Five weddings – three countries – two months


Summer is traditionally wedding season but five weddings in three countries in two months is somewhat more than the norm.

The first was at the Enfield Presbyterian Church in North Otago:



 It was followed by a reception at Riverstone Kitchen.

Religious marriage ceremonies aren’t legally recognised in Argentina so if you want to be married in a church you have to have a civil ceremony first. The civil ceremony for the second wedding was held a few weeks before we arrived but the religious ceremony and party we attended more than made up for missing that.

The wedding service took place in a church in Mar Del Plata:


It started at 8.30 in the evening and was followed by a reception which was just starting to wind down when we left at 6.30 the following morning.

Three days later we attended the civil ceremony for wedding number three in Buenos Aires then the religious ceremony in Pilar the following weekend.


That started at 7.30 in the evening, which is early for Argentina, and the reception was still in full swing when we retired at 5.30a.m.

The fourth marriage service took place in a beautiful North Otago country garden and was followed by dinner and dancing in what was a grain store and is now the NZ Malt Whisky Company’s  headquarters in Oamaru’s historic precinct.


Wedding number five took place in Townsville. The ceremony started with the bride’s father playing the bagpipes and concluded with the release of tropical butterflies.


The groom is a prawn fisherman so when we went in to dinner we were greeted by a platter but in the excitement I didn’t think to take a photo until we’d all had several:



Each of the weddings was different, each was special, all were celebrations of love and commitment with the delighted support of family and friends.

I don’t think any of the couples were troubled by the political considerations which are being debated at Kiwipolitico and The Hand Mirror .

But I’m sure that while a lot of thought and planning went into the celebrations the five brides and grooms were aware that the wedding was just the beginning of the marriage to which they were committing themselves freely and wholeheartedly.

It’s 26 years ago today since my farmer and I exchanged our vows, so I have now just – by a couple of weeks – spent more than half my life with him.  I hope that like us these couples discover that love grows and because of that marriage gets better each year.

I hope too that, in the words of Pinky Agnew, they have:  enough love to give each other trust, enough trust to give each other faith, enough faith to give each other strength, enough strength to give each other courage, enough courage to give each other freedom, and enough freedom to give each other love.

That was the day


It’s 50 years since, in Don McLain’s words, the day that music died.

That was the day a small plane crashed in Iowa killing rock ‘n’roll legends Buddy Holly, JP Richardson and Ritchie Valens.

I wasn’t quite one at the time but their music survived and was still popular when I was old enough for school dances and university hops in the 1970s.

Thanks to You Tube, here’s Holly’s band, The Crickets,  with That’ll Be The Day

Correction: I’m a few days early, it wasn’t January 28th it was February 3rd.

Fonterra payout drops 90c


I was a little too pessimistic with yesterday’s prediction that Fonterra’s projected payout would drop by a dollar, it’s down 90 cents to $5.10 per kilo of milk solids.

That’s well below last season’s $7.90 and the opening projection for this season of $7 but it’s still ahead of the long term average.

However, it’s still a big drop in farmers’ income. The Herald reports the $5.10 payout will mean a substantial drop in income for farmers

Based on last season’s collection of 1.19 billion kg of milksolids a 90c cut means a loss to the economy of around $900 million to $1bn.

It’s not just the reduced income for farmers, it’s the impact that will have on the wider economy, including the tax take.

Then there’s uncertainty about the outlook which leaves a question over whether the payout will drop again before the season’s over.

But while the payout is out of farmers’ control, the expenditure side of the balance sheet is our responsibility and keeping a tight rein on costs will compensate, at least in part, for the drop in income.

I’ve quoted a speaker at a SIDE conference before and it’s worth repeating: he started dairying when the payout was $5 but had a better financial year the following season when the payout dropped to $3.60 simply by keeping costs down.

Jamie McKay is devoting most of The Farming Show to discussions on the payout.

Melamine scandal gets murkier for Fonterra


Tian Wenhua the former chairwoman of Sanlu who was convicted for her part in the melamine milk poisoning scandal said she acted on advice given by a Fonterra board member.

But Fonterra’s chief executive Andrew Ferrier says the company was always clear there was no safe level of melamine in milk.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua,  . . .  said rather than stopping production of tainted products after the contamination was confirmed on August 1 last year, Sanlu decided to limit melamine levels to within 10mg for every kilogram of milk.

“Tian said during her trial that she made the decision not to halt production of the tainted products because a board member, designated by New Zealand dairy product giant Fonterra that partly owned Sanlu Group, presented her a document saying a maximum of 20mg of melamine was allowed in every kg of milk in the European Union,” Xinhua said. “She said she had trusted the document at that time.”

Mr Ferrier told the Herald a Fonterra representative had given Tian the document soon after the board was advised of the contamination on August 2.

“The context was when this whole thing broke there was an enormous amount of work going on to find out what melamine was and there was research all over the world about its contaminants, its danger,” Mr Ferrier said. “There was information pulled up from Europe, from the US, everywhere.”

. . . Mr Ferrier said: “I do want to be crystal, crystal clear – although there was lots of information that was pulled up we were vividly clear to Sanlu that the only acceptable level [of melamine] was zero.”

At no point did Fonterra tell Sanlu it was acceptable to keep producing to the melamine level in the report, he said. “Absolutely not, absolutely not.”

I believe Ferrier but it’s not me he needs to convince, it’s consumers who rely on the company’s commitment to the highest possible safety standards for its products.

Just a few months ago Fonterra was being held up as the model to which other processors of primary products should aspire. The fall in world commodity prices is  a large part of the reason this has changed and the company can’t be held responsible for that. But another reason is that it has not handled the melamine scandal well.

As Keeping Stock says:

. . . Fonterra still has a lot of questions to answer, and there’s no escaping the perception, whether merited or not, that Fonerra has been less than transparent throughout.

Fonterra has appeared to be on the backfoot throughout  the whole sorry saga and Roarprawn  is right when she says the company needs a rocket.

Paul Henry discussed the issue with Fran O’Sullivan on Breakfast yesterday and she said that the company made a fundamental mistake at the start by thinking the scandal could be isolated as a Chinese problem. She also said that journalists have been unimpressed by the slow response from the company.

A large company ought to understand the importance of not just being on top of such a potentially damaging issue but showing the world it is on top of it. Regardless of how well the Fonterra may be handling things behind the scenes its poor public relations are giving the impression it’s not handling things well at all and allowing questions over its involvement in the melamine scandal to fester.

What’s a view worth?


What is the value of a view and how much should you pay for it?


If you are a tramper or climber it is priceless and you pay little or nothing for it. If you are involved in tourism or film making it is worth a lot and what you pay for it depends on negotiation. If you want a scenic hideaway it is worth even more and the market generally ensures you pay what it’s worth to you when buying it. If, however, you are grazing sheep, cattle or deer on crown pastoral leasehold property it is not worth much.


That is not to say that farmers do not appreciate the often spectacular views on and from their properties, but the average pastoral lease allows a leaseholder to do nothing else but farm. While a grand vista might make advertising fodder it does not feed animals; and a sheep or cattle beast is going to be worth no more if it grazed in beautiful surroundings.


This was the reasoning which has governed rent reviews for pastoral leases. They are based on land exclusive of improvements and until now that has been taken to be the land as it was before it was settled.


We have a very good idea of exactly what that is because our pastoral leasehold property boundaries a large tract of reserve which is owned by the crown and administered by DOC. On our side of the fence is pasture, tussock and some bush. We spend a lot on weed and pest control and it shows. On the other side of the fence there is tussock and bush too but there is also scrub and lots of weeds.


We run about 10 stock units to the hectare on our farm; the DOC land would struggle to support one sheep or cattle beast in many hectares and that poor animal would be competing with the rabbits, possums, pigs and deer.


A crown pastoral lease precludes the lessee from realising any potential for subdivision for building purposes or any commercial or industrial use. The leases also have restrictive land use controls so lessees who wanted to do anything else on their property except graze it require permission from the commissioner of crown lands and the rent would increase to take account of any diversification.


This has been regarded as fair to both lessees and the crown since the Land Act of 1948. But the Labour Government believed that amenity values were part of the unimproved value and rents should reflect that.


There is no doubting the beauty of the high country but it is subjective. One set of eyes might delight in the uninterrupted view of tussock; another will see weeds between the golden clumps and recognise fire danger in uncontrolled growth.


Beauty also changes with the weather. We love our leasehold property but it is at the end of the aptly named Mount Misery Road and the beauty is difficult to appreciate in a howling blizzard or when you can’t see past your nose because of fog.


The idea that anyone should pay more to lease farm land because of the views from which they earn nothing at all is ludicrous.


But the previous Government changed the rules which forced some leaseholders to pay more than they can possibly generate from pastoral farming because their properties have views from which they get no financial return. Labour thought a view was worth more than a livelihood so a group of pastoral lessees has taken a test case on the issue to the Land Valuation Tribunal.


It’s the final day of the hearing today but the change of government may make the judgement academic anyway because National’s agriculture policy stated that it would ensure the sertting of high country rents was tied to earning capacity so runholders could maintain their properties at an acceptable level.

The case of the missing cases gets longer


Those missing cases I refrerred to a couple of posts back have still to be delivered.

We’d been told they’d be on yesterday’s plane to Oamaru which doesn’t get in until the evening but when they hadn’t turned up by 9pm I phoned Air New Zealand who told me they’ve been cleared by customs and will be delivered today.

I hope so because while yesterday there was nothing important in them, today we’re both missing the chargers for our mobile phones.

UPDATE: Air NZ has phoned twice to tell me the cases are in Christchurch and will be couriered down to us this afternoon.

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