Monday, 28 November 2011


There’s only been one story in the past week and that has been the election. By the time you read this, hopefully a new government will have been formed with a clear mandate to govern. So without further ado, here are the Farming Show Gongs as we pay tribute to the best and worst of Election 2011:

# The IRB Award for truncating the election campaign:

Goes to Richie McCaw. For seven glorious World Cup-filled weeks rugby took centre stage, leaving the politicians just five weeks to strut their stuff with their artillery of clichés, slogans and political-speak. If I hear “moving forward together for a better New Zealand for all New Zealanders” again, I think I’ll do something fatalistic such as jump from a high building or listen to a Peter Dunne party political broadcast. Come to think of it, I could really punish myself and get a Peter Dunne haircut.

# The Jerry Maguire Award for best line of the election campaign:

It was probably pre-rehearsed and a bit corny (like Tom Cruise himself) but John Key’s “show me the money” takes the money as the most memorable quip of the campaign. All of which confirms just how dull the rest of the politicians are!

# The Basil Fawlty “I mentioned the war but I think I got away with it” Award:

Goes to Key and John Banks for the woefully weak cup of tea in Epsom. This highly-staged, unmitigated PR disaster may well prove terminal for the Act Party and it opened the door for you know who.

# The Grumpy Grizzly Bear Award for a triennial awakening from a hibernating slumber:

Goes to Winston for doing it - yet again. Three weeks out from polling, Winnie the Poo was in the crap. Then the great defender of the elderly and those with dementia was gifted Cuppa-gate. Winston is nothing if not an opportunist.

# The “unadulterated flop of the campaign” Award:

Goes to the dithering Doctor Don Brash who, on occasion, appeared to be taking his liberal stance on cannabis a step further. Well he had to be smoking something?

# The “I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him, but gee I’m beginning to respect him” Award:

Goes to Dr Russel Norman. I could never take the Greens seriously when Sue Bradford and Nandor Tanczos were flying the flag but Norman is a breath of fresh air (and fresh air was a precious commodity if you stood too close to Nandor). Not since the passing of Rod Donald have the Greens had a (co) leader mainstream Kiwis could relate to. Politically New Zealand needs a green conscience and there’s an ever-increasing itch to be scratched there. I wonder if Norman is smart enough to get into the tent and pee out (in an environmentally-friendly way of course).

# The NZTA Award for failure to stop:

Goes to Phil Goff. Nice bloke. Shame he doesn’t use a full stop occasionally.

# The Steve Hansen Charm Award:

Goes to Hone Harawira by a nose from his Mana Party deputy dogs, Sue Bradford and John Minto.

# The “Labour politician I could vote for” Award:

Goes to the likeable West Coaster Damien O’Connor. I don’t think he should be holding his breath waiting to be the Minister of Agriculture this time round but he does have some redeeming features. He’s from a heartland rural background, he’s run his own business and he’s resolutely refused to join the “self-serving unionists and gaggle of gays” that he famously claimed dominate the Labour party list.

# The “We’ve come a long way since Marilyn Waring, Ruth Richardson and Helen Clark” Award:

Although the aforementioned three were hardly catwalk models, they were all possessed of powerful intellects. The above award therefore goes to the Auckland Central babes, Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Adern. I’ve got no idea how smart they are but they certainly add some much-needed billboard appeal to an election dominated (still) by bland middle-aged white males.

# The “Glass is half-full to overflowing” Optimists Award:

Goes to the Alliance, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis, Conservative, Democrats for Social Credit and Libertarianz parties for going to the trouble of submitting a party list when Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Michael Jackson have more chance of forming a party and getting someone into the New Zealand parliament.

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Food production is good business

# Big Farming Story of the Week: Food production is good business.

Last week’s 2.6% lift in Fonterra’s Global Dairy Trade Event was a pretty good outcome considering Europe is on the verge of economic meltdown. The world’s a messy place but people still have to eat. A recent Rabobank report on food supply suggested, in the next 40-50 years, the world needed to double agri-commodity supply with access to only about half of the current land, water and mineral resources. Delivering what is effectively a four-fold improvement is the great challenge facing farmers. All of which suggests food production is a great business to be in.

# Big Political Story of the Week: A Storm in an Epsom Tea Cup!

There’s no doubt the normally unflappable John Key has been rattled somewhat by “cuppa-gate”. Could this be the game-changer Phil, Russel, Winston and Hone are looking for? If that is the case, my problem with MMP is that conceivably we could end up with a Prime Minister who is the preferred PM of just 10% of the country. His party has maybe 30% popular support, yet he could stitch together an unholy alliance where Winston Peters, Hone Harawira and Sue Bradford hold the balance of power. I rest my case.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Tiger’s back and Zac’s been a dumb back.

Tiger Woods is no angel but his return to golf is heaven-sent for TV ratings. When Tiger’s on the charge, as he was in the Australian Open, there are few more exhilarating sights in sport. Whether Zac Guildford will be sighted again in his sport at the top level is now in his own hands.

Most of us have been guilty of doing stupid things under the influence of alcohol. But most of us don’t have a lucrative All Blacks career hanging in the balance as a result. Guildford lost his father in tragic circumstances. But I know from experience he’s not the first 19 year old to have suffered that fate. He needs to put that behind him and gainfully use his God-given gifts or risk spending the rest of his life staring at the bottom of a bottle, wondering what if?

# Brickbat: Endangered Snails.

I really worry about society’s priorities! Recently 800 rare giant snails got a frosty reception when they met their maker after a fridge malfunctioned, making them frozen escargot. Solid Energy had spent $600,000 removing 6000 snails from harm’s way at its opencast mine at Stockton on the West Coast. 4000 of those snails had since been re-released.

So what was the big deal when 800 got the cold shoulder? As Jim Hopkins so eloquently put it on the Farming Show last week, there are separate breeds of rare snails up every valley on the Coast because they’re too slow to climb the hills and breed with those in the next gulley!

Is the world a worse place for the loss of the 800 snails? No! Would that $600,000 be better spent on kids who go to school without breakfast and with little hope of lunch? Yes! I rest my case.

# Bouquet: Nadia Lim.

Seemingly every time you turn on the telly these days you’re confronted with a reality cooking show. So it was with some scepticism I fronted up, as the parent of a diabetic, to MC a promotional event for World Diabetes Day where the celebrity guest was Master Chef winner Nadia Lim. Having never watched the show, I half-expected some sort of reality show bimbo who could barely boil a saveloy.

What I encountered could not have been more contrary. Nadia Lim is an intelligent, articulate and vivacious young woman. Obviously, the dietician with the A-plus grades is a great cook but more importantly she is doing pioneering work for the Diabetes Foundation. Some of us despair on occasion about the younger generation. The Nadia Lims of this world fill me with great hope.

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Aussie ETS

# Big Farming Story of the Week: Aussie ETS.

Julia Gillard has bravely tread where John Keys fears to go, with the implementation of, effectively, a full-blown Emissions Trading Scheme across the ditch. This will undoubtedly make the most unpopular Prime Minister in Australian history even more unpopular and ultimately cost her the top job for going back on her word.

I dislike the imprecise science behind the ETS and the all-encumbering cost it will potentially impose on agriculture. It hasn’t been a huge election issue this year but, as sure as God made little green environmentalists, you can wager it will be a major issue in the 2014 campaign.

National clearly has no intention of including agriculture in its ETS. Labour and the Greens have unequivocally laid their cards on the other side of the table. This country needs to make a philosophical decision on the importance of agriculture to our economy and vote accordingly.

# Big Political Story of the Week: Epsom.

The polls are suggesting National could govern alone. But bet your best farm boots the poll will narrow on Election day and John Key will need the safety net that is the Act Party. Sure Act is polling abysmally, and John Banks might only bring Don Brash into parliament with him if he wins Epsom, but if the only real right wing party is obliterated off the political landscape in 2011, then National could be in real trouble in 2014.

Two weeks out from the election, one of the most intriguing questions will be whether John Key gives the good folk of Epsom the official nod and wink. If the accident-prone Act party is to survive, Key needs to put the kettle on and have that cup of tea with Banks. I wonder if Brash will be invited to smoko?

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Smokin’ Joe Frazier dies.

Those of us on the wrong side of 50 will fondly remember the golden era of heavyweight boxing when Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Smokin’ Joe ruled, literally, with iron fists.

If you think there’s a bit of antagonism and angst between ‘Stevie’ Williams and Tiger Woods over race comments, it’s nothing compared to bitterness that existed between Frazier and Ali in the 1970s. Smokin’ Joe supported Ali financially when he was exiled from boxing for refusing the draft to fight in Vietnam. Ali repaid him with cruel taunts about being an “Uncle Tom” - a sellout to the white man. Has history repeated with Williams also biting the hand that fed him?

# Brickbat: The Welfare System.

Campbell Live did a piece the other night on the welfare system and how a solo mother of eight children was faring. The poor, disheveled, uneducated woman was hardly living on the pig’s back but nor should she be as a state-dependent. The welfare system should be a safety net not a chosen profession.

To make matters worse, this obvious drain on society had a Sky satellite dish on her roof. Oblivious to how this might offend many hard-working Kiwi families who can’t afford pay TV, she claimed Sky was for educational purposes for her children. Once again, any parent will tell you young kids, left to their own devices, will always choose Cartoon TV over the National Geographic channel any day. I agree the state has an obligation to see her children don’t starve but the brutal reality is baby-farming should not be a bona-fide paid profession.

# Bouquet: Philanthropists.

There’s an old saying – it’s better to give than receive. Anyone who has ever given freely of their time or dipped into their pockets for a good cause can attest to that.

Bill Gates is the world’s foremost philanthropist. Closer to home we’ve got the likes of Sir Stephen Tindall and in the south we’ve got Sir Eion Edgar, the man whose sharebroking company is the name behind the new Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

While most of us can only aspire to such benevolence, it’s a worthy aspiration. The older I get, the more I want to give. A sure sign of self-awareness of one’s mortality ahead of judgement day at the drafting gates at the Pearly Gates!

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Grass and Moustaches

# Big Farming Story of the Week: Grass and Moustaches.

They’re both growing like crazy. Long live the long grass! Farmers make money when it grows. And long live those who grow a mo to change the face of men’s health. It’s not too late to go to and do your bit and it’s not too late to go to your doctor and get your bits checked out.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The gloves come off!

After nearly three years of (metaphorically) being kicked all round the playground by the bigger and smarter kid Key, fearless Phil finally lived up to his moniker and fought back in the first of the leaders debates. While a majority of pundits awarded the bout to John Key in a points decision, it was refreshing to see Phil Goff show some of the fight and oratory he is renowned for in the House. Both leaders were guilty of being slightly clichéd sloganeers. Both are much better when they speak off the cuff and from the heart.

Goff finds himself in a situation not too dissimilar to that of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in that famous final scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. There won’t be a happy ending but he can go out all guns blazing!

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Ted retires!

I have to put my hand up and freely admit I was one of the 50% of the New Zealand rugby public who wanted Graham Henry gone after the Cardiff collapse in the quarter-finals of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. While Sir Brian Lochore and Laurie Mains decided their own fate, we showed Grizz Wyllie and John Hart no mercy in 1991 and 1999, respectively. Both were very good coaches and both made it one round deeper into the tournament than Henry, but that counted for nought when it came to the cull. Heck, even jovial John Mitchell did better in 2003.

The NZRU had the peoples’ favourite and a ready-made replacement waiting in the wings in the form of Robbie Deans but his obvious credentials were ignored as Steve Tew and Co made the unprecedented step of reappointing a losing coach. History, albeit by a coat of paint on the goalposts, proved them right. Henry now retires as arguably the greatest coach in rugby union history. No man has coached more games of test rugby and his 85.4% success rate with the All Blacks over such a long period, in an era that included a very strong Springboks side, will possibly never be bettered.

Yes, he was damned lucky to get a second chance. But his tenacity should be a lesson to us all, as should his example of grabbing that second chance with both hands.

# Brickbat: The Octagon Occupiers.

I can’t speak for the other main centres but Dunedin, where I’m based, has had a gutsful of a pack of largely unemployed dropkicks protesting about the rest of us who get out of bed in the morning and make a living from a capitalist system that pays them to do nothing. The grassed area of the Octagon is a communal gathering point enjoyed by office workers for lunch and by families in the weekend. Now it smells of dubious cigarette smoke and stale urine. While it’s nothing a daily 6am high-powered hosing down from the Dunedin Fire Brigade couldn’t fix, I wish the authorities would handle this blatant trespassing with something other than kid gloves.

# Bouquet: The Happy Hooker.

Grant Nisbett tells a great story about the immediate aftermath of the All Blacks World Cup victory at Eden Park. While the French were being awarded their runners-up medals and the All Blacks were milling about in celebration waiting for their turn, Andrew Hore wandered 30 metres over to a solitary Ian Smith (sideline) and said, “Hey Smithy, how the f@*# did we win that?” Before Smith could utter a reply, Hore cantered back to his team mates.

The townies can keep the pretty Williams boys, Sonny Bill and Ali. I’m sure the farming community will more than happily lay claim to the happy hooker Hore and his fellow front row farmer, Tony Woodcock.

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.