366 days of gratitude


Fiji didn’t just win gold today, it showed us how sport can unite a country and inspire people much further afield:

Fijians live and breathe rugby sevens and the historic nature of this Olympic game literally stopped the nation.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific sent this note around, suspending classes. The Pacific foreign ministers, including New Zealand’s Murray McCully, meeting in Suva, stopped to watch the game.

Victoria Parade near the markets in the capital, Suva, was temporarily closed. So were banks, with signs asking them to come back later.

Crowds had gathered at the National Stadium in Suva to watch and cheer on their boys, with bells ringing and tears flowing after the game.

This is how much it means to the small Pacific nation. School children in elation, partying in the streets.

People were literally standing in the middle of traffic, as they knew they could get away with it today.

They were literally dancing on the rooftops. . . 

It seems a lot of people don’t know about Fiji – Google tweeted that Fiji was the number one trending search in the world after the win.

What they will find out in their searches is that the nation honours its players and the players in turn honour their maker. There’s a growing trend of Christian rugby players turning to prayer on the pitch. We saw it recently with the Lions following their defeat in the Super Rugby final to the Hurricanes. But it started with these Pacific nations.

And it’s not a show for the cameras. . . 

The players received their gold medals from Princess Anne getting on their knees – some saying it was because they were too tall for her, others saying it was an act of respect.

If there’s another thing Fiji can teach us about sport, it’s how to win with honour and humility. . . .

Passion, faith, fun, respect, honour and humility – I’m grateful for all of that.

Go Fiji


I’d been counting Sevens chickens before the Olympics even hatched  and I’ve been disappointed.

New Zealand has struggled into the quarter  finals by a single point differential over the United States.

We’re facing Fiji this morning and for my sense of fair play has trumped my patriotism –  I’m backing Fiji.

They’ve never won gold, they’ve played better than us at the Games and they are more deserving of a win.

So Go Fiji!

Rural round-up


Nutritional Sales Underpin Half Year Underlying Profit of $12.3 Million:

Synlait has reported an underlying net profit after tax (NPAT) of $12.3 million for the first half of the 2016 financial year (HY16).

In contrast to $0.4 million in HY15, this improved performance is primarily the result of increased nutritional sales in canned infant formula.

“We’re glad to deliver a solid result for the first half of FY16. Our significant investment in customer and product development, people, plant and operating systems in recent years is beginning to transform our earnings,” said Chairman Graeme Milne. . . 

European market conditions depress Westland’s payout prediction:

Global market conditions for dairy products point to at least two more seasons of low milk payouts in New Zealand, Westland Milk Products told shareholders today as the co-operative revised its predicted payout for the 2015-16 season to $3.90 – $4.00 per kilogramme of milk solids, down from last month’s prediction of $4.00 – $4.10.

Westland CEO Rod Quin said the major driver of the revised payout remains the global oversupply of milk, compounded by the ongoing high availability and aggressive approach by the European dairy market.

Quin and Westland Chair Matt O’Regan have recently returned from Europe where they met with customers, farmers, processors, traders and industry advocates. . . 

Fonterra makes best of a bad job – Allan Barber:

The PR spin has been pretty active signalling a much improved half yearly result which was duly delivered this morning. The company confirmed a 40 cent dividend for the full year with the interim dividend being paid next month as usual and the final dividend being paid in two tranches in May and August instead of October.

This improvement in cash flow will do something, but not a lot, to comfort farmers labouring under a debt burden. Unfortunately it will do absolutely nothing to support sharemilkers who will have to rely on their share of the milk payout. Predictions for the rest of 2016 are notable for their conservatism, probably in recognition of a disappointing track record when forecasting the extent of the current downturn. . . 

Fonterra’s six-month results – good news but some underlying issues – Keith Woodford:

As expected, Fonterra has announced a greatly enhanced six-month profit for the period ending 31 January 2016. The profit of $409 million (NPAT; i.e. net profit after finance costs and tax) is up 123% from the same period in the previous year.

The expected full year profit of 45-55c per share implies an annual profit of about $800 million compared to $506 million for the full year 2014/15.

These figures are all very much in line with expectations . The reason for this is that when milk prices to farmers are low, then Fonterra has low input costs. Accordingly, there is more scope for corporate profit. . . 

Keep sharing the load by talking about it:

No matter which branch of farming you are in, you will face tough times, says Nelson farmer and Horticulture NZ President Julian Raine. When that happens, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

Speaking to the Farming Show’s Jamie Mackay as part of the Getting Through Adversity radio series, Julian said that even with the best planning, erratic weather events can cause mayhem. Jamie suggested that growing fruit crops is arguably one of the riskiest pursuits in farming: “One adverse event at the wrong time and suddenly your whole crop is wiped out. If you are a sheep farmer, for example, you at least have lambing spread over three weeks, or if you are dairy your risk is spread over nine months of milking.” . . 

Meat exporters ready to reap benefits of TPP:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement eliminates all tariffs on beef into our biggest market, the United States, within five years of coming into force.

Trade Minister Todd McClay, speaking at the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce this morning, says New Zealand exported meat products worth over $2.8 billion to TPP countries in 2015 and the gains once TPP comes into force will be significant.

“Our beef into Japan currently attracts a 38.5 per cent tariff. That has made it extraordinarily hard for our exporters to compete with other countries with lower tariffs. . . 

Ongoing market challenges weigh on New Zealand farmers, with confidence close to 10-year low:

The significant and persisting challenges in market conditions continue to weigh heavily on the nation’s farmers, with New Zealand’s rural confidence at the second lowest level recorded in the past 10 years, the latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey has shown.

Completed earlier this month, the survey found more than half of farmers surveyed (53 per cent) had a pessimistic outlook on the agricultural economy over the coming 12 months. This was significantly up from 30 per cent with that view in the previous survey, in late 2015. . . 

Dairy downturn: councils prepare to tighten belts:

Councils in rural areas might be forced to cut spending if the dairy downturn lasts for a long time, Local Government New Zealand head Lawrence Yule says.

A Westpac-McDermott Miller regional economic survey has shown big falls in confidence in major dairy areas including Waikato, Taranaki, and Southland.

Mr Yule said the businesses in many rural towns were already hunkering down as farmers tightened their spending, and that could spread. . .

NZX to teach farmers about new milk contract:

NZX expects to receive regulatory approval for the new fresh milk futures and options product within two weeks.

Chief executive Tim Bennett said there was a demand for the fresh milk contracts product after Fonterra scrapped its guaranteed milk price product for the upcoming season. . . 

NZ helping to restore Fiji’s dairy sector after Winston:

The New Zealand government says it will help restore Fiji’s dairy industry which is losing thousands of litres of milk and was devastated as a result of last month’s cyclone.

New Zealand announced additional aid to help Fiji’s recovery on Wednesday.

A lot of that money is going into the continuing infrastructure rebuild led by the New Zealand Defence Force. . . 

Helensville Farmers First To Claim Supreme Title In Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

“Environmental champions” Richard and Dianne Kidd are Supreme winners of the inaugural Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

At a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on March 30 (2016), the Helensville couple was also presented with the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Livestock Award and the Farm Stewardship Award in partnership with QEII National Trust and New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

BFEA judges described Whenuanui Farm, the Kidd family’s 376ha sheep, beef and forestry unit, as “a show piece farm on the edge of Auckland city”. . . .

From paddock to packet: The family behind NZ’s most successful independent chips – Ryan Bridge:

You’re about to meet a family of potato farmers who beat the odds to grow one of the country’s most successful independent chip businesses.

The Bowans are from Timaru and not only do they grow spuds, they transport them to their own factory and make the chips too.

Together they are Heartland Potato Chips.

It all started when Raymond Bowan decided to grow his own potatoes as a teenager. His son James Bowan has taken over running the family potato farm and unlike his old man, he doesn’t do it by hand anymore, there’s a flash piece of kit to help. . . 

Food development facility opportunity for creative entrepreneurs:

Those looking to be innovative with their food are wanted at the FoodSouth food development pilot plant on the Lincoln campus, but there are no Heston Blumenthal creations on the menu.

The final part of a national food innovation network, the facility provides three purpose-built independent food safe development spaces along with a variety of processing equipment — an extruder, ovens, dryers, enrober, mixers, and a mobile product development kitchen among them.

It enables businesses to develop product prototypes for market validation, trial new equipment, carry out scale-up trial work and sample manufacture in 20L to 200L batch sizes, conduct process development and improvement, and validate quality systems. . . 

It’s in the family for new A&P Association President:

Sheep and beef farmer Warrick James has been elected as President of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association for 2016 at the Annual General Meeting at Riccarton Park Racecourse on 30 March.

Based in Central Canterbury near Glentunnel, Mr James was confirmed as President of the 154th Canterbury A&P Show in front of outgoing President Nicky Hutchinson and Association Members.

“It means a lot to be President of the Canterbury A&P Association. We host the largest and most prestigious Show in the country – it really is the pinnacle of the A&P movement. Having been involved from a young age with my family and seeing my own children take part over the years just makes this even more special.” . . .

Trio spread cheer on woolshed tour – Suzette Howe:

At a time when life’s a bit tough for rural communities, a trio of Kiwi performers are setting off on a woolshed tour to boost morale. 

They’re coming armed with their own stage curtain, a bar and plenty of laughs.

Over the next five weeks the talented ladies will transform more than 20 working wool sheds into live stages the length of the South Island.

They’re travelling by horse truck, carting hundreds of chairs, a bar, and full production set.

Farmer Georgie Harper says it’s hard to say no when the performance is brought to you. . . 

Itinerary and booking information at The Woolshed Tour.

NZ 24 – Fiji 7


A friend who is a Wellington Sevens regular reckons that when you get bored you can watch the rugby.

Bored or not, if the sound of the crowd was anything to go by they were watching the final and delighted with the result: New Zealand 24 –  Fiji 7.


Brave Blossoms yesterday, backing blue today


Headline of the day: Brave Blossoms no match for All Blacks.

Is this the first time in the history of the English language that that adjective and noun have been used together?

There was no surprise in the All Blacks win last night, but Japan deserves credit for improvement and it’s a good sign for rugby that the game  didn’t end up with a cricket score.

Today I’m backing blue again taking the Pumas in their game against Romania.

It’s a bit harder to choose between the Wallaibes and Ireland but I’ll go for our southern neighbours as I usually do unless they’re playing us.

I’m sticking with neighbours in the other game too, backing Fiji against the Springboks.


Be careful what you wish for


The snowman was a few hundred metres from the top of the Lindis Pass where it was -2 at 4.30 pm.

His sign says Fiji.

NZ & Fiji mending fences


New Zealand and Fiji have agreed to improve diplomatic relations.

A media release says:

Foreign Minister Murray McCully met his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, in Nadi on Friday and Saturday.

A number of issues of bilateral interest to both countries were discussed in a positive and constructive atmosphere. The face-to-face meeting followed ongoing communications between the two Ministers over recent months.

The Governments have agreed to an additional Counsellor position being established for Fiji in Wellington, and for New Zealand in Suva, with approval in principle for Deputy Head of Mission appointments in each capital to follow soon.

The two Foreign Ministers agreed to keep in close contact and to meet as necessary in future.

The tone is cautious but any warming has to be an improvement on the icy relationship which has been operating for the past few months.

Fiji has big problems. As one of their closest neighbours we have a responsiblity to help if we can and it’s diffcult to do that if we’re not talking to each other.

Tell the people to come to Fiji


Politics is important to the politicians but not to the people.

The trouble is all in Suva, not here in Nadi.

Tell the people to come. to Fiji.

These were the messages from the Fijians we met during our long weekend visit.

We were in the process of booking the trip when the latest consitutional outrages happened. We monitored the news, wondering if it was wise to go,  but people who had been in Fiji during previous outbreaks of political unrest told us they hadn’t known anything was happening until they got home, so we went.

Had it not been for what we’d read and heard before we left home last Wednesday we might not have known that anything was wrong. There was no noticable increase in security at the airport, no-one asked why I was carrying a laptop or queried who I wrote for and we saw nothing at all to suggest political instability.

The only sign that anything was amiss wasn’t in what we saw during our three and a half day stay, it was what we didn’t see – lots of tourists.


April isn’t peak tourist time, it’s the end of the rainy season so the weather may be unsettled in Fiji and it’s not yet cold enough in New Zealand and Australia to tempt people looking for a sunshine fix. But the locals we spoke to – taxi drivers, waiters, hotel manager, shop assistants, business owners, told us it was quieter than normal.

That was evidence that the people who said that politics isn’t important were wrong. They might not notice the sacking of the judges, the suspension of the constitution, the reinstatement of Frank Bainimarama, the censorship of the media and other affronts to democracy because it’s not impacting on their day to day life.

But it is affecting their economy and has been for some time. Their currency has been devalued – it cost us only 80 cents to buy a Fijian dollar – and that’s impacting on prices.  Lunch which cost me $9.60 on Friday was $10.40 on Saturday. “It’s the devaluation,” the woman serving me said when I mentioned the difference. That might have just been an excuse to charge tourists more, but several people said prices for locals were going up too because anything imported was costing more.

The devaluation is recent, the tourist downturn has been going on for longer. Three people told us of adult children who were at home because the jobs weren’t there any more. A hotel manager told of  3000 bednights cancelled with a single phone call.

That anecdotes were backed up by the small number of holiday makers we saw. Eight hotels line the beach of Denarau Island. We walked from one end to the other, and saw hardly anyone – a family of four and a couple of couples round one pool, another family playing on the beach, a few couples wandering as we were but no sign of the numbers we remembered from out last visit six years ago.


Denarau Island is a toruist resort, not the real Fiji, but it’s where a lot of real Fijians work and if the visitors don’t come their jobs will go.

The sun is still shining, the beaches are still beautiful, the people are still warm and welcoming but the politics they don’t think are important are strangling the economy.

Governments can impose sanctions in the hope they will force Commodore Bainimarama to hold elections and restore democracy.

Individuals might wonder if they should stay away because they don’t want to support an undemocratic regime but it’s not the politicians it’s the people who will be hurt most by that.

They know that and that’s why they told us to tell the people to come to Fiji.

Yawn, mutter grumble


If you didn’t face the morning with your normal enthusiasm you’re not alone.

My eyes register what the numbers on the clock face say but the rest of me is firmly convinced it’s a whole hour earlier.

I understand the theory behind daylight saving and accept it in mid-summer but I have difficulty appreciating it in practice on a decidedly cool spring morning when I need every one of those lost 60 minutes to engender enough enthusiasm to get out of bed.

The cause of this inconvenience can be laid at the door of North Islanders.

If they had the sense to move south where we already enjoy long summer twilights they could have what they want without stealing an hour from our mornings.

Since they selfishly decide to stay put, we’ll have to endure these cold, dark dawns until our bodies catch up with the clocks.

It was bad enough when it happened at Labour weekend when we had the Monday off to help us adjust to rude awakenings, but those who think they know best have dragged the start forward to the last weekend in September.

It’s a little too early to enjoy the long evenings and a lot too soon to feel enthusiastic about losing an hour in the morning.

The only fool-proof way to take the sting out of the spring leap forward is to take a break where time isn’t important. Preferably somewhere warm like Fiji where you could lounge around in the sun then come home so refreshed that getting out of bed an hour earlier wouldn’t really hurt.

Unfortunately few of us have the time or money to make such an annual pilgrimage. We just have to stay home and put up with a week or two of discomfort until the confusion between body time and the actual time is sorted out.

If you have young children the mornings won’t be the only problem. It can take a lot of convincing little people it’s bedtime when their body clocks know perfectly well there are another 3600 seconds of play and story telling left in the day.

I always mean to prepare for the time change by going to bed 10 minutes earlier each week for the six weeks before it happens. That would mean by the time daylight savings was introduced my body would be in tune with the clock/

Unfortunately it’s a good intention which I’ve never got round to putting into practice. So every year I have the same struggle to adjust my inner clock to the outer reality. It’s like suffering from jet lag without having had the fun of a holiday.

As one who values sleep as only those who’ve had young children can, this isn’t something I find easy, and knowing that I’m going through it a good three weeks earlier than it ought to be isn’t helping.

Why not retire to Fiji, Winston?


Karl du Fresne  has written a letter to Winston Peters suggesting he retires to Fiji.

Dear WinstonSo you’re in Fiji for a few days then.

Nice place, eh? Balmy temperatures. Shimmering blue sea. Golden sand. Gently rustling palms. Colourful shirts and gleaming smiles. Hardly a journalist in sight. A bloke could be pretty happy living in a tropical paradise like this.

Look, I’d hate you to take this the wrong way, but really … think about it.

You’ve lost Tauranga and don’t seem to stand much show of winning it back. Your most fervent supporters are – how can I put this delicately? – dying.

There’s more and if you want a laugh you should pop over to Karl’s place and read it.

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