Monday, 27 June 2011

The Fieldays

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Fieldays.

In excess of 120,000 flooded through the gates over the four days of the National Agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek. This is the biggest agricultural bun fight in town! Within an hour of arriving on Wednesday it was a celebrity train-spotter’s dream. Sir Colin Meads, Sir Henry van der Heyden, Allison Shanks, David Carter and John Key were but five of the celebs I managed to collar for the Farming Show.

PM Key jested tongue-in-cheek that he’d yet to come across a Labour voter at Mystery Creek and, tellingly, said he wished he’d never sold his equity share in a West Otago dairy farm. Van der Heyden looked like a content man despite the sky-high dollar, while Sir Pinetree was just rapt he was able to raise $45,000 for the Canterbury Earthquake fund by auctioning off a rugby jersey he wore in 1957.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Earthquake.

Just when you thought it safe to go back in to the water (Jaws circa 1975) the water was back on the streets of Christchurch. In about the time it takes a human child to gestate, we’ve all learned about liquefaction and what the Richter scale really means. Earthquakes used to be something only Wellingtonians worried about. Now Cantabrians live with the daily threat of another big one hovering over their head like the hangman’s noose. The rest of us hold our breath knowing, there but for the grace of God, go we.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Hurricanes Holocaust!

Without doubt the best quote of the past week came from Jimmy Hore, hard-case cocky from Central Otago and the father of All Blacks hooker Andrew. In reference to the sacking of his son and Ma’a Nonu from the ‘Canes, the wonderfully blunt farmer from the Maniototo was quoted as saying, “You don’t shoot your two best dogs before you go mustering, do you?”

It’s hard to beat earthy farmer logic and the way the playing ranks are dwindling in Wellington I reckon it won’t be too hard to beat Hammett’s Hurricanes in 2012.

# Brickbat: The Torturous Taniwha.

Columnist Kerre Woodham was right on the money when she said; “Another major infrastructure project and lo and behold, another taniwha appears. The capricious mythological figure seems to pop up almost as soon as the first sod is turned”. This was in response to limp-wristed Len Brown’s latest sop to political-correctness as he battles to build Auckland’s controversial $2.6 billion city rail system.

I will be accused of being culturally insensitive but, sorry, there’s nothing insensitive about being sensible. This country has a real job on its hands, not only to rebuild after the Global Financial Crisis but more importantly to rebuild its second-biggest city and its biggest agricultural hub. I’m all for jealously guarding our cultural heritage but if another taniwha rears its ugly head to slow the rebuild of Christchurch, I think I’ll collectively scream with 400,000 other Cantabrians!

# Bouquet: Roger Sutton and Stafix.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man! In his first day on the job as head honcho at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), Sutton was welcomed with third and fourth biggest quakes since Canterbury started rocking and rolling back on September 4. If ever quake-ravaged Christchurch needed a positive man with a positive vision, then now is the hour. Lesser men would walk away. Even Graham Henry would agree, Sutton has just walked into the toughest job in the land.

Finally, the Stafix promotion on the Farming Show is proving a winner with punters (no pun intended) from rugby clubs all over Godzone. Stafix is giving clubs the chance to win one of three $5000 prizes to spruce up their stand, clubrooms or changing sheds. A recurring theme thus far from the numerous colourful entries I’ve received is that it would appear many country rugby clubs are dogged by dodgy ‘70s and ‘80s colour schemes. Brown, green, beige and orange patterned curtains and carpets - beer stained at that - no longer cut mustard. E-mail if you’d like a lick of paint for your grandstand or to drag your club’s décor in the 21st century!

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, 20 June 2011

The Pending Psa Predicament

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Pending Psa Predicament.

If the murmurings I’m hearing are anywhere near true then the Kiwifruit industry is in trouble, especially the star of the stable, Zespri Gold. This is a billion dollar industry that New Zealand Inc. cannot afford to fail. The management and containment of psa by the industry, thus far, appears to have been well handled. The horticulture industry is now holding its breath until springtime, when the full cost of psa is likely to be revealed.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Earthquake Announcement.

This story refuses to go away and it’s going to take one hell of an upheaval somewhere else around the country to knock it off its perch as the biggest story of 2011. I don’t think even an overwhelmingly good-news story such as a Rugby World Cup win on October 23 can displace Christchurch from the hearts and minds of New Zealanders.

The simple solution to our greatest ever natural disaster is there is no simple solution. The best insurance in the world cannot cover what Christchurch has lost and almost everyone living east of the CBD in our second-largest city is ultimately a loser. The Garden City will rebuild itself but the heart of the CBD will never be the same. How can it be when its heart’s been ripped out?

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Black Caps Captaincy Cock-Up.

What the hell’s going on at New Zealand Cricket? The tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum approach to finding Daniel Vettori’s successor last week was comical. Heaven help our national side when one of the aspirants for the top job reportedly had to jump through the hoop of doing a power-point presentation. Even though I’m a Brendon McCallum fan, this charade should have been short-circuited on day one by John Wright appointing the man he wanted to work with – Ross Taylor.

I wish the talented Taylor all the best in his new job. Here’s hoping his team talks are a little more inspiring than his first media conference where he abruptly halted proceedings mid-sentence to declare, following an embarrassing silence, he’d lost his train of thought. I suppose it could have been worse. NZC could have taken a leaf from netball’s “pass and giggle” approach and appointed PC primary school co-captains.

# Brickbat: The Te Tai Tokorau Byelection.

At the time of writing I have no idea of the result, which gives me something in common with Hone Harawira, who also has no idea! This is a costly exercise in ego less than six months out from a general election. If Hone wanted a mandate, November 26 is the vehicle he should have chosen. As a taxpayer making a good contribution to the government’s dwindling coffers I really resent money being wasted on the politics of resentment.

# Bouquet: The Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

I have to declare an interest here because Ballance Agri-Nutrients is a long-time sponsor of the Farming Show. Putting personal bias aside though, this is a smart sponsorship for a fertilizer company. Over the next decade, failing an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, there is no more important issue facing farming than the environment. Farmers need to be vigilant guardians of the environment and most are. However the intensification that comes with dairying does not come without a cost to the environment, despite best practice. How farmers mitigate that cost is the challenge.

The BFEA recognizes that farmers “need to be in the black to be green” and the nine finalists in Hastings at the weekend were glowing examples of financial and environmental sustainability. This competition has the potential to supersede the Young Farmer Contest and the Dairy Industry Awards as our most prestigious farming title. It has a way to go but mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

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, 13 June 2011

The Great 1080 Debate

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Great 1080 Debate.

It refuses to go away. In an ideal world there would be an easier and more environmentally-friendly way to control possums and the resultant agricultural curse that is tuberculosis. The Greens would have you believe so. Industry experts say no. Last week I floated the age-old idea of sending the unemployed into the bush and putting a bounty on the head of the furry foe, only to be told this would be paying lip service to the problem on the periphery. It would seem until someone comes up with a better idea, 1080 is the lesser of two evils and a necessary one at that.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The politicians at the Fieldays.

It’s almost as though the Nats have sprayed (cat parlance) all over Mystery Creek, thus marking their territory and scaring off the Opposition. John Key will be truly walking amongst the converted and such is his rock star status with the punters at the Fieldays, it wouldn’t surprise me if he whipped up some lunchtime loaves and fishes to feed the masses.

While Fearless Phil Goff will have earned his moniker if he fronts up after his recent attacks on farming, I’m sure the affable Damien O’Connor (is he a Nat in drag?) will put in an appearance for the Labour Party. No doubt the redoubtable Dr Russel Norman will be there to pontificate on pollution on the behalf of the Greens. Perhaps the most interesting presence could be that of the Act Party where there could be two Dons, Brash and Nicolson, for the price of one! Watch this space.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Sonny Bill Williams Circus Sideshow.

No one can deny SBW is a God-given athlete. An Adidas Adonis sent to win us the Rugby World Cup! But the boxing thing is wearing a little thin with me. His latest bout against the overweight Tongan gospel singer and sickness beneficiary Alipate Liava'a was nothing short of comical. Sir Bob Jones was dead right when he said SBW is no pugilist. If he was, he would’ve finished off a man so gravely handicapped by tennis elbow, he couldn’t work. This was a racquet in every sense of the word! And the bad tennis puns don’t stop there. There was the love match going on ringside as Messrs Henry, Hansen and Smith sat smiling sycophantically at their Sonny Boy Wonder. Bring back Fred ‘The Needle’ Allen or Laughing Lozza Mains and the good old days when the All Blacks coach called the shots.

# Brickbat: The Social Welfare System.

Social Welfare Minister ‘Brawler Paula’ Bennett is doing a good job talking tough on benefit fraud and abuse. Sure there are going to be some genuinely unfortunate souls who will bear the brunt of her beneficiary bashing but SBW’s hapless boxing bozo (see above) has just handed the Brawler a gilt-edged arsenal of ammunition to fire at the abusers. And on that subject, the WINZ Wally who signed off on the sickness benefit for Liava’a needs shot as well.

# Bouquet: Stafix - Taking a Stand.

In 17 years of radio I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved with some great promotions. The past couple of months alone have included giving away a 1956 Ford Pick Up Truck valued at $60,000 for Coopers Animal Health and helping the Platinum Primary Producers Club raise $45,000 for a Colin Meads rugby jersey in aid of the Canterbury Earthquake.

Currently the Farming Show is running a cracker on behalf of Stafix who are “taking a stand” for country rugby. They’re giving rugby clubs the chance to win one of three $5000 prizes to spruce up their stand, clubrooms or changing sheds. All you need to do is e-mail me and tell me why rugby’s so important to your community and why your club deserves the makeover money. We all know the local rugby club is the focal point of many rural communities, especially in the winter months, so here’s your chance to enhance yours.

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, 6 June 2011

The dollar and the weather

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The dollar and the weather.

Despite what Winston Peters says, we can’t do much about the former reaching a 26 year post-float high last week. As for the latter, following a record mild May (albeit an extremely wet one for some) talk of the prospect of a short winter will be music to the ears of farmers who were brutalized by last year’s September storms. The grass is still growing in many regions off the back of a benign autumn and if we’re to believe WeatherWatch’s Philip Duncan there’s more mild stuff to come. The Moon Man, Ken Ring, says the planets are aligning for a late start to winter but watch out for a real sting in the tail with late polar blasts in September and October. Interestingly, the Met Service Weather Ambassador Bob McDavitt concurs but he’s less definitive about the severity.

While I wouldn’t mind a cold snap in October to take the sting out of the temperate teams (Australia and South Africa) in the Rugby World Cup, the last thing farmers need is a repeat of last September’s storms. Here’s hoping the Moon Man’s speaking through a hole in his Uranus on this one!

# Big Political Story of the Week: The political polls.

John Key can seemingly do no wrong. Despite a stingy Budget that resulted in most of us being worse off financially, as a nation we’ve begrudgingly swallowed the bitter pill which prescribes spending less and earning more. Funny that! Maybe, as a country, we’re finally growing up financially and learning to live within our means.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The bloody referees!

Awful Aussie Stu Dick(inson) has always been a pedant when it comes to refereeing rugby. His vile, there can be no other word to describe it, performance in the Reds-Crusaders game was yet another timely example of the biggest threat to Richie McCaw holding aloft the Webb Ellis Cup on October 23 at Eden Park. We all remember wayward Wayne Barnes from Cardiff in 2007. Forget about David Pocock, Will Genia, Victor Matfield or Morne Steyn. The biggest danger to the All Blacks in RWC 2011 is the man with the whistle.

# Brickbat: The colour green.

Despite being a member of the exclusive primary club, it’s a colour I’ve never warmed to as much as its stable mates red and blue. This is not a cheap shot at the political movement or a negative reflection on all the beautiful stuff we convert to protein and sell to the world to pay our way. Nor is it an indictment on the Springboks or Wallabies. Both are menacingly good in green.

They tell me green is the fashion colour of 2011 and will remain that way until 2013, although how anyone other than my old mate Ken Ring could predict that is beyond me. The trouble with green is it’s just not as sexy as red or as regal as blue. You don’t buy a racy green sports car or have royal green blood. Green is a colour we associate with envy or with being off-colour.

Green is a great colour for grass. I just prefer my rugby team playing on top of it to be wearing maroon, blue or gold.

# Bouquet: ACC and humour.

Admittedly, they’re subjects not normally associated with one another but in isolation it’s been a good week for both. ACC has long been an inefficient behemoth. Opening it up to competition in the workplace will keep it on its toes and ultimately benefit those, including farmers, who pay too much for accident cover. And who knows, competition might even encourage ACC to rethink its incomprehensible invoices – an accident waiting to happen if I ever I saw one!

And finally, amidst some of the vitriol that has spewed forth around the Highlanders’ new jersey, it’s great to see the controversy has not been lost on the humorists. There is no finer portal for humour than the internet and no finer example of good-natured ribbing than the doctored photo of Jamie Mackintosh in a David Bain jersey – titled “New Highlanders Jersey – Sneak Peak” (see attached).

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.