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Bruce Wills’ final column in the Sunday Star Times, which came to an end Sunday, after 2 ½ years.
A couple of years ago we cheekily suggested to Sunday Star Times editor, David Kemeys, Federated Farmers could fill in for Rod Oram over summer. As it evolved into this weekly column, I can speak for my predecessor Don Nicolson in saying we’ve had a blast penning them.
Sadly nothing lasts forever, so this is my final column for the Sunday Star Times. I’d like to publicly thank David Kemeys for giving Don, a farmer from Waimatua and me, a Hawke’s Bay farmer, this chance over 2 ½ years of seeing things through our eyes. We’ve taken in natural disasters, droughts, the ups and downs of farming and that bittersweet success of the Farmy Army.
While farmers may be far from firefighters as New Zealand’s most trusted profession, at least we’re well within the top half according to Readers Digest. I often tell farmers not to confuse sometimes unfair general media treatment with what the public truly thinks of us. Being number 14 for the second consecutive year is a platform to build on.
Hearing academics and scientists talk about mythbusting at our national conference tells me we are not alone. Ironically, Waikato University Professor Jacqueline Rowarth was commenting on New Zealand’s low levels of scientific literacy and general innumeracy, at the same time KimDotcom’s search warrants were declared illegal. Social media and the media went into a frenzy that saw KimDotcom prominent on television news and on newspaper front pages. This speaks volumes about a dubious celebrity cult and while it is news, is it really that newsworthy? My observation is that sections of the general media are quick to chastise farming but pass on any opportunity to learn about it. 3News footage of Finance Minister Bill English at our conference only came thanks to interest.co.nz. That says a lot.
Our water spokesperson, Ian Mackenzie, delivered a superb update on the Land & Water Forum but the general media were missing in action. Ian wryly observed farmers are sometimes like possums caught in headlights; we are somewhat surprised everyone doesn’t like us when everywhere else in the world we are seen as nice creatures enjoying high levels of protection. Here, the unfair (and wrong) caricature of farmers is as environmental vandals.
I know farmers need to do more but as Dr Doug Edmeades observed at our conference, “humans are a very clever ape”. Plain talking to farmers like this saw Dr Edmeades named Ravensdown Agri Personality for 2012. We need to sort out faecal contamination and sediment loading in water by getting stock out of water and stopping hill erosion. We know that, but getting the right light shining on water pollution starts by treating rural and urban water the same. This is where a little critical media effort can go a long way.
I had hoped to have developed in this column an Australian idea brought to our attention by Lincoln’s Tom Phillips. Called ‘The Great Café Challenge,’ it is about getting rural newspapers and magazines into urban cafés. This is a great way to introduce our issues and what we’re doing about them to a wider audience. To introduce great Kiwi’s like Craig Hickson, who became our Allflex Agri Businessperson for 2012. It will be a work in progress.
So I guess this is goodbye from me but you can still keep up with Federated Farmers via www.fedfarm.org.nz. If you happen to be on the Taupo-Napier Highway look out for signs to Trelinnoe Park so I can welcome you to our world. Thanks for reading.