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3 June 2024

King’s Birthday Honours 2024: The Country’s Jamie Mackay made Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit

2024 SIDE MC is truly humbled to be acknowledged.

King’s Birthday Honours 2024: The Country’s Jamie Mackay made Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Jamie Mackay, host of The Country, has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to broadcasting and the rural community, in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours.

Mackay has been a pioneer of rural radio, driving the broadcasting of rural content nationally through New Zealand’s leading rural network show, The Country.

In 1994, Mackay purchased 4ZG in Gore, the radio station now known as Hokonui, from the Government and began a daily five-minute rural segment broadcast, which quickly evolved into a one-hour show format.

In 2007 he obtained a nationwide slot on Radio Sport through The Radio Network, and The Farming Show was born.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Mackay decided The Farming Show needed to reach more Kiwi listeners, so in 2016, The Farming Show became The Country and was added to more markets on Newstalk ZB’s network, with the exception of Auckland and Wellington.

In 2021, Mackay went into bat for The Best of The Country, his round-up of the top interviews of the week, and fought to get the show into the metro markets to strengthen the understanding of rural New Zealand in all urban centres.

Away from the studio, Mackay has been rural New Zealand’s voice in mainstream media and acted as MC for numerous rural events and awards ceremonies.

He donates his MC fees to charities, most notably the IHC Calf and Rural Scheme, where he’s taken over the ambassador’s role from his boyhood hero, Sir Colin “Pinetree” Meads.

A staunch supporter of “looking after the top paddock”, he has been a prominent advocate for rural mental health and wellbeing initiatives.

Mackay has been president of the Riversdale Rugby Club, a trustee of Sport Southland and the Mataura Licensing Trust, and a Gore district councillor.

In 2006 he was awarded the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists’ Agricultural Communicator of the Year.

He has also been named a finalist in the Outstanding Contribution to New Zealand’s Primary Industries Award, at the 2024 Primary Industries New Zealand Awards, to be held in July.

This year Mackay celebrated 30 years of The Country, keeping it local by broadcasting to the nation from a woolshed in his hometown, Riversdale.

Not bad for a self-proclaimed “broken-down sheep farmer with a stutter”.

Mackay said he thought his friends were having him on when he found out he was part of the King’s Birthday Honours list.

“I’ve got a few dodgy mates who would love to suck me in with a stunt like this.”

When he realised it was for real, he spent an afternoon trying to decide whether to accept or decline it, as he was heading to Australia the following morning.

Mackay said he had his reasons for hesitation, the primary one being he thought he hadn’t done enough to justify the honour.

“Plus, in the past, I’d been critical of some people who had accepted an honour for merely doing their well-paid job,” he said.

“In the end, however, I justified it in my mind by accepting it for all the charity fundraising work I’d done over the years, particularly for the IHC.

“That, and the fact my good mate Steve Wyn-Harris got a ‘gong’ in 2023 for services to the rural community and I didn’t want him to get one up on me!”

Mackay also knew his family would be proud of him, especially his children and future grandchildren.

“I’m truly humbled.”

NZME CEO Michael Boggs said the company was thrilled to see Mackay honoured today, saying the recognition was well-deserved.

“Jamie plays a hugely important role in connecting with our rural communities and has given so much more of himself through other activities and events too.

“He has created a tight knit community through The Country, growing it from something he started on his farm in Riversdale 30 years ago to what it is now as New Zealand’s flagship agricultural show.”

Jason Winstanley, Chief Audio Officer at NZME, said celebrating The Country’s 30-year anniversary with Mackay just a few weeks ago in Southland was a real privilege.

“With hundreds of people turning out in support, it was a sign of just how respected he is, not just as a broadcaster, but in the massive amount of work he does for his community.

“He’s an extremely talented broadcaster and a brilliant person, and we’re so proud to see him awarded in this respect today.”

Rowena Duncum, NZME Commercial Lead – Rural, has worked alongside Mackay for eight years, including six as his producer for The Country.

She said she was delighted to see him honoured today, knowing how much he values the opportunity to give voice to rural matters.

“This goes beyond just ‘doing his job’.

“From normalising the conversation around rural mental health and advocating for the IHC Calf and Rural Scheme as its ambassador, through to holding politicians and leaders to account, for more than 30 years, Jamie has kept rural New Zealand at the heart of everything he does.”