This awards column is about farming, footy and politics. Three things I’m passionate about. Here’s the year through my lens (quintessential 2022 lingo):
The Megalomaniac who’s ruined Xmas Award: Goes to small-man’s-syndrome Putin and his invasion of Ukraine on February 24. No one event dominated the world more in 2022.
Almost Equally Distasteful Scenes Playing Out in Our Own Back Yard Award: Goes to the parliamentary protests which finished on March 2. While some protesters probably had genuine intent when the protest began on Waitangi Day, they were hijacked. What ensued was the saddest and most divisive scenes since the Springbok tour of 1981.
Dodged More Bullets Than a Fearless Ukranian Soldier Award: Goes to All Blacks coach Ian Foster who was literally packing up his coaching kit in South Africa, readying himself to hand the baton over to Scott Robertson, when the ABs pulled a giant rabbit from a hat at Ellis Park. Chief executive Mark Robinson, for his part, looked like a possum in headlights. At times in 2022 the NZR top brass made even the Government look competent.
The Sir Brian Lochore Memorial Rugby Player of the Year Award: All Blacks No 8 Ardie Savea had a ram-raiding year (even though the sneaking suspicion remains that his true position is in the 7 jersey). Scott Barrett’s one of my favourite players and if we’re to win in Paris next year, he needs to be wearing 6 alongside the locking duo of Whitelock and Retallick. Ditto for his brother Jordie in 12. However, my player of the year comes from the Sevens contingent which ignited the Black Ferns in the 15-women version of the game. Sarah Hirini, Portia Woodman and Ruby Tui were wonderful, but you can’t go past the smiling assassin Stacey Fluhler who set Eden Park alight in that wonderful final against the English. It was simply the best game of rugby, and the sporting highlight, of 2022.
Winston Churchill Award for Politician of the Year Award: It’s been a tough year to be in Government. While the political lustre of the PM has definitely waned in 2022, her loyal deputy Grant Robertson soldiers on cheerfully and manfully despite, in hindsight, overcooking the economy with Adrian Orr. Christopher Luxon remains a little accident-prone and hasn’t yet mastered the art of telling porky pies in front of a camera - an essential skill for any wannabe PM politician. But he’s overseen a phoenix rising from the 2020 electoral ashes. However, “arrogant prick” or not, David Seymour takes the gong. The Act Party remains strictly on message and Seymour achieved the coveted political quinella of getting under both Jacinda and Winston’s skin.
The Biggest Threat to Pastoral Farming Award: Goes to carbon farming - aka the “Emperor’s New Clothes” farming. Primary sector exports are the absolute backbone of our economy. An economy that has little else going for it at the moment. The primary sector will be worth $55 billion in the year ended June 2023. More than $35b of that comes from dairy, sheep and beef. There are plenty of places in New Zealand to plant pine trees to sequester carbon. Near flat-to-rolling, high-producing pastoral land, much better suited to growing food, is not one of them.
Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory Award: Goes to the Government for its response to the He Waka Eke Noa proposals from the farming fraternity. They were presented with a common-sense victory on a platter, agreed to by farming leaders. But no! They had to tinker and meddle with the most contentious issue - giving farmers credit for carbon sequestration. They eventually back-flipped on sequestration, but the damage was done, the relationship broken, and the likes of Federated Farmers got out of the tent and started peeing in. Even the more mild-mannered industry-good groups, the likes of Dairy NZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, hardened their resolve in the face of the ongoing challenge from Groundswell.
Ag Person of the Year Award: In 2021 I awarded it to the Groundswell’s Laurie Paterson and Bryce McKenzie. Some would argue they’re contenders again in 2022 for holding the Government to account and largely keeping their ginger group on message, despite the off-message fringe groups loitering on their periphery. But my winner is Wayne Langford. The quirky Golden Bay dairy farmer, rural social media influencer, vice president of Federated Farmers and co-founder of food charity, Meat the Need. To fundraise 1.2 million meals for hungry Kiwi families, in a one-day rural telethon, was truly heart and tummy-warming.
The Sir Ed Hillary New Zealander of the Year Award: Goes to a man who did more than anyone else to bring New Zealanders together and makes us happy in 2022. A record television audience. A packed-out Eden Park to watch women’s rugby. New Zealand you’ve come a long way. Professor Wayne Smith, the nation collectively salutes you.