Keeping up with the Joneses of Coolibah Station, on NZ TV, and rural television

“Keeping up with the Joneses’ of Coolibah Station (NT) is now screening on television in other countries.

‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ debuted on TV One in New Zealand today, in prime time – 7pm on a Saturday night (filling the gap made by Country Calendars break for the summer).  And if website traffic is anything to go on, ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ is a hit in NZ.

While my NZ customers, both north and south islanders, tell me the city/rural divide is growing in New Zealand just as it is in Australia, it’s still a country in which the most popular rural programme can continue to screen on TV in prime viewing time, 7pm on Saturday nights – TV NZ’s ‘Country Calendar’.  (Unlike in Australia – where ABC TV’s ‘Landline’ programme has been relegated by ABC urban residing TV programme schedulers to noon Sunday for quite some time, despite consistently attracting more than 500,000 viewers each episode though on air at such an inconvenient time.)

And I’m wondering why Australia doesn’t have a rural television station the equivalent of New Zealand’s ‘Country 99’ TV; whose aim is ‘providing interesting and relevant information and entertainment to farmers and the rural community’.  I’m absolutely green with envy when I check out what ‘Country 99’ has listed for just this week.  Lots of great rural-related programmes on horses (eg ‘FEI Equestrian World’, ‘Along for the Ride’, ‘Backstage pass with Monty Roberts’ and ‘Under the Spell of Horses’), discussions of farming issues and agricultural current affairs, rural financial information and comprehensive weather reports, etc.   Plus rural lifestyle-social event related programmes – eg Tractor pulling championships and ‘Classic Tractor Fever’, Bull riding championships, sheepdog trials and the Golden Shears competition; plus music programmes that are less likely to get aired on other TV channels.   Country 99 also screens Australia’s ABC ‘Landline’ and ‘Gardening Australia’ programmes, as well as some rural-related programmes from other countries.

As previously mentioned, America also has their own rural television channel, RFD-TV.  Australia doesn’t have the 300 million+ population of the U.S.A., but at 22 million+ we are way ahead of New Zealand’s population of 4 million, and our Kiwi neighbours manage to run a full-time rural television channel yet the lack here remains glaring.  We’re all dependent on food production and primary producers, food production is the most vital issue on the planet – and an Australian rural television channel dedicated to rural and remote Australia would easily fill up with a mixture of good quality Australian-produced programmes and the best of what is produced in NZ, U.S.A, Canada and Britain; plus rural trading partners and sometimes competitor nations such as Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.   Agribusiness, worldwide, is a multi, multi, billion dollar business – there’d be plenty of advertising revenue to be had, for an Australian rural television channel.

With coastal Australians now able to access all 16 digital TV channels – surely one could be a channel dedicated to rural television – food and fibre production, livestock, rural news, current affairs and lifestyle etc.  Especially given that a number of the new Australian television channels are just running repeats or simultaneous broadcasts.

For many years New Zealanders have visited Australia to take up some of the hard rural work that (ahem) many idle Aussies have trouble working up enthusiasm for, from fruit picking to shearing.  In fact Kiwi shearers have kept the Australian wool industry alive in many rural areas where Australian shearers became an almost extinct species.  More recently, young New Zealanders taking a ‘gap year’ between completion of year 12 and tertiary education, have been heading to northern Australia in increasing numbers.  They’ve been taking up jobs on cattle stations, from station cooking to jillaroo and stockman work.   Many girls head to Australian cattle stations to work, because they love horses – and on stations, they get to spend all day most days, riding horses while mustering.

No doubt ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ of Coolibah Station will encourage more New Zealanders to head over to Australian cattle stations for a couple of years of gap-year work, which is a good thing for everyone concerned.

New Zealanders are also the highest per capita purchasers of books in the world – and many have bought the coffee-table style books “A Million Acre Masterpiece’ & ‘Life as an Australian Horseman’, in order to either reminisce about Australian cattle stations they’ve worked on, do some ‘armchair’ travel, or research before travelling to Australia.  These books are memorable gifts for anyone interested in rural life.  The books contain nearly 500 photos taken on a variety of cattle stations (similar to Coolibah) located across the top of northern Australia.  Many of these stations are amongst the largest in Australia –  measuring 10,000 square kilometres or more and running 10,000 – 60,000 or more head of cattle, and running large numbers of working stockhorses.  Books can be personally signed and mailed anywhere in the world.  Delivery to New Zealand usually takes 10-14 days.  These best-selling Australian books are unique, and an ideal introduction into the fascinating but little known life on Australian cattle stations.

Tags: , , , ,