Late start and only a start


Who’s surprised that the government prioritised border exemptions for film crews over farm workers?:

New documents show tensions arose between government departments over who should get border exemptions and how the dairy industry lost out in favour of space and film projects.

DairyNZ had its border request rejected in the run-up to calving last year, having asked for farm or herd managers already employed in New Zealand, who were overseas on holidays when the pandemic struck.

It said it was concerned the decision may have been pre-determined, and said the the logic didn’t stack up, including why fishing was favoured over dairy.

One email summary on agriculture stated: “Make sure the clear distinction between fishing ‘yes’, and dairy, ‘no’.”

Its chief executive, Tim Mackle, described the assertion in the documents that the industry could source New Zealanders for the jobs as a “pipedream”, as herd and farm managers were specialist staff with many years of experience.

“We’ve got a sector here that’s New Zealand’s largest, a $20 billion export sector, which is going to be critical to New Zealand’s recovery and we couldn’t get 40 or 50 people through that system,” he said. “That was very frustrating and farmers felt that keenly.” . . 

Last week the government announced 250 farm workers, vets and their families will be allowed in.

That’s a start, but it’s a late start and only a start.

It’s late because workers were needed months ago and not just on dairy farms. Horticulturists and viticulturist have also been desperately seeking exemptions so they could harvest fruit and vegetables.

It’s a start because a lot more workers are needed not just on farms, orchards, and vineyards but in meat works, on ski fields and in hospitality.

These staff shortages are bad for business, add to costs, reduce income and put added pressure on staff.

At least as bad as this, is the way the government is keeping the families of workers out:

The government has quietly broken yet another election promise, resulting in thousands of critical workers being unable to enter New Zealand and migrant families separated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Labour campaigned at the election on establishing a 10 percent quota for critical workers in MIQ, saying that “the allocation system will ensure a majority of MIQ places are always available for returning New Zealanders, with 10 per cent of capacity set aside for critical workers and other entrants.

“However the Government has never implemented this policy. Instead, they have been measuring the number of critical workers in MIQ as a proportion of occupied MIQ rooms, rather than total MIQ capacity.

“At the moment there are on average over 1500 rooms vacant every day in MIQ, and over 9000 MIQ room vouchers have been unused since the beginning of the year.

“If Labour was actually carrying out its promise, thousands more critical workers would be allowed into New Zealand, helping spur our recovery from Covid-19 and filling skill shortage gaps.

“The government could also easily reunite the split migrant families, some of whom have now gone over 500 days without seeing their family, thanks to Government policy that is frankly cruel.”

What’s happened to kindness? The emotional and financial burden this imposes on these families is anything but kind.

“Information on the MBIE website gives the impression that for each month this year, the Government has been meeting the 10 percent minimum. But when the spare un-used capacity is taken into account, the Government is nowhere near its original capacity commitment.

“The Government’s broken promise makes no sense in the light of excess capacity in MIQ. It is novel, I know, for this Government, but perhaps they should start implementing what they campaigned on.”

Failure to allow family members in is also forcing workers out.

Maheno dairy farm manager Mark Purugganan has “lost hope” of being able to be reunited with his family in New Zealand, and is returning to the Philippines.

Mr Purugganan has lived and worked in New Zealand since 2012. He was joined by wife Roxanne a year later, and their two sons, Keired (5) and Abram (2), were born here.

He has helped manage Quambatook, a 900-cow dairy farm at Maheno, with James and Bridget McNally, for three and a-half years.

His children suffer from severe eczema and so their mother took them back to the Philippines to let their skin recover, as it seemed to be better in the warmer and more humid climate.

“The original plan was for me to go home every six months to visit them, until they outgrow their eczema problem, and then we can all come back here together.

“And then the lockdown came.”

Mr Purugganan last saw his family in person in December 2019, when Abram was a 7-month-old baby. He has missed three of Keired’s five birthdays. . . 

It’s not just dairy workers, but nurses and other essential workers the country needs and whose skills are valued but who are separated from their families.

This policy might have been excused when the lockdown started and there was so much pressure on MIQ for citizens and permanent residents.

But that excuse can’t be used now and failure to allow these families to reunite and to allow more essential workers in is a major government failure.





Bellbird will be in cinemas in August.

Hamish Bennett’s feature debut takes place in the heart of a small New Zealand town, where a community comes together after a tragic death.

Ross (Marshall Napier) has farmed the land all his life, just as his father and grandfather did before him. A largely silent man, Ross farms the land alongside his far more exuberant wife Beth (Annie Whittle), who is an eager participant in the local choir and a friend to many. When Beth suddenly dies, Ross is crushed but incapable of displaying his emotions. His son Bruce (Cohen Holloway) moves back in and tries to help, but is not suited to the farming life and also has great difficulties in expressing himself. Around them, their friends realise the difficulties, and pitch in to help.”

Geoff Murphy 10.38 – 12.18


Film director Geoff Murphy has died.

Filmmaker Geoff Murphy has died aged 80. One of the pioneers of the modern New Zealand film industry, he’s perhaps best remembered for the highly successful Utu and the road movie with a special place in New Zealanders’ affections, Goodbye Pork Pie. . . 

Goodbye Pork Pie was the first film I saw that was distinctively  a New Zealand film with places I recognised and people who sounded like people I knew.


Greyfriars Bobby


Celebrating St Andrew’s Day with one of my favourite childhood films – Greyfriars Bobby:

Kiwi legend


This mockumentary premiered at Tropfest NZ, the New Zealand contingent of the largest short film festival and wont he won the Viewer’s Choice Award.

It was produced by Tess Novak and features a star studded cast of Kiwi legends – Melanie Lynskey, Valerie Adams, Colin Meads, Dai Henwood, Steve Wrigley, Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, Beauden Barrett and Kane Barrett.



The invention of the vibrator is an unlikely subject for a romantic comedy and one for which the potential for getting it wrong is high.

But Hysteria gets it right, treating the subject without smut and with subtlety, humour and  a sub-plot about social reform and women’s rights.

The film is set in London towards the end of the 18th century. It opens with young Dr Mortimer Granville losing yet another job when his belief in germs and the need for cleanliness conflicts with his superior’s conviction the old ways – including bleeding with leeches – are better.

He finds a new job with Dr Robert Dalrymple a specialist in women’s medicine, in particular the treatment of  hysteria, an all encompassing term for a wide variety of physical, mental and emotional complaints. There he meets Dalrymple’s daughters, the gentle and biddable Emily and the feisty Charlotte.

Meanwhile his friend and benefactor Edmund St. John Smythe is embracing the new development of electricity and toying with some inventions.

If you want a couple of hours of escapism with lots of laughs I can recommend Hysteria which is based on a true story.

Don’t rush off when the credits roll, you’ll learn something if you stay to watch to the end.

Porcelain Unicorn


British film director Sir Ridley Scott launched a global film making contest for aspiring directors. It’s titled “Tell It Your Way”.

The film could be no longer than three minutes, contain only 6 lines of narrative & be a compelling story.

There were more than 600 entries.

The winner was “Porcelain Unicorn” from American director Keegan Wilcox.

When A City Falls


Those of us haven’t lived through the Canterbury earthquakes can’t fully understand what it’s like, but this film, When A CIty Falls, will help.

Hat tip: Raymond Huber

The Parent Trap


Happy birthday Maureen O’Hara, 90 today.

Breaker Morant


Happy birthday Bruce Beresford, 70 today.

Rain Man


Happy birthday Dustin Hoffman, 73 today.

Lawrence of Arabia


Happy birhtday Peter O’Toole, 78 today.

Dr Zhivago


Happy birthday Geraldine Chaplin, 66 today.

Zorba The Greek


Happy birthday Mikis Theodorakis, 85 today.

Miss Potter


Beatrix Potter was born 144 years ago today.

One night while reading Peter Rabbit to my then four-year-old niece I was doing a bit of abridging (as one does with bedtime reading after a long and busy day).

I was caught out and had to bo back and read it in full because she said indignantly, “You’ve missed Mr McGregor’s ‘scrith, scritch, scritch’.”

Confessions of a film-going failure


Putting up my hand for an F in film going – I haven’t seen any of the films which won Oscars.

In fact I think I only went to the pictures once last year, that was to see Food Inc  during which I fell asleep.

I watched a couple of films on planes but can’t remember anything about them which might be a reflection on my state of mind while flying and/or the quality of the films.

Are any of the winners, or any other films showing now, worth watching?

I’d never do it but I’d like to


If I’d been asked to name the best film ever when I was a child I’d have had no hesitation in saying The Great Race.

I found it on DVD and watched it again a few years ago and was reminded of one of the reasons I’d liked it so much – the food fight.

The idea of throwing custard pies and other squishy dishes really appeals, but the thought of wasting good food and the mess that would have to be cleaned up afterwards would stop me trying it.

It will stay as one of the items on the list of things I’d like to do but won’t and because of that I’ll have to keep  getting my food fight fun vicariously through films.

Aussies like Australia


The critics didn’t like it but the Aussies aren’t taking any notice of them and have made the film  Australia the country’s second highest grossing film behind Crocodile Dundee.

We went to the film on Friday and can see why the critics didn’t like it and the Aussies do.

The plot is not just thin, it has so many holes it might have been attacked by a crocodile and the characters are stereotypes – the pretty widow, the rough, tough drover with a heart, the Aborigine elder with super-natural powers,  the half-caste child, the rich rake and the bully.  But there are also pretty faces, spectacular scenery, horses,  and a history lesson which probably appeals to nationalism.

I wouldn’t want to see the film twice but am pleased I saw it once – and that I saw it at Wanaka’s Cinema Paradiso   which is not only a gem with its cast-off furniture,  it also has a half time when you can have a meal pre-ordered from the cafe you walk through to enter the theatre, a glass of wine, delicious home-made ice creams or just sit on one of the outside chairs for a breath of fresh air.

Without that break I might have found sitting still through the three-hour film a bit difficult.

til we have built Jerusalem . . .


Well it’s not quite like Blake’s poem.

It is a Biblical village but it’s not  Jerusalem and this isn’t England’s green and pleasant land, it’s New Zealand.

More specifically it’s Elephant Rocks  in North Otago where they’re building the set for the film Kingdom Come on the life of Jesus.


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