By DAVID HILL
Rural support organisations are combining forces to ensure no farmer is left behind, following the November 14 earthquake.
Speaking at last Friday’s meeting with local farmers in Cheviot, Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Lynda Murchison said “Team Ag” had been created by various local and national rural organisations to provide “a co-ordinated approach to farm recovery”.
“It’s very important that our farmers are visited and their needs are met. But we don’t want them getting six visits and they end up getting what they don’t need.
“It’s a bit frustrating that Civil Defence doesn’t focus on your animal welfare and farm recovery, which we want to do from day one. But going forward it will be covered by ‘Team Ag’, so it’s people who know how to help you.”
She said farmers needing help and anyone offering help should ring 0800 Farming (0800 3276464) so needs can be matched with offers of help.
“This is not a government department and it’s not staffed by people in suits. It’s managed out of our Christchurch office, so you know when you are ringing up you are getting someone who understands farming.
“Even if you think you don’t need help, it’s important that we can gather information so we can go back to the Government and say what the needs are with hard data.
“Don’t be shy if you need help, we have such a lot of offers – the whole of New Zealand wants to help you, so you don’t have to do this on your own.”
North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairperson Doug Archbold said farmers in the Cheviot area were “already under a huge amount of stress” following the prolonged drought, but the trust was there to support them.
“You should not be ashamed of being stressed. It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Look after yourselves, your families and friends and your neighbours and take some time out to relax and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.
“A lot people are carrying a heavy work load at the moment and there’s a lot of people here to help you carry that load.”
Mr Archbold reminded farmers they can ring the trust on 0800 787254 at any time if they need to talk to someone.
“You will get somebody who has an affinity for farming and can help you.”
He said farmers could contact the trust to send a support person when they meet with the Earthquake Commission (EQC) or their insurance company.
“You are going to have people calling on you like the EQC and these people don’t always understand that farmers have an emotional attachment to their houses and their farms, which is also their workplace.”
He encouraged EQC and insurance representatives at the meeting to “treat people with respect and show some empathy”.
Beef and Lamb New Zealand northern South Island director Phil Smith encouraged farmers to “remain strong and stay safe”.