Farmers urged to solicit help

Owaka farmer Grant Bradfield lambs a ewe during last month's week of storms. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Owaka farmer Grant Bradfield lambs a ewe during last month's week of storms. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Strong Southern men were told to swallow their pride and reach out for help at the Federated Farmers post-storm meeting in Balclutha.

The Town and Country Club was filled by about 120 farmers still dealing with the effects of last month's deadly southerly storm.

Farmers were invited to Wednesday night's meeting to hear advice from banking advisers, doctors, vets and rural support workers on how to manage their finances, their stock and their stress levels.

Federated Farmers national president Don Nicolson said a series of meetings in South Otago and Southland this week had been organised to get farmers together for some information sharing and fellowship.

Federated Farmers chief executive Conor English said all the banks had expressed a willingness to work with farmers, but farmers needed to talk to them.

Westpac agribusiness manager Pete Moynihan said some of the figures "will be pretty ugly", with losses totalling more than $50 million projected.

"Some sheep farmers have been struggling for the last couple of years and rely on lambing for profitability. The losses are real and significant."

He advised farmers to talk to their banks, and then set their budgets, which might take six or seven attempts to get right, he said.

He also talked about the importance of the rural community supporting each other.

"Friends and neighbours are really important. If you think they are struggling, go round and see them; have a cup of tea."

Irene Scurr, from Otago Rural Support Trust encouraged farmers to start forming relationships with people and organisations they could call on for support immediately.

The storm had created a common bond now, but later in the year would affect some farmers differently, she said.

"We won't all be feeling the same when it gets to the other side of Christmas. [For] Some farmers who are close to the edge, this event may be the tipping point."

The seriousness of the situation was lightened by the presence of Venture Southland personality Gerry Forde, who bravely wore a Stag's jersey into "enemy territory", and by the Ranfurly Shield, which was sent to Balclutha as a gesture of support from Southland farmers.



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