Monday 18th November 2019

Neal Wallace (#2731, 1977-1981). A man of few but many words. An author extraordinaire, a Master wordsmith, a new age sensitive man

Neal Wallace, award winning journalist
Neal Wallace, award winning journalist

A few weeks ago I was flying to Wellington and I ran into Neal Wallace. Thinking that he, being a man of means, probably had a taxi arranged to get into the city – so me, being retired, could hitch a ride with him.  His traveling companion was the outstanding rural reporter for the ODT Sally Rae. The highlight for the three of us was undoubtedly the idea that none other than Julian Smith would be paying the bill for the taxi. We toyed with the idea of a road trip to Palmerston North but the memories of the Bundy race and the uncertainty of Julian's reaction put an end to that plan.

Seems that they were on their way to the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators annual journalism awards – really! Sally had won the ‘Rural Women New Zealand Journalism Award’ (congratulations) but Neal had won nothing – something he was finding hard to deal with, and Sally spent the entire taxi ride winding him up beautifully.  For the record Sally’s award was for her articles on Central Otago women Emma Crutchley, Frankie Hore and Kelly Heckler, who believe the Upper Taieri could become a world leader in freshwater management, and Sarah Elliot and Juliet Gray, two of the founders of the Hakataramea Sustainability Collective. Some very strong McGlashan names in there!

The next day I was eager to find out how it went and check if Neal was OK. I was delighted to find out that he had won the ‘The Beef + Lamb New Zealand Hard News Award’, which recognises excellence in hard news journalism, focusing on any aspect of the beef and sheep industry, for his two articles in Farmers Weekly. Not telling him in advance was a beautiful stitch up by the Guild methinks.

I later talked to Sally about writing up something for this newsletter and here’s what she sent:

Some details on our buddy . . . Journalist Neal Wallace was raised on an Otago sheep and beef farm. On leaving school, he worked as a farmhand in South Otago before embarking in 1983 on a journalism career, initially at the Ensign in Gore and then the Star in Christchurch. In 1987, he moved to Dunedin where he was the southern reporter for the weekly New Zealand Farmer for eight years before returning to daily journalism at the Otago Daily Times where he became agribusiness editor, and then regional chief reporter. In recent years, he has been the Dunedin-based journalist for New Zealand Farmers Weekly. Neal is the author of three books - When the Farm Gates Opened - the impact of Rogernomics on rural New Zealand (note, it looks deathly boring - I've never read it - best part is the photograph of my huntaway on the back cover, he's a great dog); From a Place Like No Other - the first 70 years of Silver Fern Farms (note, it looks deathly boring - I've never read it - it's sitting on my coffee table waiting for a rainy day, fortunately it never gets that rainy in North Otago), and ??? No idea what it's called - some book about John McGlashan. Neal has won numerous awards, including the Rongo Award for excellence in agricultural journalism and two Qantas media awards. In 2003, he was awarded a David Low Fellowship to attend the Reuters Foundation Programme at Oxford University. Earlier this month, (Oct) he won the hard news award at the Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators annual awards function.

I took him to Fonterra's annual meeting in Invercargill last week. All the way down he moaned constantly about having to get out of bed early, and rue the fact that his bride's childhood home in Mataura is now a car park. The highlight of the Invercargill trip was undoubtedly the coffee Neal shouted from the roadside caravan at Milton - it really is very excellent. He also had a chance to reminisce outside the birthplace of his journalism career - the esteemed Ensign in Gore - where the decor probably hasn't changed since he started in 1983.

We could talk about his illustrious multisport career (did he ever finish the Coast to Coast . . . ???) but methinks that could just be terrorising him a little bit too far. We don't want to push him over the edge.

Good to chat. He’s a good colleague, a great friend, and a good man. I’m off to Christchurch later today, for the A and P show. Two days of sheep and cattle. Perfect.