Wairarapa News : January 18th 2012
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Twenty-two district finals took place in the last few months of 2011 and now with eight finalists confirmed for each region, regional finals will start in February. The incentive for the 56 final contestants is not only their share of over $140,000 worth of prizes; it is also the prospect of being named as one of the seven grand finalists who will grace the stage in Dunedin on May 26 To get there, the contestants will have to face a series of challenges that will test their knowledge and push them to their physical limits. The Agri- skills Challenge will judge their practical know-how and the pressure cooker Agri-sports will further test that practical knowledge as they race against each other and the clock. Contestants will also be quizzed on market knowledge and business sense in the Agri-business Challenge and finally the Agri-growth Challenge will involve interviews, speeches and human resource challenges. It won't be an easy road for these contestants but contest operations manager Hilary Phillips believes the benefits are well worth the effort: ''The regional finals really tests the individual -- practically, theoretically and physically. It is an intense and gruelling competition that ultimately selects the very best all-rounder." Competitors often comment that the skills and experience they gain from competing far exceeds their expectations and the payback to the individual is life-long.'' Spectators can expect more of the same great action at both the practical days and evening shows this year and can also expect to get familiar with a new face, said Ms Philips. ''This year we have a new compere, Craig Wiggins, who will bring a new and exciting dynamic to both the practical day and the evening show. Craig spent last contest season learning the ropes and he's excited to be taking over the reins in 2012.'' Otago/Southland will be first to find their grand finalist with their regional final in Balclutha on February 12. Once again the new crop of young farmers will battle it out in the TeenAg and AgriKidsNZ competitions alongside the Regional Finals. Wool backed for regrowth Money bags: Wool is our sleeping export dragon, according to Federated Farmers. Following a Statistics NZ publication, Off the sheep's back, Federated Farmers is bullish that the 'sheep's back' has potential to become a major export again. The federation points to the recent renaissance in wool's export value, which has wool returns up 31.5 percent on last year. Wool is New Zealand's fourteenth largest export according to the most recent export statistics, Worth $799 million in the year to last November it is arguably our sleeping export dragon, said Federated Farmers Meat and Fibre chairperson Jeanette Maxwell. ''Federated Farmers feels it has potential to be worth much, much more if we can get our local and international houses in order,'' Mrs Maxwell said. ''Locally, the industry has a number of roadblocks that Federated Farmers wishes to help clear. As an organisation, we're planning to get discussion and momentum going again this year around wool. ''Through generic initiatives, like The Prince of Wales' Campaign for Wool, we can push wool's inherent properties because it is natural and renewable. These are properties that local innovators like Icebreaker have latched onto. ''I mean, do people really want to wear oil? Oil is the basis for most man- made fibres so do you really want processed oil in your home as insulation, floor coverings or as clothing? Mrs Maxwell said we must not lose sight of the fact that for some time wool has been swamped by these synthetic, largely oil-based fibres. ''We lost ground but we now need to get up off the canvas and take markets back.'' While synthetic fibre manufacturers literally ripped the rug from underneath wool's feet, a growing global consciousness about sustainability works in our favour. What can be more sustainable, natural and renewable than wool, she said. Another ace up our sleeve is the shift of global economic power. Countries like Russia and China value high quality wool over oil-based fibres, according to Mrs Maxwell. ''Again we need to become smarter locally and internationally if we're to reap the benefits of lifting wool up to where it belongs. ''This is why Federated Farmers views wool as integral to a sustainable sheep industry. Wool is a vital part of our T150 campaign for sustainable returns to farmers. ''Just as the dairy industry is a major contributor to New Zealand's beef exports, sheep farmers need to avoid putting all of our eggs into one basket labelled meat. We are, by backing wool and the wool industry to grow once again,'' Mrs Maxwell said.
January 11th 2012
January 25th 2012