Not interested but . . .


Like Reasonable Ray  and Inventory 2 I think it’s far too early for rugby.

I’ll go further than them and say I’m sick of it already because:

* there’s too much, too often.

* I hate the way it dominates so many other things so we have to arrange functions round it or provide a TV then have people divided into those who watch and object to other things or people who  interfere with the watching, those who sort of watch but can converse as well and those who don’t watch at all.

* I’m bored with games against Australia and South Africa.

* I need an emotional connection to enjoy watching and I know too little about most of the players to have one.

So I’d made a deliberate decision not to watch tonight’s game. But I happened to be cooking dinner at 7.30 and having seen a teaser on the news thought I might as well watch the opening minutes until the meal was ready.

My farmer was late so having started watching I kept on – not properly with undivided attention, I ate and cleared up from dinner, read the ODT & NBR, and wrote a couple of emails too. But I kept an ear on the commentary and every now and then I’d watch what was happening.

So there you are, even though I’m sick of  rugby, could only name a couple of players and not really interested, I still watched and oh how I hoped that Otago would win.

For the record they didn’t: Brumbies 33-  Otago 31.

Farm prices falling


The boom in farm prices couldn’t last and the value of farm land is now expected to drop by about 10%.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has warned of the possibility “of a sharp decline in farm values” and Errol Saunders , the managing director Canterbury-based Ford Baker Valuation, said a 10% contraction would not surprise him, due to stable prices, an increase in farms for sale and a longer time to sell them.

Fuelled initially by demand for dairy land and latterly by a resurgence in the fortunes of the cropping sector, land prices reached unprecedented levels, with $55,000 a ha paid for some of the premium farms.

Mr Saunders said prices for those same farms could ease to between $40,000 and $50,000 a ha in the next year.

Grazing land prices peaked at between $600 to $800 a stock unit, not the $1000 a stock unit some were expecting, he said.

A fall in the value of land by itself  isn’t a problem if the owners can meet their mortgage commitments and aren’t wanting to sell. However, capital gain has always been a factor in farm viability.

Farm accountants said that some sheep and beef clients were going backwards last season because higher costs and lower returns meant their annual losses were outpacing the gains in the value of the land so their equity was decreasing. While returns for meat are looking brighter for the coming season they’ll be negated by falling land values.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand rural spokesman Peter McDonald said a lack of finance was preventing some sales being completed, but despite that the national median price of farm sales in the three months to October was $1.5 million, compared to $1.3 million from August to October 2007.

Fewer farms sold between August and October this year: 390 compared to 582 in the same period last year and 470 in 2006

While the median price for sales nationwide rose slightly, the median price of Otago and Southland farms sold fell last month.

REINZ figures show the median price for the 30 farms sold in Otago was $1.83 million for the month, down from $2.2 million in September for the 40 farms sold . . . 

The median farm price in Southland fell from $2.2 million in September to $1.75 million in October.

Sales in the region slowed too. Last month 66 farms sold, 6 fewer than in September and well down on the 112 farm sales last October.

Rising prices in recent years made it difficult for new entrants but falling prices may not improve affordability because credit will be harder to get.

Been there


Today we have a new government, I’m delighted with it but a lot of people won’t be and they have my sympathy because I’ve been there at the last three elections.

The worst of those was 2002, I was National’s Otago electorate chair and we lost the seat. I cried on the night and I cried again the next morning when I realised the full extent of the loss.

That loss isn’t just the loss of a job for MPs, their staff lose their jobs too.

Parliament, Mps and staff are a numerically small part of the political process and the loss of an election is also a loss for many thousands of members and supporters who give their time, energy and commitment to their parties and candidates.

While the winners celebrate on election night and wake, tired (over tired in fact, here) but happy, those on the other side have a subdued night and the morning after may not be any brighter.

These people have my sympathy, and I really mean that, because the longer I’m involved in the grassroots of politics the more I come to respect the others who are too, regardless of which part of the political spectrum they inhabit.

Almost all of us share the desire to get to a common destination, we just differ on the best vehicle and route to get us there.

So I offer them my sympathy and also some comfort.

A lot of things happen in spite of who is in government, there are no miracles when the party you support wins and generally there are no absolute disasters when the a party or parties you don’t support are in power.

They might do things you oppose and even abhor, but if and when they do, they help motivate you for the next election  – and that’s only a thousand and something sleeps away.

Blokes rule rugby roost


Oh dear, someone should take these blokes back to the 19th century where they belong:

The Canterbury Rugby Union is sticking to its guns after being dubbed “chauvinistic dictators” for barring a top women’s rugby team from playing at a premier ground.

While top men’s sides continue to play at Rugby Park”, the Canterbury women’s team has been relegated to grass-roots venues.

Rain, hail or shine, the Canterbury women’s rugby team keeps on training to retain their spot at the top of the women’s NPC.

This weekend they battle old foes Otago, but instead of hosting them at Rugby Park with its grandstand and strong rugby history, they have been relegated to the more modest fields of QEII’s Ascot Green.

“Basically, our home venue of Rugby Park was removed from us, and we were just not very happy with the way it was dealt with,” says centre Stacey Lene.

The team was told late last week it could not play at the park, because the grounds needed to be rested, only to find out the Canterbury Colts played a friendly match there that same day.

Then they found out all their games had been moved from Rugby Park, while the Canterbury men’s A and B squads and Colts would continue to play there.

“We thought we were possibly higher up the ranking, and we weren’t,” says captain Melissa Ruscoe.

In a letter to The Press, Lene challenged the CRU “to explain its arrogant, insulting behaviour to a team of talented women who sacrifice their time and energy, only to be oppressed by an ignorant, patriarchal minority”.

But the union denies it is favouring the blokes.

“It’s not about being more important,” says Hamish Riach of the CRU, “and as I say it’s not actually a story about the women, it’s about trying to manage Rugby Park.”

Riach says other teams have also been bumped from the park.

Yes but have other top teams been bumped from the park?

Lonely Planet likes Otago


Lonely Planet’s newest guide to New Zealand is generally enthusiastic about Otago.

Dunedin’s live music and cafe and restaurant scene were given a significant plug and the Otago Peninsula was said to be “rich” with wildlife and outdoor activities.

The University of Otago was given recognition for the energy it provided the city.

“The country’s oldest university provides an energy that might otherwise be missing and drives a thriving theatre, live-music – and it must be said – drinking scene.”

Indeed, not all education takes place in the lecture theatres.

Otago was said to be unhurried and “rife with picturesque scenery” with few crowds to share it with, although Queenstown was called an area with a cinematic background of mountains and a “what can we think of next” array of activities.

As it is.

What they said about Otago

Alexandra: “Unless you’ve come to Alexandra especially for September’s NZ Merino Shearing Championships or the Easter Bunny Hunt, the reason to visit this rather nondescript service hub is for the nearby mountain biking.”

Arrowtown: “Beloved by day-trippers from Queenstown . . . The only gold being flaunted these days is on credit cards and surrounded by a bonanza of daytime tourists, you might grow wary of the quaint historical ambience.”

Balclutha: ” . . . South Otago’s largest town but is of little interest to travellers other than a place to stock up on supplies before heading off into the Catlins.”

Clyde: “. . . looks more like a cute 19th-century gold rush film set than a real town . . . retains a friendly small-town feel . . . and it’s a great place to chill out for a couple of days.”

Cromwell: “There’s plenty of good reasons to visit Cromwell: the sweet little historic precinct . . . and to eat (and eat, and eat) . . . Oh, and a third reason – to take a photo of yourself beside the spectacularly ugly giant fruit salad at the entrance to town.”

Dunedin: ” . . . captures the hearts of locals and travellers alike. It’s a surprisingly artsy town, and has more great bars and eateries than its small size deserves.”

” . . . has attractions both urban and rural . . . party down in the South Island’s coolest city, and get up close and personal with the island’s most accessible wildlife.”

Glenorchy: “Set in achingly beautiful surroundings, postage-stamp-sized Glenorchy is the perfect low-key antidote to the hype and bustle of Queenstown.”


Lawrence: ” . . . a sweet little town in a valley surrounded by farmland and forestry plantations. For most travellers its not much more than a place to stop for lunch.”


 Naseby: “Cute as a button . . . little old Naseby is the kind of town where life moves slowly. That the town is pleasantly obsessed with the fairly insignificant world of NZ curling indicates there’s not much else going on.”

Oamaru: “Nothing moves very fast in Oamaru: tourists saunter, locals languish and penguins waddle”.

“. . .eccentric gems such as the South Island’s yummiest cheese factory, cool galleries and a peculiar live music venue are other distractions.”

Yes, Whitestone Cheese is yummy; the Penguin Club is a gem; and lets not forget our artists, and while Victoriana isn’t old by world standards, the historic precinct gets better every year – newest attraction is the Whysky Bar.  Outside town there’s the Vanished World Trail  and Elephant Rocks where Chronicles of Narnia was filmed and Riverstone Kitchen.

Omarama: “surrounded by mountain ranges, the Omarama area is at the centre of fabulous landscapes.”

Queenstown: “The town wears its ‘Global Adventure Capital’ badge proudly, and most visitors take time to do crazy things they have never done before. But a new Queenstown is also emerging,
with a cosmopolitan restaurant and arts scene and excellent vineyards.”


Ranfurly: “Ranfurly is trying hard to cash in on its Art Deco buildings but while there are a few attractive buildings, the town itself is fairly bleak.”

But it is on the Central Otago Rail Trail.

Wanaka: “Beautiful scenery, tramping and skiing opportunities, and an expanding roster of adrenaline-inducing activities have transformed the lakeside town of Wanaka into a year-round tourist destination.”

Call me biased and parochial if you will, but the guide has not overstated the delights of New Zealand’s most beautiful province 🙂

Standing room only at the Robbie


The Robbie Burns may not have quite the reputation as The Cook or the Gardens, but it too has for many years hosted its fair share of Otago students.

Yesterday it was host to a different clientele as the venue for the joint launch of the election campaigns for National’s Dunedin North and South candidates, Michael Woodhouse and Conway Powell.

There was standing room only and a wide range of ages with a good number of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s as well as older people including Percy Wellington, who has been a member for 67 years; and former Speaker Sir Robin Gray.

The speeches were short – an introduction by Katherine Rich, followed by John Key then the two candidates. The messages were similar – New Zealand and Dunedin need National and the party has the right people for the huge task facing the in-coming government, whatever its stripes.

One of the strengths of MMP is that it enables parties to have an MP is an area where they might not win an electorate. Katherine Rich has been a strong advocate for Dunedin and its people and an asset for National in the city and around the country.

John told the ODT that Dunedin would need a high calibre replacement for Katherine and that both candidates were high calibre. I agree.

NZ’s best cartoonist launches book


Garrick Tremain who in my subjective and biased opinion is New Zealand’s best cartoonist, has launched a book containing his favourites from the past 20 years.

Politics from the pen of a leading cartoonist contains 153 cartoons which is about 2% of what he has produced.

He said developments in his work were evident over the years, particularly in his drawing style.

“I can pretty much date a cartoon from the style of drawing, although drawing is the one thing which constantly disappoints me.

”I’m frequently pleased with the ideas I put into a cartoon but my drawing is always a disappointment.”

Blgging can be like that too – the ideas are good but the writing can be a disappointment 🙂

Tremain said he had not become increasingly controversial in his cartoon work, although newspaper editors had relaxed their own issues about content.

“The media has become more adventurous, less politically correct, and less restrained.

”Even though my tendency is still to do cartoons which may offend a lot of people, there used to be no show of editors publishing my work and now there are more happy to have my cartoons in their newspapers,” he said.

It depends on who you define offend, but good political cartoons should provoke a reaction.

Despite this, Tremain said audiences still had taboo subjects and the topics likely to cause offence changed from region to region.

South Island audiences were less likely to appreciate jokes about sex and toilet humour than their North Island counterparts, but were not so adverse to racial cartoons.

“The further south you go, the more frightened people are of anything risque.

”At the same time, I’ve noticed over the years they [South Islanders] are more accepting of anything which could be construed as a racist remark, which probably has a lot to do with population spread in this country.”

Being more risque-averse could be a result of Presbyterian upbringings, but I hope being less offended by what might be a racist remark does not mean we southerners are more racist.

Tremain said of all the audiences he had drawn cartoons for in his career, Otago people understood him better than anyone, as the region had been more exposed to his style of satire.

“It’s Otago where I first started and found an affinity with.

”I enjoy drawing for an Otago audience. ”They are very loyal,” he said.

When you’ve been enjoying someone’s work for 20 years, he’s earned your loyalty.

Despite trying to retire last year, Tremain said he was humbled and appreciative of the support he received to continue his work, and there was no end in sight for his career at this stage.

“It’s nice to know that what you do is important to some other people,” he said.

And it’s nice to know Tremain and the ODT are going to be keeping us amused and/or outraged.

Nth Otago 5 – Auckland 0


Last time North Otago challenged Auckland for the Ranfurly Shield we scored first and for a few glorious minutes the scoreboard read: North Otago 5 – Auckland 0.

By the end of that game, in 1993, we still had 5 points but Auckland had quite a few more – 139.

We’re hosting a challenge again today and I’m facing a wardrobe problem. Partly for political reasons and partly because I like the colour, most of my clothes are blue. That’s not a problem when  I’m backing Otago but it’s also Auckland’s colour so today I ought to wear old gold and maroon in support of the home side.

Running between rack and ruin


Not content with buying the trains, Labour is now talking about building them. 

The Government will consider assembling new KiwiRail locomotives in New Zealand instead of overseas, State Owned Enterprises (SOE) Minister Trevor Mallard said.

 But the National Party says the plan is “an idea from the 1950s” and would waste taxpayer money.

Make that waste more money.

The Government bought rail operator Toll this month for $690 million. The purchase also included $140 million in debt. Finance Minister Michael Cullen has said an $80 million injection will be needed over the next five years to keep rail running. He has also signalled a “reinvestment package” of about $380 million which will include new locomotives.

Mr Mallard today said although the components of those locomotives would be bought overseas the Government was investigating the possibility of assembling them in New Zealand.

“There is no doubt there is a possibility of assembling locomotives in New Zealand,” he said on TVNZ’s Agenda programme.

“It’s probably a very logical thing to do from a currency perspective, from a value for money perspective.”

I don’t think logic has anything to do with this suggestion.

But National’s SOE spokesman Gerry Brownlee said the plan was “daft”.

“New Zealand’s economic well-being will not be served by returning to the glory days of NZ Railways, which everyone knew was a huge waste of taxpayer resources,” he said.

“New Zealanders still don’t know what the final bill for the railways buy-up is, let alone the cost of something like this.”

He said the fact the locomotives would be assembled in Mr Mallard’s Lower Hutt electorate suggested it was little more than a “save-my-seat campaign”.  

My first flat at Otago entered a float in the annual University capping parade. We built a railcar and one of the slogans we painted on its side was : NZR – running between rack and ruin. The more I hear about Kiwirail the more I think that slogan would apply to it too.

Update: No Minister   shows what going back to the 50s would mean and Inquiring Mind  says Labour’s indulging in time travel.

There’s Still Gold in Grass


The price of farms sold doesn’t reflect the supposedly weakening economy with record median price for dairy farms at $4m last month.


The dairy boom is having a flow on effect to other prices with the national median for all farm prices at $1.8m, up by more than 50% on May last year.


Real estate agents at the fieldays told me they had no problem selling farms, but there were more buyers than sellers so they’re having problems finding farms to sell.


However, 72 Otago farms sold in May, up from 66 the previous month and 39 in May last year. Of those farms 31 were finishing and 28 grazing, which are sought after by dairy farmers. Five were special, five dairy and one each arable, forestry and horticulture.


In Southland, 108 farms sold in May, up from 103 in April and 96 in May 2007.


The median Otago farm price was just above the national median but eased to $1.87 million in May, from $1.96 million in April, but still up on the $1.16 million in May 2007.

In Southland the median price rose to $2.41 million in May, up from $2.37 million in April and $1.30 million in May 2007.


REINZ rural spokesman Peter McDonald said while fuel price rises will hit farming hard that’s not yet reflected in property sales.


Mr McDonald said the main drivers for the rural strength were city investors wanting to get into farming, and dairying in particular, as well as farmers wanting to extend their landholdings and amalgamate properties where possible.


“It is clear that farmers are taking the view that now is as good a time as any to amalgamate properties to achieve better economies of scale.”

DHB Merger is Right Prescription


The merger of the Otago and Southland district health boards would benefit people in both regions according to Chris Fraser who leaves his post as the Otago board’s regional planning and fundign gneral manager at the end of the month.

Emphasising this was his personal opinion, Mr Fraser said having one board would benefit both populations, but particularly Southland. One regional board offering employment would be much more attractive than either board trying to recruit for its own area.

However, he said any move for a merger was unlikely to come from the Otago board, because that could be interpreted as a takeover, when the boards had been keen to be seen as equals.

Southland might feel threatened by a move from Otago but parochialism needs to give way to practicality. Population based funding is tough on regions with smaller populations spread over a large area so it makes sense for Otago and Southland to combine their resources and in the process reduce some costs. Health dollars are scarce, the fewer that go on the system the more there are for services.

Fraser said the Government imposing a merger on the boards would be unproductive and he may be right. But perhaps it could offer a sweetener as the Minsitry of Education has to encourage schools to merge.

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