Opinion: The Country radio host Jamie Mackay takes a look at the highs and lows for rural New Zealand in 2018.

The Good:

The weather:

This time last year much of the country was in a screaming drought – a farmer's worst nightmare. Although Mother Nature absolutely forgot to turn the tap off in November and early December, at least once we dry out there will be grass for Africa and for more than quite a few sheep, cattle and deer.


Mycoplasma bovis:

Twelve months ago many were resigned to living and farming with bovis. If a week's a long time in politics, a year is an eternity in farming. I wouldn't be so bold as to suggest bovis is beaten but we've given it a hell of fright in 2018.

Pamu (the artist formerly known as Landcorp):

Has been criticised heavily from the farming fraternity for meddling by making submissions to the tax working group. However, on the credit side of the ledger, the state-owned farmer has been a leader in sustainable farming with innovations such woollen surfboards and deer milk for use in South Korean cosmetic products.


If you exclude strong wool (which is a dog) and dairy prices cooling their heels after a very acceptable 2017-18 season, the planets have aligned for farmers. The other big three acts in town - red meat, forestry and horticulture – have enjoyed standout years.

The Waimea Dam:

Sanity prevailed. The lunatics are no longer running the asylum. Maybe we need to revisit Ruataniwha?

The Country radio team. Rowena Duncum, Sam
The Country radio team. Rowena Duncum, Sam "Lashes" Casey and Jamie Mackay. Photo / File

The Bad:

The weather:

Farmers are notoriously difficult to please when it comes to Old Huey but climate extremes make a tough job tougher. Drought is an insidious cancer on productivity. Floods can wipe out a year's work in day. Farmers have to be tough buggers.

Mycoplasma bovis:

The government, especially Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, is to be commended for taking on the bovis battle on behalf of the nation's dairy and beef farmers. However, there's no denying MPI dropped the ball on the compensation issue and caused a whole lot of hurt.

Pamu (the artist formerly known as Landcorp):

Why does the government own Landcorp? That's a question many farmers were asking when Pamu poked its nose into a CGT. WTF? Pamu is politicising farming. Surely that is not its brief?

The Labour-led Coalition Government:

I reckon farmers should wake up every morning and Praise the Lord for Winston Peters. He is the handbrake on the Greens, who, if they were in his position of power within the government would change the face of farming – and not for the betterment of the economy. Plus the likes of David Parker probably doesn't need too much encouragement either, even though he's doing a good job as Trade Minister.

The 1080 protesters:

Although any poison is far from perfect, this is by far the lesser of two evils. I don't often find myself agreeing with Eugenie Sage, but do these aggressive and sometimes downright dangerous dropkicks not want to save and preserve our native flora and fauna? Not to mention the huge potential cost to the primary sector economy if TB got away on us?

Listen to Ross Hyland interview Jamie Mackay on his rural reflections of 2018:

The Ugly:
The weather:

Climate change deniers will have a tough time convincing me the climate is not changing with 2018 seeing more extremes than any year in my living memory. Increased volatility is the only constant.

Mycoplasma bovis:

As we head into our second Christmas with M.bovis, Santa will not come early for the more than 200 farmers and their families under threat (and movement control) from this heinous wasting cattle disease, contracted through no fault of their own. Despite the denials and protestations of many in the animal rights brigade, farmers love their animals. That's why they're in the gig in the first place. Only mongrel farmers can watch animals suffer.

Pamu (the artist formerly known as Landcorp):

Love or loath his message, Dr Mike Joy, the artist formerly known as a fresh water ecologist at Massey University has been a polarising appointment to Pamu. While I admire his passion and quite like the guy, I don't like his anti-farming politics. Yes, farmers can improve their act. So could the ironically-surnamed good Doctor, if he was a tad more conciliatory in his barbed rhetoric. Has he not heard of the word carrot?

Rural mental health:

Why is it that rural folk are 1.5 times more likely to take their lives than their urban counterparts? I lost a near and dear friend of close to 50 years in 2018. I know too many families who have suffered the same fate. Let's try to stop the rot in 2019.

Donald Trump, China, Vladimir Putin, Brexit, climate change and global warming:

We live in challenging and uncertain times but what's new there? I'm sure folks in 1914, 1939, 1962 and 2001 thought just the same thing. Thankfully, we are an incredibly resilient species.

On a much more cheerful and festive note, to you and yours, merry Christmas and please remember what it's all about. Family, friends, a bit of faith and a heap of good health! Without any of them, you are poor indeed.

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