Rural round-up


Manuka honey labelling guide a positive step for NZ:

The Interim Labelling Guide for Manuka Honey released today by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is a positive step for the New Zealand industry, Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye says.

“The Guide provides clarification on what constitutes manuka-type honey, and aims to ensure that New Zealand is producing quality manuka honey that is labelled correctly and meets the expectations of overseas regulators, along with consumers here and overseas,” Ms Kaye says.

“This MPI-led initiative has seen the Ministry working with scientists, industry and overseas regulators – and looking at 11,000 samples of honey – to ensure truth in labelling in New Zealand.

“Though I have been briefed on the outcome, the work is operational and decisions have been made by MPI. . .

From the outside looking in – Craig Littin:

If you are a dairy farmer, things will be flat out on the farm at the moment, and for those driving by some paddocks may be looking a little barren.  Between the wet months of July and October, dairy farmers are in calving season and cows have been dried off, having not produced milk for at least the last six weeks. To keep cows in top condition during this time, ready to have their calves and produce milk for the coming season, it involves techniques such as, break feeding, splitting herds and supplement feeding.

In these wet months pasture is sparse, and to keep cows in good condition whilst they are dried off and begin calving, they are fed between 8 to 10 kilograms of feed, some of which is made up of supplements like maize silage, palm Kernel, hay or silage. By feeding this level of feed per animal it allows the cows to gain condition and also rations the pasture reserves on-farm to ensure that the farm has enough for when they are in calf when their feed requirements rise to between 18 to 20 kilograms per animal a day. All of this happens at the time of year when pasture growth does not normally grow as much as the cows need, hence the muddy paddocks and the need for supplements and break feeding. . .

Northland dairy farms selling out en-masse to cash-rich ‘out-of-towners’:

The dynamics of dairy farming in Northland are undergoing the biggest shake-up the sector has seen in more than 50 years – with a wave of ‘out-of-towners’ coming into the region to take advantage of the comparatively cheap land on offer.

In the past 18 months, $20 million dollars of Northland dairy farms have been sold to Waikato, King Country, Taranaki, Canterbury, and Westland farmers moving into the province. The sales were brokered by real estate agency Bayleys – which is now looking to accelerate the trend this year.

Among the Northland dairy farming units which changed hands to ‘out-of-towners’ in the past year were: . . .

Fonterra Director Retires:

Long-serving Fonterra director, Jim van der Poel, has announced that he will retire from the Co-operative’s Board in November, after 12 years of service.

Chairman John Wilson said Mr van der Poel had been a conscientious and hard-working director with a deep knowledge of the business.

“Jim has served as a great ambassador for Fonterra and our farmers both here in New Zealand and our markets around the world.

“Jim is a successful commercial farmer with farming interests in Waikato, Canterbury and the United States. He was a New Zealand Dairy Group director for several years before Fonterra’s formation, and was elected to the Fonterra Board in 2002. . . .

Blue Wing Honda celebrates four decades of Kiwi success with launch of new facility:

As a nation dependent on primary industry, with more than half of our land used for farming, having the right means to navigate varying terrain can be a challenging task.

Blue Wing Honda met that challenge in 1972 when it entered the market as New Zealand’s importer and distributor of Honda motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

That wealth of experience has helped put the company at number one in the New Zealand ATV market. . . .

Sheep’s wool makes woolly sheep – Mary Alexander:

DRAB winter colours in Hamilton have given way to a vibrant collection of artwork as the city gears up for its annual celebration of wool.

Bright life-size sheep have formed a flock at the art gallery, parking meters and trees lining the main street have been yarn-bombed and shop displays depict the characters in the children’s book Where is the Green Sheep?

“It looks amazing,” artist Jacinta Wareham said yesterday. “I’ve got a whole lot of happy people here saying that Hamilton looks so vibrant and colourful.”

The community arts project is part of the inaugural Woolly Wool Fest being held in the lead-up to Sheepvention from August 3 to 5. . .

Introducing the new, naturally produced Mission Estate Pinot Gris: lighter in alcohol, lower in calories (and full of flavour)

Mission Estate has enjoyed a reputation for winemaking innovation spanning an extraordinary 163 years. Pinot Gris, meanwhile, is a relative newcomer to New Zealand but, as observes, “has enjoyed a dramatic rise to fame and is now the third most popular white variety”.

Combine these two forces with the growing trend for lifestyle wines, and the result is the new organically grown, naturally crafted, lighter in alcohol Mission Estate Pinot Gris. . .

Rural round-up


Red Meat Profit Partnership tries to answer crucial question – Allan Barber:

Analysis of the objectives and methodology of the RMPP suggests the programme has highlighted the most important issue facing the red meat sector. Briefly stated, it is to work out why there is still such a significant gap between the top farmers and those in the middle of the pack and to lift the average closer to the top performers.

When the Red Meat Sector Strategy identified behind the farm gate specifically as a major area of potential improvement, there was much mumbling about why the industry structure wasn’t being more usefully exposed as the area most in need of improvement. But figures released by the B+LNZ Economic Service show this isn’t the case. . .

 Out of cow muck comes magic – Emma Rawson:

Although it has grizzly beginnings in the blood and gore of the meatworks, there is a fairytale element to the story of biomaterials company Southern Lights.

A little like the Brothers Grimm’s goblin Rumpelstiltskin, who spun straw into gold, the Napier company transforms cow byproducts which would otherwise be destined for pet food and fertiliser into extremely lucrative Type 1 polymeric collagen.

At about $50,000 a kilogram it is no exaggeration to say the polymeric collagen is worth its weight in gold – only a few thousand shy of the price of bullion. . .

Award for science professor:

Lincoln University plant science professor Derrick Moot has won an award recognising the successful application of research or experience to an aspect of animal production.

Prof Moot was presented with the New Zealand Society of Animal Production’s Sir Arthur Ward Award at the society’s 74th annual conference on Tuesday night.

Prof Moot has been identifying plant pasture species which will survive and thrive on the dry East Coast, and developing ways to incorporate them into mostly sheep and beef farming systems – but also some dairying ones.

Lucerne ticked most of the boxes as it was a legume which fixed nitrogen from the atmosphere, was high in protein and energy and also had a deeper rooting system than other pastures, he said. . .

Filthy pigs? Not on our patch … – Sue O’Dowd:

The proud co-owner of a Taranaki piggery is so confident about its cleanliness that he sometimes walks around in it in his socks.

Ron Stanley, of Oaonui, is frustrated at this week’s television portrayal of a Canterbury piggery. Filmed earlier this year, the footage showed squalid conditions, severe overcrowding, and suffering animals.

The Stanley Piggery co-owner found the footage disturbing.

“That’s not the way we keep our animals,” he said. “I always say if I can’t come over to the piggery in my socks on a dry day, then there’s a problem. . .

Farm buildings to be exempt from assessment:

Farm buildings are to be exempt from the requirements for assessments under the Government’s earthquake-prone buildings policy, Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced today.

“The Government is not satisfied that the risks posed by farm buildings justify the cost of every building being assessed. These buildings have a low occupancy rate and there is no record of a fatality caused by a farm building collapsing in an earthquake,” Dr Smith says.

The Building (Earthquake-prone Buildings) Amendment Bill requires all buildings to be assessed in the next five years and for those under 34 per cent of the building standard to be upgraded within a period of 15 years, with a further 10-year extension available for heritage buildings. The Bill currently excludes residential buildings except those that are multi-storey and contain more than two homes. . .

Farmers welcome windfall from wind farms – Gerard Hutching:

Wind turbines west of Wellington are not only changing the landscape, they are also transforming landowners’ bank balances.

“They’re music to my ears, actually,” says Ohariu Valley sheep and beef farmer Gavin Bruce, who has a 440-hectare property with eight turbines.

All told there are 88 turbines on two Meridian Energy wind farms: 62 on the West Wind farm, situated on both Meridian’s own property as well as on Terawhiti Station, south of Makara; and 26 on the Mill Creek wind farm on four properties in the Ohariu Valley. . .

Driving safety home to farmers:

Rural retailers are backing government’s safety message to farmers.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), in partnership with Agcarm and WorkSafe New Zealand, is launching a campaign to increase awareness about the importance of wearing the right safety gear when using farm chemicals.

The campaign directly addresses the “she’ll be right” attitude toward using safety gear.

Agcarm distributor members across New Zealand will display posters and distribute flyers with practical tips about safety gear. . .

US Company churns out cloned cows

In the meadow, four white-haired Shorthorn heifers peel off from the others, raising their heads at the same time in the same direction. Unsettling, when you know they are clones.

From their ears dangle yellow tags marked with the same number: 434P. Only the numbers that follow are different: 2, 3, 4 and 6.

The tag also bears the name of the company that bred them and is holding them temporarily in a field at its headquarters in Sioux Centre, Iowa: Trans Ova Genetics, the only large US company selling cloned cows.

A few miles away, four Trans Ova scientists in white lab jackets bend over high-tech microscopes in the company’s laboratories. They are meticulously working with the minute elements of life to create, in Petri dishes, genetically identical copies of existing animals. . . .

You Won’t Believe What This Guy Did With Old Farm Scrap Metal. Seriously, WOW:

Farmers of South Dakota, if you see John Lopez going through your garbage, please let him continue to do so. In his hands, what was unfixable or unwanted to you becomes art. Not just any art, though. Big, striking sculptures that celebrate the American Old West. The kind of stuff you’d probably like! At the very least, you’ll be impressed by his work. Who wouldn’t be? . . .

Steampunk HQ


Oamaru used to be regarded as a boring little town most notable for the ribbon development which was an irritant for travellers passing through from north or south.

The ribbon development is still there, and goes further, but the discovery of its Victorian heritage and the artists,  artisans and other entrepreneurs who have settled there means it is now anything but boring.

One of the town’s more recent claims to fame is that it is the nation’s steampunk capital.

Steampunk is tomorrow as it used to be, a mixture of history, art, engineering, imagination and a sense of humour.

We’ve often taken visitors to play with the train outside Steampunk HQ.


But yesterday was the first time I’d ventured inside:

























Don Paterson, Gillies Manufacturing’s Artist in residence,  and Kano have an exhibition of bronze sculptures and paintings in the reception at the moment, entitled Mythos.








And when you’ve had enough of looking you can adjourn to the steampunk-themed playground at the harbour near-by.









Kurow’s Hay people felled by fire


When we passed through Kurow on our way home from Wanaka last week I took a photo of the Hay people:hay peopleThe ODT reported they’re Minions from the movie Despicable Me.

Various manifestations of the Hay people have been an annual fixture in the town for several years, thanks to the imagination and creative endeavour of local volunteers.

They’ve featured on this bog in 2009; 2010; 2011; and the Rugby World Cup special.

Sadly, this year’s people have been felled by fire.

Hay can spontaneously combust and it’s a bigger danger if it was baled when it’s too wet or green.

That would be a sad end to this year’s hay sculpture, but it would be worse if it was the result of vandalism.

Liking that they like us


We were in Canada a couple of weeks ago when a local asked us where we lived.

My farmer said New Zealand, the local said, where in New Zealand?

He said, near Oamaru.

Another young woman walking past overheard and said, “Oamaru, that’s where the penguins are, I loved Oamaru.”

It’s lovely when people like your place, it’s even better when they tell the world as Dustin Main did:

If you’re a small town that isn’t marked on the road map with a giant star to draw in the tourists, you have your work cut out for you.  However, if you’re a town in New Zealand, you probably have an imaginative idea to draw people in.  In Nelson, they have the “World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Musuem” (really).  In Oamaru, they have Steampunk HQ.

If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of “steampunk,” you can think of it as a mix between the old Victorian steam-powered era, mixed with a polished futuristic style.  It’s part sci-fi, part fantasy.

Steampunk HQ is what you get when you gather a bunch of artists in one small town who like to weld large pieces of metal together to make some cool art.  That art manifests itself as runaway steam-powered trains about to launch off of the tracks, blimps taking to the skies, and a skeleton riding a crazy tractor.  And that’s just the start of it. . .

You can read more about Steampunk here and  here.

And more about the penguins here.

Gingerbread cathedral


Oamaru’s  award-winning Pen-y-Bryn Lodge has many claims to fame including its category A listed historic house, its gourmet meals and its warm hospitality.

It is also has a reputation for the annual gingerbread creations which co-owners James Boussy and James Glucksman have been making since 1997.

This year’s was unveiled today:

The Oamaru Mail has another photo.

Ralph Hotere 1931 – 2013


Dunedin-based artist Ralph Hotere ONZ, has died.

The 81-year-old, who is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most important artists, was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand in 2011.

Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae conferred the honour in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

Sir Jerry said at the time that the award “speaks of service, merit, endeavour, perseverance, commitment, excellence and, above all, mana”. . .

Born in Northland and of Te Aupouri iwi descent, Hotere’s hometown of Mitimiti played a key role in his work.

He was based in Otago for a number of years.

The citation for Hotere’s Order of New Zealand said that as a painter, sculptor and collaborative artist, he had reacted to social and environmental issues through his work.

His art is dominated by black, both in colour and in the artworks’ titles, and makes extensive use of words, often quoting poets and his conversations with them.

He dealt with key New Zealand historical events such as the Springbok tour, the Rainbow Warrior sinking and the Aramoana massacre. . . 

OU Arts Fellows named


Otago University has named its 2013 Arts Fellows:

The Robert Burns Fellowship goes to Dunedin writer and poet David Howard; the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship to Christchurch painter and sculptor Zina Swanson; the Mozart Fellowship to Auckland-based composer Samuel Holloway; the Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance to Dunedin performer and choreographer Hahna Briggs; and the University of Otago College of Education Creative NZ Children’s Writer in Residence to Auckland-based writer Leonie Agnew.

You’ll find more on their work by clicking on the link above.


Colin Wheeler 1919 -2012


One of North Otago’s most acclaimed artists, Colin Wheeler, died last week.

Born in Dunedin in 1919, he studied at the Canterbury School of Art and Camberwell School of Arts and Craft in London.

He moved to Oamaru in 1951 to work as art master at Waitaki Boys’ High School. Former pupils have very fond memories of his class.

I once had the privilege of visiting him in his home. He was a very modest man but his enthusiasm for his art and knowledge of the subjects he painted was inspirational.

His books of paintings of historic sheep stations which were first published in the 1960s were very popular and he has left a huge legacy of paintings of rural New Zealand.

His work also established a record of North Otago landscapes and buildings and an invaluable collection depicting Oamaru scenes. He gifted many of his paintings to the Forrester Gallery, some of which can be seen here.

His contribution to art was recognised with a Queens Service Medal.

The Artist’s Room also has examples of his work.

The Oamaru Mail pays tribute to him here and this website has more on his career.

Steampunk Close up


Close up took a look at last weekend’s Steampunk Festival in Oamaru.

The video is here.

Oamru Life has photos of Oamaru on Fire which opened the weekend’s festivities.

I’ve borrowed this one:



Oamaru on Fire


Oamaru has been on fire this weekend as the country’s steampunk capital celebrates the 2012 SteampunkNZ Festival.

The 2012 SteampunkNZ Festival weekend will launch on Friday with the winter masquerade from Smith’s Grain Store on Tyne St, at 5.30 pm,

The Oamaru on Fire evening in the Historic Precinct $5 follows at 6.30 pm and if you were in the masquerade you have free entry.

Jason Kerrison is the headline act and he goes on to DJ at Fat Sally’ s on Thames St. after 9.00pm.

On Saturday at 11.00am in the Ink Box at the Oamaru Opera House you will be entertained with Neave R. Willoughby’s Magic Lantern  as he takes you on a journey through the History of Steampunk

The afternoon brings a Dickensian touch as we tip our hat to the Old Gent’s 200th birthday with a series of steampunk literary readings. 3.00 pm again at the Ink Box in the Opera House. This is led by worthy Professor Stansa, a poet himself who was naisant in Oamaru and has been drawn back by the lure of Steampunk.

 To dance the night away come to the Loan and Merc Restaurant on Wansbeck St. Here we have the music extravaganza and dirigible/airship racing Local bands have come together to create huge new sounds to accompany the world’s first (as far as we know) indoor dirigible racing. The inaugural world champ will be feted with whisky from the NZ Whisky Co

The piece de resistance is the Steampunk NZ Fashion Show at the Oamaru Opera House on Sunday 2nd June. tickets available from and door sales.

Finally to complete your Steampunk filled weekend, put the cherry on the cake there is the Steampunk NZ Gala Ball sponsored by Crombie and Price. This is your chance to eat drink and be merry, show the world your steamy personality, dance the night away and connect with those of a similar mind.

If you’ve missed the celebrations, you can still visit Steampunk HQ – and even if it’s after-hours, you can play with the train outside.

Steampunk is a fantastic marriage combination of art, science and imagination and as the weekend programme shows it is also lots of fun.


Stone carving auction tomorrow


Sculptors from around New Zealand have been carving huge blocks of Oamaru Stone on Takaro Park for the last couple of weeks.


Their work will be auctioned tomorrow.

The ODT reports on it here and the Oamaru Mail report is here.

The stone comes from Parkside Quarries.

Politics of hate


In a perfect world politics would concentrate  more on philosophy and policy and less on personality.

In this imperfect world there is a lot more emphasis on the personal than is ideal or even useful.

The left regards John Key as National’s biggest asset and therefore their biggest threat so have been aiming their barbs at him. But there are lines of decency which reasonable people don’t cross.

Artist Sam Mahon has crossed that line with a painting of John Key as a corpse and his (Mahon’s) plan to make it part of an interactive game on his website.

Art can be upsetting and provocative and this is. It also personal in a particularly nasty way, an extreme example of the politics of both envy and hate.

Mahon is a self-confessed socialist but there is no suggestion he is acting for or on behalf of any party. If they have any sense they will be hoping that continues because sinking to this level of nastiness is likely to be a major turn-off for swinging voters.

Steampunk street party


Marry art with history and science, add a sense of humour and you’ve got steampunk, a celebration of tomorrow as it used to be.

The opening of the third annual steampunk exhibition at Oamaru’s Forrester Gallery is being celebrated with a street party from 5.30 pm – 7.00 pm this evening.

If you prefer your exhibits on a bigger scale than those which fit in a gallery, the steampunk train is on permanent display outside Steampunk HQ and $2 in the slot will start the sound and light display.


Steampunk capital


We don’t usually need an excuse to go to Wanaka but this weekend we had three – a long weekend and two invitations to parties in neighbouring Arrowtown.

However, the weekend away, wonderful as it was, meant we missed one of the highlights on the North Otago calendar – the annual Steampunk ball and fashion show.

Steampunk, as defined by the Victorian League of Imagineers,  is tomorrow as it used to be:

The “punk” in steampunk is a rebellion against the present day preference for plastic and the disposable way of life. For many it is a search for where society might have taken the wrong turn at the end of the Victorian era.

Over the last 30 years a subculture has built up where people around the world have created an alternative Victorian future. The future and it’s technologies have been taken back into the ornate and opulent world of grand fashion and gentlemanly manners, a future where there is a dark side of grime and the corruption of power that has to be overcome to create new and better world. It is also a world where women have an equal involvement in politics, adventure and social change. The opportunity is also taken to parody the developments of history as we know it.

It’s an amazing amalgamation of art, science, history, humour and imagination.

This year’s show attracted a school art class from Australia – 27 pupils from Shearwater, the Mullumbimby Steiner School, in northern New South Wales, came to Oamaru for a field trip.

Steampunk HQ is based in Oamaru’s historic precinct. If you missed out on this weekend’s celebrations there will be other opportunities to appreciate the steampunk sensation later in the year.

The Victorian League of Imagineers is planning to put together a steampunk XV for the Golden Oldies Rugby Festival which is taking place in oamaru from September 30 to October 2 as part of the World Cup celebrations.

Steampunk usually features in the annual Victorian Heritage celebrations which will be held from November 16 -20.

You can see photos of the fashion show in the Oamaru Mail ; read about it at TV3 and watch a video.

Art in the Garden


Take more than 40 visual and performing artists.

Place gently in seven glorious gardens around Alexandra and Clyde.

Cover with blue sky, warm with sunshine tempered by a light breeze and serve to the public over two days  for a very modest $15.

This is Art in the Garden, Alexandra Art Society’s annual fundraiser and it’s a wonderful day out.

Two friends and I spent several hours yesterday wandering round the gardens which varied from a small, newly established town plot to expansive rural oases*  contrasting, but in harmony, with the dry Central Otago landscape.

Art varied from small ceramic pieces to large Oamaru stone sculptures. Some artists worked with wood, other with metal, there were photographers and painters, several working as we wandered.

Yesterday was the opening day of the two day event and tickets give the right to return on the second day. The distance stops me doing that but I’ve got it in my diary for next year.

*Is it oases, or is the plural oasis or oasises?

Cairns are breaking out all over


Once upon a time a few years ago, the exact number of which is irrelevant, someone stopped on the side of the road leading from the Lindis Pass to Omarama to build a cairn.

It was a simple structure,  just a few rocks piled cairnishly in a roundish heap.

Sometime later some other body saw it, stopped and built another one.

Some other bodies kept seeing and stopping and building and now the cairns are dotted along the road side for more than seven kilometres.

Cairn building isn’t just spreading along this stretch of road. Rocky, roadside art is breaking out in other places too.

A couple of bigger ones have sprouted just short of the intersection before the bridge across the Clutha River when heading from Tarras to Wanaka:

There are  a couple more on the straight between  Tarras and the Lindis and cairn building has spread to the North Island too. 

Finn Howell has built 23 cairns along the Hutt River since September. His work has inspired another 15 cairn builders to leave their mark in stone.

PM of NZ wonders how long it will be before someone spoils the fun with good reason.

Robert Guyton has several photos like this of one of  several driftwood sculptures in the Riverton estuary which attracted the attention and ire of people with too little to do.

I hope these cairns don’t run foul of someone with a clip board. 

I like the random rural roadside art and hope the cairn builders will be able to carry on building cairns happily ever after.

Steampunk’s arrived


The Steampunk exhibition at Oamaru’s Forrester Gallery has opened.

I haven’t been inside since having a sneak peek while the exhibitinw s being set up last week, but it’s impossible to miss this outside:

A street party to celebrate the exhibition is being held this evening.

Quote of the week


“I’m not a political blogger and have no intention of getting in to the heated discussions about unions, multi-national big boys, leanings to the left or to the right and who is responsible for swinging dollar and possible tourist industry collapse. There are plenty to follow if you want to read them.

All I know is, I love drawing and creating stuff. I’ve always done it and hope I always will. It is what I trained for at tertiary level and have spent the last 30 years as a freelancer doing. . . The film industry is one area that employs enormous talent in copious quantities when a project of this magnitude comes into town. And as I marched with it last Wednesday, I wondered what we all will do if it comes to an end. After all, there are only so many supermarkets who will employ highly trained artists as shelf stackers isn’t there?”

               From The Misty Mountain of Unemployment by Fifi Colston at Fifi Verses the World

Steampunk is coming


Last year’s inaugural steampunk exhibition at Oamaru’s Forrester Gallery was an outstanding success, this year’s promises to be even better.

On Wednesday, a  large crane was involved in preparing for the installation of something big outside:

Inside, the first of the many exhibits were in place, including  Dr Gattling’s Lunar Dismembulator which was photographed by the ODT.

The Victorian League of Imagineers are behind the exhibition, Tomorrow As It Used To Be which opens this morning. They’ll be celebrating with a street party next Saturday from 6.30 to 8pm.

Oamaru is New Zealand’s Steampunk capital but there are enclaves of similar creativity elsewhere.

When we were in Kununura in northern West Australia a couple of months ago we came across this Hardly Davidson.

It’s the work of New Zealand born artist, Al Mason, whom we came across painting a mural.

You can see more examples of his work at the Lovell Gallery.

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