Wills Ag Communciator of the Year

June 14, 2014

Federated Farmers’ president Bruce Wills is the 2014 Landcorp Agricultural Communicator of the Year.

 . . .In the three years he has led Federated Farmers, Bruce has been an outstanding communicator, successfully representing the interests of farmers with his open, friendly and enthusiastic manner, helped by his willingness to listen to people.

Ahead of several other very worthy recipients, Bruce was selected by an independent panel of judges to receive this prestigious award, announced at an awards dinner in Hamilton last night.

Bruce farms with his brother at Te Pohue, on a sheep and beef operation carrying 7500 stock units. The farm is 1134 hectares, of which 800 hectares are farmed and the balance is in trees and 110 hectares which are protected through the QEII National Trust. He left a career in rural banking after 20 years to return to the family farm and has invested heavily in the long-term sustainability of the farm.

In its 28th year, the Landcorp Agricultural Communicator of the Year Award is administered by the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators, and recognises excellence in communicating agricultural issues, events or information.

 Regarded as the premier award for agricultural communicators, it is also the most valuable prize on offer. Landcorp provides a prize of $2500, which is part of a funding package of $7500 in sponsorship for the Guild. The additional funding assists with administration costs, including the Awards dinner.

Bruce was also presented with a greenstone and timber trophy, which features a roll call of previous winners engraved on the back.

Guild President Graeme Peters said Bruce is a very worthy recipient of this year’s award.

“He is widely respected for his role in bridging the gap between rural and urban people, and has spent countless hours talking not only farmers to but also urban people, selling the importance of agriculture to New Zealand’s economy.

“His communication skills at all levels and covering all aspects of rural life are recognised by this award.”

Federated Farmers has had a much improved public profile under Wills’ leadership thanks in no part to his willingness and ability to communicate clearly and honestly.

He’s given praise when and where it’s due but has also been willing to accept criticism without being defensive.

He has been a strong advocate for farmers, farming and wider rural issues and has earned this recognition.




Communication better and worse

December 26, 2013

Through one of the marvels of modern Science, I am enabled, this Christmas Day, to speak to all my peoples throughout the Empire. I take it as a good omen that Wireless should have reached its present perfection at a time when the Empire has been linked in closer union. For it offers us immense possibilities to make that union closer still.

These are the opening lines of the first royal Christmas broadcast, made by King George V in 1932, the background to which you can read here.

Illustrating how far communication has come since then, this year’s royal Christmas speech is on YouTube.

Technological advances have made it much easier, and relatively cheaper, to communicate with people all around the world.

When I went on my OE in the early 80s, I made two phone calls home in 11 months. Our daughter’s on her OE now and we chat several times a week via Facetime or skype.

It is much easier for politicians to communicate through their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

However, how much of these messages go much beyond those already supporting them or political tragics keeping up with the other side is a moot point – at least until they make a SMOG (Social Media Own Goal) when the message is likely to go far further than they’d like.

There is a downside to this easy communication though and that sometimes people ignore the people they’re with while concentrating on phones or other mobile devices.

As Einstein said:

I fear the day that technology will surpass our interaction the world will have a generation of idiots.

Time to get multi-lingual

June 23, 2013

A few years ago I was farewelling a young Argentinean visitor at Christchurch airport and waiting while he paid his departure tax.

Two young Asian women at the next window obviously didn’t understand English.

The teller was trying to explain they needed to show her their passports but they didn’t have a clue what she was asking of them.

I showed them my friend’s passport and the light went on.

I wondered then, why there weren’t signs in several languages to help travellers who didn’t speak English.

At last there will be.

Christchurch Airport has issued a media release saying it’s getting multi-lingual:

Christchurch Airport is ensuring Asian visitors feel welcome through installing signage in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean – a first for any international airport in the country.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult says the new signs are part of on-going work to make the airport environment even friendlier for international visitors.

“As a leader in the tourism industry, we’ve taken a proactive approach to rolling out multi-lingual signage through our terminal,” says Mr Boult.

“Providing Chinese, Japanese and Korean language versions of our signage throughout the airport reflects the changing nature of tourism to Christchurch and the South Island,” he says.

Mr Boult says the multi-lingual static and electronic displays are part of a broader strategy to encourage greater engagement with key visitor markets. Alongside business development initiatives for the Asia Pacific region, airport staff will soon learn a few basic phrases in other languages to help them communicate with a wider range of visitors.

“This work reflects where future growth in visitor volumes to this region will come from,” he says. “We’re seeing steadily returning numbers from both Japan and South Korea, while the Chinese market is growing significantly.” . . .

It’s a good initiative but why only Asian languages, why has it taken so long to realise the importance of communicating with people who don’t understand English and when will other airports get multi-lingual too?

If we’re serious about welcoming visitors from other countries we have to be prepared to communicate in other languages.

Nessie dead – internet to blame?

June 2, 2013

Have you come across recent sightings of the Loch Ness Monster?

Phillip Hoare hasn’t and is blaming the internet:

Each era creates their own monsters. . .

Whether these creatures were basking sharks, baleen whales, or unidentified new species, or whether they were what people wanted them to be, it is notable that they conformed to the culture and fashion of their times. Does that explain why the Loch Ness monster has been quiet of late? Have we, in our plethora of computer-generated images, become cynical about such monsters, now that we realise how easily we can create them ourselves? Arthur Conan Doyle believed in the Cottingley Fairies (and in ectoplasmic spirits) because the manipulative art of photography was still a mystery. . .

Now, thanks to YouTube – where there is a new cryptozoological sensation every day. . .  we’re attuned to duplicity. Our innocence is gone, along with an era that was trusting, gullible, even. It may be far-fetched to suggest that those 1930s monster-believers were contemporaneous with fellow Europeans who placed their faith in real-life monsters – the totalitarian leaders who offered darker and more dangerous fantasies – but it is undeniable that in the internet age, it is much more difficult to fool us. Or at least, that’s what we think.

I’m not sure that it is any less difficult to fool the gullible and the ability of computers to manipulate images makes it easier to do so.

But perhaps the speed at which the internet enables information to be transmitted means we’re likely to be fooled for a shorter time because it won’t be long before someone lets us know we can’t always trust that seeing is believing.

Bad old days are back

December 3, 2012

Remember when it used to take weeks to get a telephone connected?

Those bad old days are back.

Last month we applied for a connection for a new staff house on a dairy farm and were told someone would be out to do it a few days later.

He arrived when he was supposed to but took one look and said he couldn’t do the connection, someone else would have to do it.

We were told that someone would be out the following week.

That week came and went but no-one turned up.

My farmer phoned Telecom and was told someone would definitely be in touch the following morning.

No-one called so my farmer phoned again and was told that the job couldn’t be done. There wasn’t enough of whatever was needed at the exchange and it could be some months before there was.

Last week, about a week after that conversation, my farmer got a phone call, while we were driving to Christchurch, saying someone would be out to do something to a grey box in the middle of December.

He explained what we’d been told so far and asked if that meant that whatever was lacking at the exchange had been sorted.

I was in the car with him and could hear the conversation on the speaker.

We both got the impression she didn’t know anything about the exchange but before we could pursue the conversation, reception dropped.

As her number had been withheld we couldn’t call back and she  hasn’t tried calling us again.

That was five days ago and we still don’t know exactly when someone will be coming to do whatever needs to be done with the grey box nor whether if, when that’s done, the phone will be able to be connected.

Contrast that with the service from Sky.

Someone turned up at the designated time, put up a dish, connected the box and television – and it worked.

Connecting  a television and a telephone are different jobs but there’s no reason the service we’re getting from Telecom shouldn’t be up the standard as that we got from Sky.

Samsung Galaxy or iPhone?

November 7, 2012

My phone is due for an upgrade.

The options came down to a Samsung Galaxy or an iPhone.

The Galaxy was slightly smaller and  was highly recommended but the iPhone has better service outside main centres which is important for me.

Is opting for the iPhone the right decision or is there another model which is better than both of these?

Call me over cautious . . .

May 12, 2012

. . .  but there are a few things in this email which make me a wee bit suspicious:

Dear Mr. Ele Ludemann
it’s my pleasure to contact you, I hope to have a solid business working relationship with you, I got your esteemed contact detail from the directory. I have investor who is keen to invest in your country. I have just been approached by him regarding funds investment he told me in strict confidence to look for an honest and straight forward person NZ who could receive funds for investment placements.  The code of conduct bureau in his country as senior civil servant does not permit them to own or operate a foreign bank account so he will be obliged to use  someone like you  who  have a good investment platform and experience to handle the funds .due to the ongoing anti graft verification and declaration of asset of  servicing senior  civil servants and politician in his country the owner want the funds to be move to you as trustee /partner ASAP to avoid any trace  of the funds to him.

Do contact me ASAP so that we can proceed with perfecting documentation to move the funds to your possession.

Yours sincerely,

Danso Larbi

Note to would-be fraudsters:

It pays to get the recipient’s gender and your English right if you’re going to have the remotest chance of finding anyone stupid enough to do anything but delete such messages.

Slow post go telegrams return

August 4, 2011

New Zealand Post has announced the end international surface mail, saying three weeks is too long for the internet generation.

But the internet has facilitated the rebirth of telegrams.

Run by Madewell Enterprises, telegramstop.com enables you to compose a telegram online. They’ll then email you a copy and post the original to the recipient.

This might lead to a renaissance for wedding telegrams. We still have ours – the real ones and the odd joke one our best man slipped in.

They were replaced by faxes then emails and texts, but Telegram Stop’s product would make the message much more of a keep-sake than any of those.

The Sydney Morning Herald has more on the company which was founded by former MYOB owner Craig Winkler.

Com Com reduces mobile termination rates

May 5, 2011

Mobile calls and texts from a phone using one network to another using a different one will be cheaper:

The Commerce Commission today released its decision on mobile termination rates – the cost of carrying a text or call on another network. There will be significant reductions in the wholesale termination rates for mobile calls and text messages. As a result of competitive pressure, the Commission anticipates that these reductions in the wholesale rates will flow through to the prices paid by the 4.7 million mobile subscribers in New Zealand in the coming year.

Termination rates for calls will drop to less than 4 cents by 1 April 2012, with further reductions until 2014. Termination rates for text messages will drop to 0.06 cents from 6 May 2011.

“These changes are intended to address significant competition problems in the wholesale mobile market which have resulted in high retail prices – particularly for prepay customers – a low number of mobile calls and high rates of people switching networks, compared to other countries,” said Dr Ross Patterson, Telecommunications Commissioner.

Cheaper but not necessarily cheap enough:

“However, we continue to be concerned about the extent to which the price of calls and text messages between people on different networks are significantly higher than calls and text messages between people on the same network. These price differences create significant barriers for the new entry and growth of small mobile operators in the mobile market,” said Dr Patterson.

While the Commission expects reduction in wholesale termination rates for calls and text messages to resolve this problem, it will be monitoring this situation closely, including publishing monthly reports, and is prepared to move quickly to limit these price differences if required.

The graduated reduction in termination rates for calls will allow mobile providers time to adjust retail rates. In providing this graduated reduction, or glide path, the Commission has sought to balance the benefits for consumers in terms of lower prices, while allowing mobile providers time to adjust retail prices.

New Zealand mobile rates are regarded as high by international standards and that’s the main reason people here text more than those in other countires. 

 The Commerce Commission ruling will bring the costs down although it may not be enough to encourage people to call instead of texting.

I don’t mind texts for short, simple messages which require short, simple responses. But I’m not among those whose first preference for communication is this method.

Mobile misconnect

August 8, 2010

We were half way to Wanaka on Thursday afternoon when I realised I’d left my phone at home.

When we got back an hour ago I found it in my car where it must have been since I went to town on Wednesday.

The battery was flat but it’s now charged enough to tell me I missed six calls and had four messages.

Fortunately none of them was urgent and they were all from people who would have known to call my farmer when they couldn’t get hold of me if they really needed to.

I don’t remember when I got my first mobile but I do remember how it was before then. Toll calls were reserved for matters of great importance and anything else was conveyed by letter.

There are lots of advantages of relatively cheap mobile calls and texting but the weekend has proved that I can do without access to them  for a few days.

Snail mail matters in the country

June 10, 2010

Rural mail contractors don’t just bring us the post, they deliver newspapers, courier packages and junk mail too.

It wouldn’t matter if the junk mail came less often, or if it didn’t come at all. But losing Saturday delivery of the paper would be a nuisance and dropping mail deliveries to just three days a week would cause major inconvenience.

Prime Minister John Key and Communications Minister Steven Joyce are wary of the suggestion by New Zealand Post that Saturday mail deliveries might stop or deliveries drop to three days a week.

However, NZ Post is an SOE and the decision is up to its board, not politicians.

Increasing use of the internet and other forms of electronic communication is a major reason people are using snail mail less.

My mother used to write to extended family and friends frequently and when my brothers and I left home we got a letter once a week. It would be rare for anyone to send anything by post that often now when phone calls are much cheaper than they used to be and texts, email, Facebook and other electronic means of communication offer convenient alternatives to letters.

We still send and receive invoices and cheques through the mail but but not nearly as much as we used to because electronic invoicing and payments are replacing paper ones.

We get more give away papers than in the past too – which I see as a sign the rural economy is rebounding; but we get only one daily paper – the ODT – where we used to get The Press as well. Our mail doesn’t arrive until sometime after lunch and we found we’d caught up with most of the news from the radio or internet so were giving the second paper insufficient attention to justify the cost.

We still read the ODT properly but if it came only three times a week we might not which, if others followed suit, would hurt the paper and add to the list of items no longer being delivered by mail.

Alternatives to snail mail are serious competition for NZ Post but reducing service will make it worse.

NZ Post should be working on ways to encourage greater use of its delivery service rather than throwing in the towel and hastening its demise.

In and out of touch

November 18, 2009

We’d finished the meeting, shared taxis to the airport, checked in and regrouped in the Koru lounge.

A few years ago we’d have chatted to each other until our flights were called.

Instead, a couple checked and dealt with messages on their mobiles, two turned their computers on and started typing and another checked emails on a Blackberry.

Spot the irony.

The technology which makes it so much easier to stay in touch with people in other places makes it far too easy to be out of touch with people in the same place.

Tuning in to fun

October 29, 2009

Anyone who’s had anything to do with children knows that your chances of getting them to do something are greater if they think it’s fun.

It works with adults too.

Making it fun is much more likely to get people to do the right thing than regulations and sermons.

You can preach about behavioural changes or follow Volkswagon and get a serious message across with fun as it has through its website:   The Fun Theory where it says:

This site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.

I especially liked this idea of tuning in to fun for health’s sake:

Hat Tip: Motella

Click goes the keyboard

September 18, 2009

Jamie Mckay is running a competition with a prize of a $1500 broadband package from Farmside on the Farming Show.

Last week’s winner was South Otago farmer, poet and singer Ross Agnew.

As the Farming Show’s North Otago correspondent, I’m not eligible to compete, but penned an ode to the internet for my contribution to Jamie’s show this week.

In doing so I’ve taken a bit of poetic licence and ignored Paul L’s facts which got in the way of the good story about pigeon post beating email.

Alone in his office the grumpy farmer sits,

Trying to get his mind round megabytes and bits.

The computer is chugging out the things he needs to know

But the internet is hopeless when it goes so jolly slow.


Click goes the key board, click, click, click,

They say it’s the way to make the business process slick.

That’s okay in town where broadband makes it fast,

Out here in the country we’re dialling up the past.


The farmer prods the key board and peers closer at the screen

Only half a message though half an hour it’s been.

Ten emails are coming, the message brightly flashes

But attachments are so slow the system often crashes.


Click goes the key board click, click, click,

If the computer was a tractor it would get a hefty kick

The farmer knows the internet should keep him up to date

But with dial up the messages always come in late.


Invoices could be sent and bills all swiftly paid

If only transmission wasn’t frustratingly delayed.

Killing sheets and milk reports should easily be downloaded

But minutes turn to hours as patience is eroded.


Click goes the key board, click, click, click.

The computer age is on us but rural internet is sick.

The tyranny of distance means we need the service most

But email is still slower than old fashioned pigeon post.

Pigeon post beats email

September 16, 2009

We mutter about the frustrations of rural broadband which isn’t very fast, but it’s better than dial up and it’s definitely better than South Africa where a carrier pigeon got a message through faster than email:

Computer experts at a South African firm said it took six hours to transfer four gigabytes of encrypted data from Durban to a call centre 50 miles away near Pietermaritzburg.

Staff at Unlimited Group, a financial services company, today attached a memory card to the leg of a pigeon called Winston who took just over an hour for the trip.

In total the flight, plus the time needed for the data to be uploaded, took under three hours. 

Pigeon post was used by the Persians and Romans more than 2000 years ago . How far have we come when in some parts of the world that’s still faster than 21st century technology?

Do I want to be Linked In?

September 16, 2009

I’ve received a couple of invitations to Linked In?

Does anyone know anything about it?

Specifically is it worth yet another sign up and yet another password to remember?

Apropos of this, does anyone know anything about Loaded Web? It’s a geographically-based directory of blogs, businesses and twitters.

Uh oh 018 # 2

September 4, 2009

A message told me the number I’d dialed was no longer in use.

I phone 018 to get the new one.

I explained I wasnted an Oamaru number, gave the first and last names and said I didn’t know the address.

“Which suburb is it in?” the call-centre bloke asked.

“Oamaru is a wee town, it doesn’t have suburbs,” I replied.

He told me he didn’t have a number for anyone of that name in Oamaru.

I said “Oh”. Then I asked if he was sure.

He was.

“No-one by that name at all?” I asked.

“I do have someone by that name in Oamaru North,” he said.


This is what happens when you export services which require local knowledge.

Internet opens doors on disability

May 3, 2009

In 1987 faxes were new and we’d never heard of emails, the internet or blogging.

When we got the diagnosis our son had a degenerative brain disorder we spread the word by phone to family and friends in New Zealand and letter to those abroad.

Two years later when we got a similar diagnosis for our second son technology hadn’t moved much further and communicating with family and friends, and making contact with other parents whose children had similar problems, had to be by old fashioned means.

A couple of decades on, the difference the internet has made was brought home to me by the success of Blogging Against Disabilsm Day .

Hundreds of people posted on various aspects and issues which affect people with disabilities and their families including access, art, education, healthcare, language, parenting and politics.

Diary of a Goldfish has created a wonderful resource which will enable people who are dealing with disabilities to share expereiences and learn from each other.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007

I was going to write a letter . . .

April 2, 2009

We’d had a wonderful day visiting a farm in North Canterbury and I had good intentions of writing a thank you note.

A real one, on a card or pretty paper. One that requires an envelope.

I had just the right card which I knew would amuse our hosts:


But that would have required finding their address and a stamp and remembering to post it so I sent an email instead.

I love getting real mail and take pleasure in sending it but it’s just so much easier to send an electronic message and that’s no doubt one of the reasons behind the expected redundancies at NZ Post:

Annual mail volumes for NZ Post, a state-owned enterprise, have fallen about 30 million from a billion items.

Mr Fenton was reported to have given a state-of-the-business briefing, saying the decline in mail volume was “unprecedented”, with revenue down and costs rising.

It’s not only thank you notes and other personal messages which aren’t going by snail mail. The number of invoices and cheques we send and receive by post has declined markedly as bills are sent and paid electronically.

Just as jobs for horse breakers and farriers were lost when cars replaced horses, fewer people are needed to deal with the post now so much more correspondence and business is conducted via the internet.

How are you?

March 27, 2009

“How are you?” “Fine thanks, how are you?” “I’m fine too…”


How many times have you said this and how many times have you meant it?


We have the how-are-you-fine dialogue with almost everyone we meet but rarely want to know how the other person is or give an honest reply ourselves. So why do we do it?


I presume it developed from the formal greeting “how do you do?” The correct response was “how do you do?” back, it was just a way of acknowledging someone and wasn’t meant to be taken literally.


As language became more casual one lot of empty words was replaced by another which might not matter if both conversationalists play by the rules neither expecting an honest reply nor giving one themselves.


But what happens if someone is expressing a genuine interest in the other’s well being or gives a full and honest answer?


There are times when I’ve  wanted to break the rules. After my sons died I hated being greeted with “how are you?” and was tempted to ask, “How do you expect me to be?” But fortunately good manners prevailed and I learnt to say “a bit fragile” instead. That was light enough to let someone who had no interest off the hook yet sufficiently open to allow those who cared to take it further.


But it doesn’t take a major crisis to leave you feeling less than fine. It had been one of those days when someone inquired how I was so I told her: one child had a stomach bug, the other had an ear infection, the pet lamb had been in the garden again and I was feeling decidedly over stretched.


She looked at me in surprise then smiled sympathetically and admitted she too was below par because the family cat had just died. Because I had answered honestly she’d been able to do likewise and we parted feeling better for the exchange.


However, we both had the time and inclination for a proper conversation and we knew each other well enough to be frank. But why do total strangers insist on greeting people with “how are you?” when even if they are interested there is no time to reply?


Shop assistants are the worst offenders. I realise it must be difficult to spend your working life being pleasant to the general public, but it is possible to greet people politely without asking about their well being.


What’s wrong with just saying “hello”?


I’m as guilty of asking questions I don’t want answered as anyone else. But I am making a concerted effort to eliminate empty phrases from my conversation so when I answered the telephone yesterday I resisted the temptation to ask how the caller was and just said, “Hello Murray.” To which he replied, “I’m fine thanks.”


So you see, not only are people not interested in the answer they don’t even listen to the question.

©Homepaddock 2009 


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