I will be shot (no bad duck shooting pun intended) for saying this but I'd rather plant native trees around my duck pond than shoot ducks on it.

Where once the thrill of the kill was all engrossing, I now find myself channeling my inner Muhammad Ali, who famously said "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong" when he refused the US Army draft in 1966. Part of me feels that way towards to the ducks.

When I was a farmer they were a legitimate target. A pest that need to be ruthlessly culled! Besides, if I didn't do it, Mother Nature would. Just as she controls grass grubs in our pastures.

But now I'm reckoning, as a townie, I ain't got no quarrel with them ducks. This was further reinforced to me last year when the programme director, aka my beloved wife, and I bought a small plot of land in Central Otago. It has a lovely little stream/pond running through the bottom of the section, surrounded by native plantings.

It also has a resident duck population comprising half a dozen of the feathered foe. But I just can't look upon them as the enemy. The mother duck and her ducklings were just so damn cute! Which only encouraged the programme director to duly scold me, saying how could I possibly shoot such harmless creatures?

And if I'm totally honest duck shooting, or duck hunting as it's known in its more politically palatable form, is entirely about the camaraderie for me. It's an annual gathering of old mates who all went to primary school together 50 years ago.

Case in point is Professor Ken Hodge, a man smart enough to have been the sports shrink for the 1992 New Zealand Olympic team at Barcelona. We live in the same city, Dunedin, and work within 3 kms of one another but we only catch up once a year, back in Riversdale, where we grew up on neighbouring farms.

Conversation in the maimai inevitably turns to farming, politics, rugby, beer and women. Not necessarily always in that order. And then there's always the issue of the day. Because our pond is surrounded by a dairy farm, albeit an organic and very environmentally sustainable one, I would not be at all surprised if water quality reared its controversial head this year. After all, it is the current topic du jour dividing urban and rural folk.

As fate would have it, our maimai has an urban/rural divide. Three townies, three farming folk and one who defies description! We grew up together, went to school together, played rugby together in the winter and spent our summers swimming together in the nearby Mataura river. Roll the clock forward 50 years and a lot of things have changed in Riversdale. Cows have replaced sheep. Only three of seven reside there now and I'm not so sure we'd all willingly swim in the Mataura river.


But one thing has not changed in the past half century. Farming and the primary sector remain the backbone of this nation's economy. You can talk tourism till the cows come home but you've got to remember it's an export as well as an import. Yes it has overtaken dairy farming as our single biggest earner but that was off the back of a $3-90 payout season. Throw in sheep, beef, forestry, fishing, horticulture and viticulture and the primary sector still dwarfs tourism.

I wish as a nation we would embrace, rather than abuse, farming and farmers. Yes, farmers can definitely do better when it comes to the environment but so too can townies.

Like another great 1960s icon, Martin Luther King, I have a dream. A dream that one day my children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their waterways but by the content of their character. A nation where all townies will be proud to say, I ain't got no quarrel with them farmers.

Jamie Mackay is the host of The Country which airs on Newstalk ZB and Radio Sport, 12-1pm, weekdays.