Letter to the Editor in what will be the last Listener, unless someone comes to its rescue:

Big holes in fourth estate


Bauer Media has announced it’s closing:

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of Bauer Media, bringing an end to decades of media.

Bauer Media publishes multiple popular Kiwi magazines including NZ Listener, Woman’s Day, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, North and South and Next. . .

I subscribed to North and South when it first launched and was proud that it accepted some of my freelance contributions.

I’ve subscribed to the Listener for several years and bought it every week before that.

Both have always had high standards of journalism and will leave a big hole in the fourth estate.

They, like much of the mainstream media will have been struggling and the dearth of advertising in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown will have been the last straw.

How many will follow, including perhaps daily papers?

MediaWorks has asked all staff to take pay cuts as it fights for its survival.

Most of us get most of our news and views online now, some of which is of a high standard, some of which is anything but.

The higher the standard the greater the cost of producing it, and too few are willing to pay for quality even though we need a strong fourth estate more than ever now governments all over the world have imposed draconian restrictions on us.

Schools key to shifting summer holidays


The Listener has joined the call for the summer holidays to be shifted to February when the weather is more likely to be better.

The slow start to warmer weather isn’t new.

My father was a carpenter at the freezing works. When they shut down over the Christmas-New Year period he was required to stay at work to do maintenance which wasn’t possible when the chains were operating.

We didn’t mind. He took a couple of weeks off at the end of January when the weather was almost always better than it had been in the preceding weeks.

It was almost always better still when we returned to school in February and while there are no guarantees with the weather that is still more likely to be the case.

This is what’s driving the growing chorus to have Christmas and Boxing Day as days off on their own and move the summer holidays at least a month later.

Any business could do that now  and some individuals do choose to take only the statutory days off for Christmas and New Year and have holidays later.

The northern hemisphere does that because it’s the middle of winter and their summer holidays are usually taken in August, the same stage of the season as February would be here.

What keeps most people and businesses here sticking to the late December-early January shut-down is school holidays. Workers with children want at least some of their holidays to coincide with their children’s.

The key to shifting summer holidays then lies with schools. If the education year can be adjusted to start in March, and finish in January the main summer holiday period would shift to February too.

It wouldn’t make much difference on farms because all summer is busy but it would increase the chances the rest of the country would get holiday weather when they’re on holiday rather than in the following weeks when they’re back at work.

Who’s got the rural power?


If I’d been compiling a Primary Sector Power List I’d have had Jacqueline Rowarth on it.

Director of Agriculture at Massey University and is the inaugural Federated Farmers’ agricultural personality of the year.

She was also one of the panelists who drew up the Listener’s 2009 Power List which is why she doesn’t appear on it.

The top spot on the Listener’s list of  people who wield the power in the primary sector went to Chris Kelly, Landcorp’s chief executive.

He’s followed by Henry Van der Heyden,  Peter and Andrew Talley, Alan Hubbard and Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper.

I wouldn’t have put anyone from SFF on that list. The company does very well with PR but its performance doesn’t match its rhetoric.

If you set aside the settlement from PGG Wrightson in compensation for the failed merger bid and other one-off payments the company’s operating profit for the year was only $5.1m.

Contrast that with Alliance Group which does very little PR but made an operating profit of $67.9m.

Sheep and beef farmers are very grumpy and with good reason. Last season’s long awaited increase in prices was short lived and this season’s forecasts aren’t looking very bright.  But most of the grumpiness and concern is from SFF shareholders and suppliers and I don’t think they’d be voting anyone from the company on to a power list.

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