Human responses

The always say tough times bring out the best and the worst in people.

That has already been obvious in the aftermath of the devastating flooding in Southland that affected, in particular, the good folk of Gore and Mataura and surrounds.

These are quintessential New Zealand communities — hardy, humble, spirited, full of hard cases and hard workers. They don’t seek the limelight, put their hands out unless they really need help, or make too much noise.

So, when trouble hits, when floodwater tears out roads and creeps into houses and strands stock, it is heartening to hear of the community swinging into action to help people through times of need.

Southland has a relatively lean population scattered over a very large area, so to hear that no fewer than 26 community hubs had helped more than 1800 people during the flooding was a reflection of its community spirit.

A hat tip, too, to Southland Federated Farmers for the pace and efficiency with which it organised help for the rural community. It had volunteers spread across the province, talking to farmers and helping where needed.

The splendidly named ‘‘Farmy Army’’ was a key part of the emergency response, the Rural Support Trust — such a significant part of the rural community these days — reported it had contacted nearly 900 farmers in flood-risk zones, and water tankers and extra rubbish collections were laid on for those in the worst areas.

Then Monday brought news of Wyndham club rugby players piling into their utes to support their team manager after floods swept through his 250-hectare property.

Farming can be tough — the vagaries of weather and the markets, the concern agriculture is being unfairly blamed for climate change issues, the sheer physicality of the work — but hearing such stories of rural folk rallying around their own is good for the soul.

On a (relatively) lighter note, whose heart was not warmed by the wonderful story about a Southland resident setting up an online page to track down missing pets?

Rebecca MacBeth’s ‘‘find my pet’’ page aims to reunite furry friends, some of whom scarpered during the thunderstorms, with their human companions, and she has already reunited a dog called Willow with its family.

Floods and fires invariably result in animals being left homeless or worse, and it was touching to see someone thinking of our four-legged friends.

Broadly, the tale of the Southland floods is one of camaraderie and community spirit, of the willingness of people to go the extra mile and to watch out for each other.

What a shame, then, to hear some idiots had chosen to use this event as an opportunity to make a buck. Police were understandably dismayed to report looters had targeted properties in the Mataura region left empty or isolated by the flooding.

Talk about a low blow. But there is some comfort in the fact the vast majority of Southlanders were on the right side of the flood clean-up. We salute you.

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