A lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge since I last graced the pages of this fine publication.

We've had devastating earthquakes, knocking on biblical proportions on the Richter scale. Fonterra has lifted the forecast milk price payout to six dollars. Silver Fern Farms and Shanghai Maling have decided to consummate their controversial relationship early. And in one of the biggest sporting upsets in recent times, New Zealand's best shearer Rowland Smith failed to qualify for the World Shearing Championships in Invercargill next year.

# It has been two weeks since a double-banger magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook us out of any complacency we might have had about being over the worst of living in the Shaky Isles.

It's hard to imagine anything being worse than Christchurch but Kaikoura was, on the Richter scale, matching the deadly 7.8 jolt of the Hawkes Bay earthquake of 1931 where 256 lives were lost. Incidentally, outside of wartime, Hawkes Bay ranks second only to the Mount Erebus air disaster where 257 perished. Christchurch cost 185 lives.

The damage of earthquake and subsequent aftershocks has been well documented.


Farming has a long road ahead to recovery and that's when it can get past the cordons! The fishing industry off Kaikoura is on hold and I fear for the future of Kaikoura now that it's no longer on a well-trodden tourist track.

However the one positive thing to come out of the quakes is the unflinching farming spirit. Whether it's been Federated Farmers, Rural Women, Young Farmers or big corporates such as Fonterra, everyone has pitched in to help their neighbour or someone worse off than themselves. It's a lesson urban New Zealand could do well to heed.

# Fonterra, having done the right thing by its two dozen suppliers in Kaikoura, decided to give the rest of the nation's dairy farmers an early Xmas pressie when it lifted the forecast milk price for the 2016-17 season to $6/kg. Six months ago only one man saw this coming - ASB's eternally optimistic rural economist Nathan Penny. At the time, on my radio show, I nicknamed him 'Pollyanna' Penny. He is now known simply as 'The Oracle'.

#/ Silver Fern Farms has decided not to wait for the vicar in its enthusiasm to consummate its relationship with Chinese suitor Shanghai Maling. Rather than waiting for a ceremonial walk down the commercial aisle to the altar on January 4, chairman Rob Hewitt, like a beef bull at the gate, has decided to jump into bed early for a sneaky pre-Xmas party pash! Why wait says Randy Rob? And for what it's worth, I'm with him on that one and can think of 260 million reasons why many SFF farmer shareholders are too.

#/ Sir David Fagan said it best when he opined Rowland Smith's shock omission from the New Zealand team for the 2017 World Shearing Championships in Invercargill was proof that the hardest part of being world champion was to make the Kiwi team. The lean and lanky Smith had won five of the six qualifying events, finishing second in the other, leading into the sudden death qualifying final at the Canterbury A&P Show. That counted for nothing when he was pipped by John Kirkpatrick and Nathan Stratford in Christchurch.

This is in no way a criticism of Shearing Sports New Zealand as the selection criteria was agreed to by the shearers. As Fagan reflected on the brutality of the selection process, he said in his day the two member team was often selected from the respective winners of the Golden Shears at Masterton and the New Zealand Shearing Championships at Te Kuiti - an equally one-off selection process. To reinforce his point, he said on the nine occasions he represented New Zealand at the World Champs, he had nine different team mates!

Kirkpatrick and home town hero Stratford will do their country proud in Invercargill but you get the feeling Smith's non-selection was akin to Steve Hansen dropping Beauden Barrett off the back of one bad goal kicking display. Rowland Smith is New Zealand's best shearer. It's a shame he won't once again get the chance to prove he's the world's best.