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 The RWC even superseded the GFC (Global Financial Crisis - don’t you just love acronyms) because its feel-good factor overcame a lot of the negativity and gloom created by the latter.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.


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