Monday, 27 February 2012

Fighting Among Farmers

# Big Farming Story of the Week: Fighting Among Farmers (FAF).

Leaked e-mails! Claim and counter-claim! Genuine vitriol! General confusion from the rank and file! No it’s not Julia Gillard v Kevin Rudd. Welcome to the world of TAF (Trading Among Farmers).

# Big Political Story of the Week: Is it still “Dear John”?

Is the country falling out of love with John Key?

If you’re to believe the polls more than half of us don’t want the sale of state-owned assets and three-quarters of us don’t want farms sold to foreigners. Throw in more cuts to government spending (including the sacrosanct health sector) and you have a PM who will need all of his political charm to placate the masses.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: It’s Fab to be Fat(ish):

Ok, fat might be stretching it a bit, but big seems to be big in cricket right now. Richard Levi, who looks like a Springbok prop than a Protea, is leading the charge for stocky sportsmen. Jesse Ryder is no shrinking violet and Aussie David Warner is a pocket battleship.

Another sportsman facing weighty issues is Piri Weepu. Not only the PC nonsense around the bottle feeding of his baby but also the controversy surrounding the feeding of pies to himself over the summer. But I say all power to Piri. He’s a role model to all men battling man boobs and a beer belly. If Piri can lose them, so can we!

# Bouquet: Farming Show listeners.

After being accused of having a “nasal bogan delivery” earlier in the week, it was nice to get some great feedback on my editorial piece last Wednesday around the February 22 anniversary of the Canterbury earthquake. So due to popular demand (OK so it was only a couple of texts) here it is:

One year ago today, my producer Dom Boy George and I sat in the Farming Show studio in Dunedin and the earth moved. Not a nasty jolt to knock you off your feet, more a hauntingly menacing rolling motion, like being on a dodgy crossing of Foveaux Strait, with the same end result – a sick feeling to the core. In another time and place, we would have thought “Wow – that was an earthquake” but because of September 4 and Boxing Day 2010, we knew in our hearts something terrible had happened up the road in Christchurch.

And so it came to pass. One hundred and eighty five brave souls paid the ultimate price and the lives of nearly half a million Cantabrians were changed forever. The other four million of us watched in horror as the biggest natural disaster since the Hawkes Bay earthquake of 1931 rocked our nation to its very core.

In the ensuing days, from the safety of our living rooms, we could barely comprehend the scale of the devastation. I can only imagine what it must have been like at ground zero. As days turned into weeks and then months, the Canterbury earthquake, though never far from our news headlines, faded from the absolute forefront of our minds and we hoped and prayed there would be an end to it all.

But Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress, a real bitch in Christchurch’s case, and just when you thought it was safe to get on with life and the rebuild, along comes June 13. At the time, we were lucky enough to be on a guided tour, some 25 metres above ground level, of the magnificent yet-to-be opened Forsyth Barr Stadium. The ripple-effect of the rumble, while mild in Dunedin, was sickening. What should have been a wonderful experience was soured on the spot with the realization of another ‘big one’ up the road.

Then on December 23, as I celebrated finishing work for the year and drove to the supermarket to stock up with festive cheer, I heard on the radio Christchurch had been hit again. And I thought you poor buggers. But for the grace of God, that could have happened to any of us. Canterbury we share your grief, one year on, and marvel at your spirit.

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

Monday, 20 February 2012

After having to endure some pious bleating

After having to endure some pious bleating from my counterpart Steve Wyn-Harris about how he’s never missed filing a column in 17 years, I think it’s only right and proper to explain my absence from last week’s edition of this august chronicle.

Indulge me, if you wil,l as I step back in time. My dear old mum once warned me the drink would eventually get me in trouble and so it came to pass when I had one or two too many at the Otago Sports Awards last winter. There was an auction for a trip for two to Auckland, including accommodation at Sky City, to attend the 2012 Halberg Awards. In the interests of raising money for disabled athletes, I raised my hand to kick the bidding along. No one followed suit and I was left wondering whether my tux still fitted!

But I justified the unintended expense with the promise of a glitzy night on the town for my lovely and long-suffering wife Penny. Fate again conspired when she had to pull out because she was taking our eldest daughter to Melbourne to attend the prestigious (with a price tag to match) Monash University.

So there you have it. The pressure of squeezing five days into a three day working week (don’t start me on the shambles that is Waitangi Day) and the prospect of having to raise a King’s ransom for Monash, meant I was time poor and financially impoverished for the week. Something had to give.

So it was off to the Halbergs without filing a column, albeit with my broadcasting colleague Lee Piper filling in for Penny. Because we’d paid handsomely to be there, the organizers were kind enough to sit us at a table with some sporting legends – namely the swashbuckling cricketer John R Reid and athletics legends Beatrice Faumuina and Alison Roe plus their respective partners. Thrown in for good measure was Andy Hay, these days sports editor at TVNZ, who’s coxed New Zealand rowing eights to two world championship gold medals and a Commonwealth Games bronze.

Unfortunately for Piper, who had his heart set on sitting beside Alison Roe, the great marathoner did not make the start line for the evening. However, her eleventh hour ring-in, David Kirk, there to present the Halberg to the All Blacks, was not a bad replacement. While Captain Kirk was quick to ditch Piper in search of greener conversational pastures with Beatrice’s blond partner, poor old J R Reid was sandwiched between his wife and me for the evening.

The unintentional highlight of the evening was the performance (or lack of) of celebrity co-host Rachel Hunter. The ill-conceived organizers foolishly chose to pair her with Sky’s Stephen McIvor to front the awards, a man at least six inches (15cm) her inferior. Unfortunately Rachel’s pair were also about six sizes too big for her dress which led to Jim Hopkins’ humorous quip that the former super model looked like “two-air bags looking for a car accident”.

Sadly, her wardrobe was not her only malfunction. She battled with the auto-cue as I would a 2 iron at St Andrews in a gale force wind. Her butchering of VC hero Willie Apiata’s name was so bad it was funny. Thankfully for our Rach, Vainga Tuigamala or Malili Muliaina were not on the list of celebrity presenters!

However, despite Rachel “train-wreck-waiting-to-happen” Hunter, the evening went off from a judging point of view without a hitch and without any controversy. Paralympian Sophie Pascoe is a stunning young athlete, Jacko Gill is on the verge of international greatness and Valerie Adams has already been there, done that. The dry-witted Graham Henry (a man the nation has really warmed to post-World Cup), the understated All Blacks and the humble Richie McCaw really deserved their day in the sun on a wonderful night.

And for a train-spotter, the opportunity to spend the evening listening to the 84 year old Reid regale tales of yonder sporting years was worth every cent I had unintentionally paid to attend the Oscars of New Zealand sport.

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

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Crafar Farms

# Big Farming Story of the Week: The Crafar Farms.

I wonder whether Alan Crafar, when he set out on his farming career many moons ago, would ever have believed he’d become a household name and his surname synonymous with the debate over foreign farm ownership in New Zealand.

I’ve interviewed Crafar once before and my impression of the man was that of a simple, hard-working, entrepreneurial cow cocky who got too big too quickly with the aid of some injudicious lending from some financial institutions. If we’re to believe the rumour mill, Shanghai Penzing paid just over $200 million for the Crafar Farms. Crafar’s debts were said to be in the vicinity of $200 million. So Crafar wasn’t the only one to cock up!

Having recently jumped through some hoops to borrow some money for an equity share in a dairy farm, I want to reiterate a point I made on radio last week. I liken the amiable Crafar’s influence on borrowing to that of the evil Osama bin Laden’s on air travel. Both activities have been made incredibly more difficult as a result of Alan and Osama’s being!

# Big Political Story of the Week: Foreign Ownership of New Zealand Farms.

Every man and his dog wants to be a Kiwi cocky. Now we can add Titanic and Avatar producer James Cameron to the list. The Hollywood A-Lister wants to milk cows in the Wairarapa, going from 3D blockbusters to 4DD cow teats.

P.S. Talking of Titanic, go see Leonardo DiCaprio’s excellent portrayal of infamous FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar. Likewise, avoid Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy like the plague.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: Zzzzz Zimbabwe Zzzzz Cricket Tour.

Yeah Right! What a snore-fest! Contrast that to the Australian Tennis Open where Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played arguably the greatest tennis match ever. However, the duration of the men’s (353 minutes) and women’s (90 minutes) finals once again reiterates the folly of equality in tennis pay cheques.

Anyone who has run a marathon and been convincingly beaten by a woman, will tell you women are physiologically better designed for endurance events than men. I’m all for equal pay for doing an equal job. So how about it girls? Front up and play best-of-five sets like the blokes.

# Brickbat: Having to buy a calendar!

It’s one thing being red-carded from someone’s Christmas card list, but not receiving any calendars in the mail is surely the height of unpopularity. I normally rely on my old mate, Met Service Weather Ambassador Bob McDavitt, to ‘front’ up (no pun intended) but even the Santa Claus look-alike has forsaken me with his festive season snub. The nearest thing I got to a usable calendar was the Ken Ring’s 2012 Weather Almanac. But how reliable is the Moon Man’s book?

# Bouquet: Buying a calendar!

So for the first time in my media career, or hitherto farming life, I’ve had to resort to buying a calendar for 2012. Now before you jump to the natural assumption that I must be tarred with the Steve Wyn-Harris frugality brush, I mention this only by way of passing commentary that the once-plentiful farming calendar is now a relatively scarce commodity. In by-gone years, certainly when I was farming, the RD mailbox was cluttered with calendars at Christmas time as stock firms, fertilizer cooperatives, meat companies, transport operators and the local garage offered thanks for your patronage with a daily reminder of their presence for the next twelve months. It might be a sign of tougher times and tighter margins but I suspect the once bountiful calendar is a victim of the digital age.

So with the sort of parsimony Wyn-Harris prides himself on, I purchased a 2012 Muhammad Ali calendar on sale with a 70% discount. It features an Ali quote each month. I thought I would leave you with January’s:

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them. A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill. Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong”.

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