Monday, 19 December 2011

Sheep farmers fight back!

# Big Farming Story of the Year: Sheep farmers fight back!

Dairy farmers had a great year with a record payout. Kiwifruit growers had a shocker thanks to Psa. Grain farmers enjoyed good returns and horticulturalists, as always, worked hard for every cent Mother Nature allowed them to earn. The wine industry battled. And for most farmers, 2011 was climatically much kinder than 2010.

2011 belonged, though, to a species that has been threatened by extinction in recent times - the sheep farmer. To paraphrase David Attenborough, this hardy sub-species of farmers had been driven to the hills and rocky outcrops by the more dominant of the genus, the dairy farmer. But no more. Sheep farmers enjoyed record lamb and mutton prices, with wool nearly doubling in value. Dairy farming will remain our biggest earner but sheep, beef and venison farmers are fighting back and some form of equilibrium is returning. The meat industry, though far from perfect in structure, is doing some really good things. Now if only the wool industry could get its act together ….

# Big Political Story of the Year: The Christchurch Earthquake.

February 22, 2011 was our 9/11. It’s forever etched in our minds, where we were and what we were doing, when the fatal quake struck just before 1pm. More than 180 brave souls were lost. A city fell to its knees. A government had to figure out how to pay for a $20-30 billion dollar rebuild. That a left-leaning city party-voted National is a testament to the handling of the crisis by John Key and Gerry Brownlee. Let’s also not forget local government. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Bob Parker, you are the man!

# Big Sporting Story of the Year: The Rugby World Cup.

Behind the Christchurch Earthquake, this was the biggest story of the year. The RWC even superseded the GFC (Global Financial Crisis - don’t you just love acronyms) because its feel-good factor overcame a lot of the negativity and gloom created by the latter. We love you Richie!

# Brickbat of the Year: Political correctness prevails.

This is a social blight I’d hoped would dissipate with the disbandment of the Helen Clark nanny state. Unfortunately it still rears its ugly head. The Labour party remained guilty of it when it came to selecting potential deputy leaders. Sure New Zealand politics is still dominated by white middle-aged males but two wrongs don’t make a right. Candidates for any office should be selected on merit, not race and gender in a PC sop to equality.

The Occupy movement that has polluted our main city centres for the past three months deserves special mention for the PC way the authorities have handled the situation with kid gloves. And let’s not forget the West Coast snails that were relocated and refrigerated at a cost of $600,000 by Solid Energy. All the while, the debate continued over the cost of retrieving the Pike River 29. Where’s the logic in that?

An honorary brickbat mention must go to Sean (show me the money) Fitzpatrick and some plonker in the Telecom marketing department for the disastrous abstinence campaign around the RWC, which lasted about four days before it was pulled! No pun intended.

# Bouquet of the Year: Humble Pie never tasted so good!

While the efforts of the Farmy Army in Christchurch were nothing short of sensational the plaudits in 2011 belong to Graham Henry. Half the country, and I’m guessing 75% of the rural population, did not want him to coach the All Blacks after the Cardiff capitulation in 2007. Henry showed considerable nerve and steely resolve to put his name forward again when most of us thought there was a ready-made replacement in Robbie Deans. In the end Henry’s tenacity was matched by that of his team and the All Blacks prevailed on pure heart.

Post RWC we saw a side of Henry most of us had not witnessed during his eight year reign. We liked it and it dawned upon us why the players liked him. Apparently the players also like new coach Steve Hansen. We need to try to do likewise. Sure, it will never be the man-love many of us have for Richie but I hope he gives us reason not to dislike him in 2012.

If February 22 was our nadir, October 23 was our zenith. And for that we can thank Henry.

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

Monday, 12 December 2011

A good week for farming

# Big Farming Story of the Week: A good week for farming.

The Fonterra Global Dairy Trade Event up 2.6%! Kiwifruit Green showing some much-needed resistance to Psa! Good rains where it was dry! Grass for Africa! A good week for farming!

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Labour leadership wrangle.

No one quite does in-fighting and back-stabbing like the Labour Party. Just think back to the Lange-Douglas rift or the attempted Cullen coup to unseat Clark. So it’s nice to see the tradition continuing in the current leadership scrap between the two Davids, Cunliffe and Shearer. I’ve no doubt Cunliffe’s a very smart man. But he’s also a very smarmy man. Most of us never get to meet our leading politicians face-to-face. If we did, most of us would probably adjudge them to be personable and, in some cases, charming. However, perception is reality and what we see on television is how we judge them. Cunliffe is not a man you readily warm to. If you believe rumours then that lack of affection for him is an emotion also experienced by many of his caucus colleagues. For that reason alone, David Shearer will be the Labour leader announced this week.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The Black Caps.

No other New Zealand sporting team, not even the Warriors at their woeful worst, suffers anything near the derision and scorn that is heaped upon the Black Caps. Their self-destructive capitulation in the face of a reasonably average Australian side in the Brisbane test saw the rabid and feral, whom constitute a good portion of the talkback population, go into overdrive. The Black Caps’ cause was not helped by the pre-match expectation they would match the Baggy Greens or maybe even beat them at the Gabba for the first time since Richard Hadlee’s virtuoso performance in 1985.

The other problem they face is, for some illogical reason, cricket seems to be our second national sport behind rugby. This despite the fact we’re patently not much good at test cricket, if you excuse brief periods under Geoff Howarth and Stephen Fleming’s stewardship when we were genuinely competitive on the world stage. Add to that the envy factor of the bizarre money some of them get in the Indian IPL and you have a recipe for talkback “open season” on the Black Caps.

# Brickbat: The SBW Tail wagging the NZRU Dog.

I know I sound like a broken record but I wish Sonny Bill Williams would make up his mind whether he’s an All Black or a boxer? He’s a brilliant athlete, not a bad All Black but an average boxer fighting pretty average punch bags. And that’s a very generous description of the underwhelming, overweight, sickness beneficiary who was his last victim. SBW will never be taken seriously until he climbs through the ropes and goes toe-to-toe with someone who can hit back. Shane Cameron was once a heavyweight contender. These days he’s dropped a weight division or two and some would say he’s dropped his punching power as a result. There’s nothing to stop him moving back up even if his weight doesn’t. The Mountain Warrior versus SBW? Now there’s a fight I would pay to watch.

# Bouquet: Girl Power.

I had the very good fortune to be invited to Fight for Life in Auckland. Although the food and the booze could have been of a better quality considering the price of the tickets (in excess of $10,000 for some tables of 10) the boxing entertainment could not be faulted. Unlike previous years where some media hacks and wannabe celebrities were woefully underprepared to enter the ring, the combatants this time round were all athletes in their own right who had prepared superbly. Fight of the night though, was Hayley Holt up against Paige Hareb. I’ve always been skeptical of female boxing, a bit like blokes playing netball, not really the “done” thing. However, Holt and Hareb had me eating humble pie, which could well have been a tastier option than the overpriced lamb shank I chewed on! I doubt there’s a gutsier athlete in the country than the diminutive surfer Hareb. I wonder if she can bat, bowl or catch? Perhaps she should catch a wave to Hobart!

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

Monday, 5 December 2011

A country of two halves

# Big Farming Story of the Week: A country of two halves.

The top of the country has been on the lookout for rain. The bottom end has had it in bucketfuls. And the bits in the middle are looking an absolute picture! Having recently journeyed through North Otago, South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury and Canterbury I can report that Mother Nature is doing a splendid job of keeping the irrigators redundant.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Election.

The result was no surprise. What was more surprising was the difficulty John Key faced in getting a stable majority and a clear mandate to govern. Despite the National Party producing its best performance at the polls since 1951 (when it received a ringing endorsement of its handling of the waterfront strike) it effectively only has a clear majority of one. Sure, the Nats can probably rely on the support of Maori Party but the latter’s natural home is the left not the right.

The early indication is we’ve decided, in our collective wisdom, to stick with MMP as our preferred electoral system. While I agree returning to FPP (First Past the Post) would be a step backward, I can’t agree with a political system that allows a one-trick pony to potentially hold a government to ransom. A degree of proportional representation is desirable but not when it is out of all proportion.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The All Blacks coach.

At the time of writing, two key sporting events - namely the first cricket test against Australia and the New Zealand Golf Open - were just getting underway. So this week I’m plumping for the All Blacks coaching job. Much like the election, Steve Hansen finds himself in a similar situation to John Key – almost certain to win but unsure of his coalition partners. The interest around the inevitable Hansen appointment will focus on whether he’s allowed to surround himself with his mates or whether the NZRU puts the likes a Vern Cotter in there to keep him honest.

The other great sporting spectacle should be the battle for the Labour leadership. This brutal confrontation has the potential to make Roman gladiators look like shrinking gladioli. The only difference is the gladiators prefer to eyeball their opponents when they’re knifing them. I will be intrigued to see whether Smarmy David, Charmless David or David Who prevails.

# Brickbat: The million Kiwis who never bothered to vote.

People are fighting and dying in the streets of Egypt and Libya for the right to vote. Meanwhile one million of us could not be bothered to exercise our democratic right. Only 68.8% of those eligible cast their vote, the lowest in percentage terms since 1887. Back then, obviously, getting to the polling booth would have been a much more arduous task, whether by horse or on foot. It was a task only endured by men as women had to wait until 1893 to get their say. And a cynic, not me, would say they haven’t stopped since!

# Bouquet: John Key.

Anyone who doubted he is the most popular politician in the country, need look no further than his electorate of Helensville for resounding proof. No man or woman received more votes (23,473). No one had a bigger majority (19,116). The election campaign was based almost solely on Key’s presidential appeal. Other “key” ministers such as Bill English, Gerry Brownlee and Tony Ryall were barely sighted.

As an interesting aside, National’s Amy Adams (Selwyn) and Ryall (Bay of Plenty) were the next highest pollers at 22,669 and 22,055, respectively, and their mammoth majorities give them the second and third safest seats in the country. By comparison in the arch-conservative Clutha Southland, English could only muster 19,726 votes! Which was 18,978 more votes than former Federated Farmers president, and Act candidate, Don Nicolson got in the bluest of all National safe seats!

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