Busy year for rural support trust

In an effort to grow RST awareness, the group partnered with Downlands Deer, which has provided one of its trucks as a mobile billboard. Photo: Supplied
In an effort to grow RST awareness, the group partnered with Downlands Deer, which has provided one of its trucks as a mobile billboard. Photo: Supplied
South Canterbury Rural Support Trust has experienced one of its busiest years in recent history.

The organisation, which supports rural communities in times of need, has been in demand throughout the year, particularly after the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak.

South Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman David Hewson said the team had been especially busy since August, assisting people affected by the outbreak, making it one of the busiest years since his involvement.

''We've been involved with any of the farms that have been affected,'' he said.

''There's been lots of issues, as you can imagine.''

He said the team has liaised between the Ministry for Primary Industries and farmers, ensuring both parties were connecting as they should.

''We have helped affected farmers with employment issues, advocated for them with the response team, helped with their compensation claim, assisted with farm tasks related to M. bovis response activity, [and] co-ordinated teams of farmers to also help with these farm tasks,'' he said.

''The farms have [had] their whole world interrupted. It's been pretty stressful losing their cows. Some of them are quite attached,'' he said.

Mr Hewson said the trust had a strong relationship with MPI, which had helped ensure clear information was being presented to the community.

''[That relationship] ... also helps us to interact with other government agencies such as MSD [Ministry of Social Development] and ImmigrationNZ on the likely needs to be met as a result of the M. bovis response.''

While Mycoplasma bovis was a major factor for the trust this year, the team also assisted with a range of other issues.

Among them were the floods, which swept through South Canterbury in July, and issues raised during the drawn-out ''political football'' in the lead-up to the elections.

He said party policies announced during that time created ''uncertainty'' for some farmers.

However, the industry as a whole was now tracking pretty well, including the dairy industry which had slumped due to last year's low dairy payout.

''The dairy industry is looking towards a brighter future, but they are still getting back to what they were.''

He said while the dairy industry was looking better, there was still a bit of catching up to do.

''It's still pretty tight.''

The trust team also gets calls from people concerned about a member of their rural community.

''We will visit these farmers and facilitate further support if necessary. The areas of need are varied and include financial, employment, production and mental health,'' Mr Hewson said.

''We have built up a large network of professionals and groups who we can call on to assist our clients. Sometimes our clients just don't know who or where to get the help they need - that's where we can assist,'' he said.

-By Alexia Johnston

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