Town and coun­try, whether in need or not, there is no di­vide

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

I have ap­pre­ci­ated watch­ing the so-called Farmy Army work­ing to clear up the dev­as­ta­tion in Christchurch.

It makes me proud to be a farmer and of be­ing an elected farm­ing leader in our fed­er­a­tion.

It’s great to see some pos­i­tive cov­er­age of farm­ers in the me­dia and the term Farmy Army is in nearly ev­ery­one’s vo­cab­u­lary.

It seems that a sim­ple off-the-cuff de­scrip­tion by Christchurch mayor Bob Parker dur­ing a me­dia brief­ing has be­come some­thing more.

I think the term, Farmy Army, sum­marises the farmer per­sona quite nicely. Farm­ers aren’t a bunch of rich in­di­vid­u­als ‘‘cream­ing it’’ with our milk prices (as the me­dia seems to ob­ses­sively por­tray us). Farm­ers are a com­mu­nity.

The next as­sump­tion is that we are a ru­ral com­mu­nity, some­how sep­a­rate from those liv­ing in the cities. Ab­so­lutely not true.

Farm­ers are a part of New Zealand, those liv­ing in the cities, our brethren.

We some­times won­der if those in the cities feel the same way about us. Be­cause when farm­ers throw their weight be­hind a cause, this gruff, get-down-to-work men­tal­ity works a treat.

The re­sponse of vol­un­teers to the Fed­er­ated Farm­ers’ Farmy Army from the Can­ter­bury re­gion and through­out New Zealand, in­clud­ing the Waikato, has been mas­sive.

To do the ‘‘hard yards’’ with bar­row and shovel at their own cost ac­tu­ally cre­ated a ma­jor lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenge to the Fed­er­ated Farm­ers’ Christchurch Earth­quake ad­min­is­tra­tion team.

Once one farmer goes the rest jump in to help as well. The very large num­ber of vol­un­teers reg­is­ter­ing proved that point.

I doubt any of those farm­ers were sitting there with a ‘‘let’s go help the town­ies’’ mind­set. They were go­ing to help their coun­try­men, their com­mu­nity, their city. No ru­ral/city di­vide here. They were suf­fer­ing too.

Win­ter is ap­proach­ing with au­tumn night time tem­per­a­tures in sin­gle fig­ures and get­ting colder as days tick on.

The need to help af­fected fam­i­lies move to warm tem­po­rary hous­ing is one concern be­ing con­veyed to me.

The dra­matic need for all seg­ments of New Zealand so­ci­ety to muck in and help Christchurch in any way pos­si­ble goes be­yond the emo­tive.

It’s amaz­ing when you think of goods, food and wa­ter do­nated.

The money do­nated through Red Cross and the like, the vol­un­teer man­power across the long hours, the shel­ter of­fered and the in­ter­na­tional sup­port.

This has be­come more than a Can­ter­bury is­sue.

The sheer loss of life and dam­age to in­fra­struc­ture can’t help but have a flow-on ef­fect to our econ­omy, di­rectly and in­di­rectly.

Just the dam­age to the power sup­ply, wa­ter and sew­er­age will cost for years to

all the come. I think it’s time for us to see some sen­si­ble, bi­par­ti­san de­bate in Par­lia­ment on the very se­ri­ous is­sues that now need to be ad­dressed con­cern­ing fund­ing sup­port for Christchurch.

It needs both a short-term and a longterm vi­sion of where we go from here.

Even as a lay per­son, I en­vis­age a 15-year pro­gramme for cen­tral Christchurch alone.

The South Is­land’s re­gional economies need a vi­brant com­mer­cial busi­ness and so­cial struc­ture that only a fully func­tional city can de­liver.

It is a no brainer that New Zealand would be bet­ter off over­all as well.

From here the so­cial com­po­nent is also very im­por­tant.

We have to en­cour­age the fam­i­lies who have left to even­tu­ally re­turn to their city, but also sup­port those fam­i­lies who want to leave per­ma­nently.

I am very con­fi­dent that we will see the Can­ter­bury re­gion re­cover. It may take some time but it will hap­pen and we will make it hap­pen.

STEW WADEY Waikato Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent

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