Virtual `farmy army’ co-ordinating rural response

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Rural support . . . People rushing to help farmers in North Canterbury following the 7.8 earthquake are being asked to `tally ho' and channel their efforts through the Federated Farmers 0800 farm line 0800 FARMING (0800 327 646) to ensure support is matched with need.

By Robyn Bristow

Federated Farmers is overwhelmed with offers of help flowing into North Canterbury following Monday’s early morning 7.8 earthquake.

However, it is asking people to channel their support through its 0800 farm line (0800FARMING – 800327646) to help co-ordinate efforts to get help to those who need it.

The “virtual farmy army” is ensuring help offered matches what farmers need.

People randomly turning up on farming properties to offer help is concerning from a health and safety point of view and farmers not knowing if those offering help are genuine or not.

Provincial president Lynda Murchison says she has been inundated with people offering to help the relief effort.

All manner of offers have come in, including accommodation, generators, money, willingness to take on cows for milking and manpower for urgent farming tasks and these offers were being co-ordinated through Federated Farmers.

Miriam Bravenboer, a Federated Farmers Member Services Team Leader, says a lines company that had trucks heading north asked if any farmers needed items transported.

“One person offered a year’s worth of grazing for up to 1000 stock units for free. The person preferred that help to be for a young and struggling farming family but wasn’t too worried if that wasn’t the case.

“Someone else with access to six helicopters asked ‘what do you need?’. And a Christchurch business that leases caravans is offering free delivery if farm accommodation was destroyed by the earthquakes,” Miriam says.

Just eight of the calls logged were from farmers who needed help but Miriam anticipated that would pick up as phone and internet services in the badly affected districts started to come back online.

Help requested included somewhere to store deer velvet because a freezer unit had been knocked out, and someone else who needed drinking water.

Federated Farmers Adverse Events spokesperson Katie Milne said farmers in need should not feel they have to battle tough odds on their own. People reaching out via the 800 number were genuine in their desire to be of use.

The 0800 number is also available to townspeople in affected areas who need assistance.

The communication channel helps Feds build a clearer picture of how badly backblock farms have been affected, and what the needs are.

Katie is also delighted with the way other organisations are responding in a spirit of pulling together to get communities on the east coast of the South Island back up to speed.

Spark, Chorus, Vodafone and other telecommunications providers were working together to reinstate data and phone back-up links wherever it is technically feasible. Farmlands, FMG and New Zealand Post have all offered assistance from their teams in the region.

Meanwhile the Hurunui District Council is also calling on all those giving food to “pause” for a moment.

“We’re a bit overwhelmed and we have more than the community needs,” it says in a Facebook post.

“We expect to require donations to resume later next week and we’ll certainly be letting you know what the communities are asking for.”