not only for their gutsy performances on the field but also for the class and camaraderie they are displaying off the paddock. Having returned from an arduous double-header in South Africa, and having snatched only two hours sleep amongst 30 hours of travel, most of the squad landed in Dunedin and the made the nearly-two hour road journey to Gore to attend the funeral of the father of one of their squad. Dead on their feet, they stood on their feet at the back of a crammed church for the best part of an hour and a half to support one of their team mates.

# Brickbat: The political correctness pervading Wellington.

A tongue-in-cheek comment on the Farming Show about sampling horse semen (I kid you not – it was on offer at the Hokitika Wild Food Festival) sent my fellow columnist Steve Wyn-Harris spiraling into a schoolboy frenzy. Without my knowledge, he set wheels in motion for yours truly to swallow some sticky stuff in the name of fundraising for the Canterbury earthquake. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from the Prime Minister’s office, suggesting that such an act was not in good taste (no pun intended).

I’m very proud the Farming Show has helped in directly raising more the $55,000 for the earthquake fund and agree Wyn-Harris’ well-intentioned fundraising gesture was somewhat bad taste. But I was capable of coming to that conclusion myself. Surely the PM’s office has more serious matters of state to attend to?

# Bouquet: The Platinum Primary Producers Club.

This is an annual gathering of farming and agribusiness leaders organized by the chief executive of Allflex Australasia, Shane McManaway. There was a lot of agricultural, commercial and financial clout in one room. The result? An astonishing $40,000 raised for a rugby jersey donated by Sir Colin Meads for the Canterbury earthquake appeal.

# Bugger: The earthquake, subsequent tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan.

We witnessed death and destruction on a biblical scale which has numerically dwarfed the Canterbury earthquake. However, as agonizingly ghastly as Japan is, we must not forget charity begins at home and we must not forget Christchurch. This is a disaster that will scar for a generation.

Footnote: Jamie Mackay is the host of the Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. In a past life a Southland sheep farmer, these days he comments on farming, politics and sport for a living from the relative safety and comfort of his radio studio in Dunedin.

The farming planets finally in alignment?

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The farming planets finally in alignment?

At the time of writing I’m second-guessing Dr Allan Bollard will have dropped the Official Cash Rate. While this is bad news for savers and suckers with perpetual bonds, it’s great for the engine room of our economy. For farmers there’s never been a better time to borrow money, so long as the banks play ball. The farming planets, it would seem, are finally in alignment. Record international commodity prices, a shortage of supply, a burgeoning and protein-hungry Asian economy, a climatically-favourable summer for many, a falling exchange rate and now interest rates at record (or near) lows. Land is of course, still too dear, but at 20-30% below its 2007-08 peak, in relative terms it’s good buying. If I was 20 years younger I’d be back farming!

# Big Political Story of the Week: Simon Power.

Over the years I’ve interviewed most of our political heavyweights. Some you warm to immediately and it’s not hard to see why the voters are taken by their charisma. I’d put John Key, Winston Peters (even though his policies suck) and the late Rod Donald in that category. Others take time to acclimatize to. Frosty but friendlier-when-you-earn-her-trust Helen Clark heads that list. Bill English’s undoubted boyish Southland charm is not immediately evident to all, especially on television, while Don Brash was quite the charmer given the chance, which he never was. Some are downright obnoxious, others patently arrogant and the odd one surprisingly thick! They shall remain unnamed.

Simon Power has charisma. Until last week, if Key was run over by a bus, Power would have been the choice of many to lead the National Party into an election. English would make a good PM given the chance, but he blew his chance when he accepted the poisoned chalice in 2002. This country’s next PM now that Power has stepped aside? Whip down to the TAB and place a sly $10 on Steven Joyce.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Highlanders.

It was going to be the courageous Crusaders until the hoe-into-them Highlanders stole the limelight at the Loftus Versfeld fortress in Pretoria. Superbly led by Southland farmer Jamie (Hand of God) Mackintosh, ably backed up by Southland plumber Jason Rutledge, aided and abetted by a couple of cracker Otago townies in Adam Thomson and Alando Soakai, throw in a tough-as-teak Taranaki boy Jarrad Hoeata and we’ve still got Colin Slade to come back. Wow!

# Brickbat: Hone Harawira and Sue Bradford.

Call them dysfunctional, political misfits, loose cannons or whatever. I reckon they’re trouble with a capital T (for Titewhai) if they join forces to form an unholy alliance of the far left. Harawira was born to stand outside the tent peeing in. Bradford is a contradiction. From a well-to-do middle class family her demeanour defies her reputed high intelligence. Either way these Luddites have little to offer the farming community or a 21st century economy.

# Bouquet: Sir Colin Meads.

For giving the Farming Show the honour of auctioning one of his most prized possessions for the Canterbury earthquake fund. It’s a rarity, a No. 8 All Blacks jersey he wore when Canterbury defeated the All Blacks 11-9 at Lancaster Park in 1957. Fingers crossed that wonderful rugby ground sees some World Cup action later this year.

# Bugger: The earthquake.

If indeed Christchurch is to lose 10,000 buildings, including a good portion of its beautiful and defining heritage buildings, then it’s truly a sad day for New Zealand architecture. In my misspent youth I spent a year at Lincoln College. Quite a bit of that year was spent in a beautiful heritage building we’ve seen quite a lot of recently on television. The Carlton Hotel was a lovely old pub. The King of Pubs is dead. Long live the Garden City.

Footnote: Jamie Mackay is the host of the Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. In a past life a Southland sheep farmer, these days he comments on farming, politics and sport for a living from the relative safety and comfort of his radio studio in Dunedin.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Earthquake

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Earthquake.

While rural areas were relatively unscathed, the farming community has covered itself in glory off the back of a swift and decisive response to those in need. The “Farmy Army”, which charged into town on tractors with front-end loaders at the ready to battle the evil forces of liquefaction, was a credit to the organizational skills of Federated Farmers.

The corporate farming world has also been to the forefront with Fonterra leading the charge, ably supported by the likes of Silver Fern Farms and Ballance Agri-Nutrients, right down to the sterling efforts of Canterbury-based water contractors such as Bleeker Contracting and Raymond Hart.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Earthquake.

As was the case with the September 4 quake, the pragmatic and unflappable John Key has been to the fore. Gerry Brownlee continues to exude calm just as he did at Pike River, but the real star of the show has once again been Christchurch mayor Bob Parker. I must confess to thinking his initial election to office was a shallow television personality getting home courtesy of profile alone. How wrong I was!

There has been no petty political points scoring and for that our political leaders are to be congratulated. Key and Bill English now just have to figure out how to pay for the whole damn mess and that’s where the farming-led export recovery will come to the party and pay the piper.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Earthquake.

There’s no escaping it and sport has not been spared. AMI Stadium is out of action for six months, casting a dark shadow over Christchurch’s ability to host the Rugby World Cup, even before contemplating accommodation issues in town. The QEII complex, scene of the 1974 Commonwealth Games, is a crumpled ruin and nearly every Christchurch-based sporting franchise is looking for a new home. During dark times, pained people look to sports and sports stars for a welcome respite. Thankfully Richie and Dan are OK!

# Brickbat: The looters and scammers.

While the bravery, selflessness, tenacity and downright generosity of the human spirit has been a joy to behold in the aftermath of the earthquake, the actions of some beggar belief. The PC Brigade would never allow it but I say bring back the 19th century public stocks, put the perpetrators in them, publically name and shame them and let the good folk of Christchurch loose with a truck load of rotten fruit.

# Bouquet: Steve Wyn-Harris.

My fellow columnist and long-time acquaintance (I’m wary of saying friend because that would make me sound exclusive, as Steve has so few) is the most miserable and mean man I know. He would skin a louse if he thought he could sell the carcass. This Hawkes Bay land barron is so tight he once slept in his farm ute at the Golden Shears in Masterton rather than shell out for a night’s accommodation.

But tragedy often brings out the best in us all and last week Steve raided his hitherto unopened piggy bank, painfully extracted $400 (every one of them a prisoner) and paid his own way to Christchurch to help out in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Steve, my friend, I tip my hat to you!

# Bugger: Mother Nature.

Only a woman scorned could be such a cruel mistress! The jury might be out on global warming but with floods, droughts, snowstorms, disease, pestilence and now earthquakes on the menu you’ve got to wonder what we here in Godzone have done to so offend the Gods of nature.

Footnote: Jamie Mackay is the host of the Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB. In a past life a Southland sheep farmer, these days he comments on farming, politics and sport for a living from the relative safety and comfort of his radio studio in Dunedin.