Jamie Mackay, a long-standing bastion of the rural sector, exchanged his sheep drencher for a radio microphone nearly three decades ago. This once self-proclaimed “broken-down sheep farmer” has since gained much respect as a broadcaster projecting the voice of New Zealand’s agrarian community.
Mackay isn’t just a voice; his moods reflect the highs and lows of the rural sector. His buoyed spirits following his birthday, one day after the recent election outcome, speaks volumes about the optimism flourishing in rural areas. Mingling with the locals at the Wedderburn pub, sheep and beef farmer and tourism entrepreneur Stu Duncan relayed to Mackay during a radio show, that a weight has seemingly lifted from the shoulders of rural farmers. This has marked a shift in attitude among the farming community.
The farming community, Mackay notes, doesn’t object to emission pricing under the National party. The approach towards the Zero Carbon Act is one of responsibility and consideration. He asserts that whilst no industry is devoid of “bad apples”, the majority of farmers acknowledge climate change and the need for a fair emissions pricing scheme.
The recent change in Government has been met with jubilation in the rural sector. With now more representation for farmers in Parliament, the past government’s impracticalities and seemingly anti-farming regulations are a thing of the past.
Mackay recalled his sheep farming days in the 80s, when politicians proclaimed farming a sunset industry. This notion was disputed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which highlighted the country’s unwavering reliance on farming and agriculture, contrary to tourism which heavily felt the negative impacts of the global health crisis. Mackay comments that unlike the more sporadic income from tourism, agriculture’s income steadily flows into the country.
His influence extends beyond his radio show. He has helped raise funds for initiatives like mental health support for farmers. He is also an ambassador for the IHC’s Calf & Rural Scheme, which, since 1982, has raised over $40 million for charity.
“Mental health issues have, unsurprisingly, escalated in the post-Covid era,” Mackay said, expressing a strong desire to support those struggling. He believes young people today face considerably more societal pressures, including those stemming from the social media landscape, than he experienced 30 years ago.
Looking back at his farming life, Mackay admits missing the intrinsic satisfaction of farming and enjoying the visible progress of the day’s work. He wonders if he would now be “too soft” to keep up with the relentless seven-day work week typical of farmers.
While he enjoys his media career and the constant intermingling with diverse personalities, there’s a part of Mackay that misses the warmth of rural community living. He reminisces about the welcoming spirit abundant in the countryside, which is less evident in city life. Though he now identifies as a ‘city slicker,’ his love for rural life, particularly in Southland and Central Otago, stands unwavering.