Celebrity News

Ali Pugh’s animal antics

We join the TV star and her whānau in the country for a project close to her heart
Petra Mingneau

There’s one song on high rotate in Ali Pugh’s household and it’s the timeless nursery rhyme Old MacDonald Had A Farm.

“It’s Heidi’s absolute favourite,” smiles the mum-of three. “It’s a big hit! If we’re driving through the countryside, we’ll pop it on and make all the noises – and because we often have conversations about where our food comes from, she’s convinced that Old MacDonald has since opened a burger chain.”

In fact, Ali says, if the family ever pop into McDonald’s for a meal, “she insists on calling it Old McDonald’s! It makes sense to her that all the ingredients have come from his animals and his gardens.”

So it was a fantastic treat for her three girls – Thea, six, Heidi, three, and nine-month-old Jemima – to join the Christchurch-based TVNZ reporter and former Breakfast presenter on a real farm as she filmed a segment for a brand-new project.

Daughter Heidi gets a taste of rural life.

The New Zealand Agricultural Show 2021 Special celebrates our wonderful Kiwi farming communities in an uplifting hour-long TV event that brings the iconic Canterbury agricultural show – a casualty of COVID-19 for the second year running – to life.

“I said yes instantly,” Ali, 35, says of the opportunity to co-host alongside dairy farmer and social media sensation Tangaroa Walker. “So many agricultural shows have been cancelled across the country and this felt like a hugely positive way to celebrate the people who, through all this hardship, have remained the backbone of our country.”

Ali can’t remember a time when show day wasn’t part of her life. “Some of my earliest memories are of going to the A&P Show, which is what it was called then, with my grandparents. As a teen, I’d go with friends and hang out at the carnival, and in my twenties, as a cub reporter, I’d often be sent to cover what was happening.” It’s so engrained, Ali started taking the girls when Thea was still a newborn. “It’s almost the last bastion of old New Zealand – the only place your kids can have a candy floss and carnival experience,” she tells.

Ali and husband Jo Barus aren’t ready to move to the sticks quite yet!

“Where else can you take a ride on a Ferris wheel, watch prized pigs being judged and pet some sheep?”

The special – screening 11am Sunday, December 12 on TVNZ 1 and then on TVNZ OnDemand – will see Ali and Tangaroa meet some of the dedicated people behind the scenes, including growers, farmers and producers.

Ali’s highlights include meeting the founders of an agritech business using Kiwi wool particles to make cosmetics and paint, learning how to hose down a prize bull and witnessing the impact an encounter with animals can have on citybased school kids.

“Being able to touch a piglet or a duckling is so special for them,” she explains. “It’s something I’m particularly attuned to because my girls are very much city girls – getting out into the country is a novelty

for them.

“I was lucky enough to bring them with me the day we were filming at an alpaca farm out on Banks Peninsula and the girls got to meet dozens of the most beautiful, friendly animals.

“The alpacas would sit down on the ground so the girls could lie on them and enjoy the softness of their fleece – they just loved it!”

Meeting Tangaroa, who founded digital content hub Farm4Life to help other Kiwis connect with the farming lifestyle, was also a “real joy!”

“He’s a superstar –absolutely magnificent,” Ali enthuses. “Whereas I’m from an urban background, he’s the one walking the talk and fully immersed in farming every day. We had a lot of fun together and I got to see first-hand what a huge celebrity he is within the rural sector. He was constantly posing for selfies!”

But although she loved every minute of her time filming the TV special and her dream of one day raising a handful of chickens, Ali has decided farming won’t feature in her future. “You really have to

dedicate yourself to the cause, don’t you?” she laughs. “You get up well before dawn and go to bed after dark. No, I think I’ll stick to TV!”

Related stories

Get Woman’s Day home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 29% on a magazine subscription.