More life in ru­ral halls

Stratford Press - - Front Page - By ALICE COWDREY

A new ini­tia­tive is breath­ing new life into Taranaki’s ru­ral halls.

Ru­ral Raz­zle has been set up to help sup­port ru­ral hall com­mit­tees at a time when ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties are fac­ing many chal­lenges. The or­gan­i­sa­tion wants to sup­port and in­spire com­mu­nity gath­er­ings in halls across Taranaki with events rang­ing from pot luck din­ners, quiz nights, fit­ness classes, in­ter­hall chal­lenges and cabarets.

Ru­ral Raz­zle is sup­ported by Sport Taranaki, Fon­terra Farm Source, Dairy NZ, Taranaki Young Farm­ers, Taranaki Ru­ral Sup­port Trust and the Dairy Women’s Net­work.

Sport Taranaki project ad­vi­sor Janet Flem­ing — who has been one of the key driv­ers of the pro­gramme — says Ru­ral Raz­zle is an um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion which brings to­gether in­for­ma­tion and ways to link up hall com­mit­tees.

Ru­ral Raz­zle now has 91 con­tact peo­ple for Taranaki halls on its data­base and sends out a news­let­ter to keep peo­ple in­formed as well as of­fer­ing chal­lenges and in­for­ma­tion on how to run suc­cess­ful events.

More than 50 farm­ers gath­ered at Mid­hirst Hall re­cently for a farm­ing brunch, one of eight brunches or­gan­ised by the Taranaki Ru­ral Sup­port Trust. Farm­ers tucked into ba­con, eggs, meat pat­ties and hash browns, which summed up the idea of Ru­ral Raz­zle, says Ru­ral Sup­port Trust co­or­di­na­tor Mar­cia Pau­rini.

The meal was an im­por­tant time for farm­ers to catch up and share tips and in­for­ma­tion and help them feel less iso­lated at a busy time of the year.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant they know they are not alone.”

West­pac con­trib­uted a bar­be­cue and the food was do­nated by ru­ral busi­nesses.

Janet says the aim of Ru­ral Raz­zle is to build health­ier, stronger com­mu­ni­ties and boost the phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial well-be­ing of farm­ers and those liv­ing ru­rally. It was es­tab­lished to help ad­dress chal­lenges faced by ru­ral peo­ple in­clud­ing iso­la­tion, vari­able phone and in­ter­net cov­er­age and long dis­tances to travel to larger cen­tres.

With sharemilk­ers mov­ing in and out of the area, there was of­ten a tran­sient pop­u­la­tion.

“Larger farms meant fewer peo­ple and very of­ten the same key peo­ple in the com­mu­nity found them­selves get­ting over­loaded.

“It was there­fore in the best in­ter­ests of the phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial well-be­ing of farm­ers and those liv­ing in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to be ac­tive, stay con­nected, and get to know their neigh­bours bet­ter.”

Janet — who farms on an or­ganic dairy farm at Pi­hama — says that the idea started off with a few events dur­ing the coastal drought last year, in­clud­ing sev­eral golf days.

They soon re­alised, how­ever, that halls were the true hub of the com­mu­nity and sup­port was needed to strengthen them as many com­mit­tees were feel­ing tired, stressed and fi­nan­cially bur­dened.

“In a lot of cases the ad­min­is­tra­tion and main­te­nance of the halls was left with a few mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, many who had held these roles for decades.”

Janet says Ru­ral Raz­zle is en­cour­ag­ing ru­ral halls to look at all the as­sets that ex­ist in their com­mu­ni­ties to help use these strengths to ben­e­fit the halls.

“Ru­ral Raz­zle is aware ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties are al­ready very good at us­ing each other’s skills and net­works but we see our role as a way to in­tro­duce new po­ten­tial part­ners or agen­cies with ad­di­tional re­sources that might be able to help also.

“For Ru­ral Raz­zle it’s about sup­port­ing all the great work that hap­pens in ru­ral ar­eas so that events and projects are sus­tain­able and owned by the com­mu­nity,” she said.

■ For more in­for­ma­tion check­out the Ru­ral Raz­zle Face­book page.

Janet Flem­ing, Mar­cia Pau­rini and Paul Radich get ready for a farmer’s brunch at Mi­hirst Hall.

Farm­ers gath­ered at the Mid­hirst Hall re­cently for brunch.

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