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Following the recent bush fires raging in Australia and flooding in Southland, meetings have been held in the Waimakariri and Selwyn districts by concerned lifestyle block owners with emergency services with a view to creating animal evacuation plans.
First-term Waimakariri district councillor Niki Mealings said lifestyle block owners tended to "fall between the cracks on just about everything", as urban communities were supported by local councils and farms were supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries and primary sector organisations.
"By and large it’s just families with a few stock or growing some trees, and you don’t have any protection as it’s not considered residential and you don’t come under commercial use."
A recent meeting in Ohoka, near Rangiora, had speakers from Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the Waimakariri District Council’s civil defence team and Animal Evac’s Sarah Lodge, who recently volunteered in Australia.
"It was an opportunity to discuss a community-based plan, including who has what animals, who has safe havens, who has feed stocks, what skills people have and who has transport," Cr Mealings said.
"The last thing we want is for people to just release their animals, because people are evacuating, too, and you don’t want all those animals on the road when you’re trying to get away."
One possibility was utilising the Gets Ready software developed by Neighbourhood Support.
Cr Mealing has been a lifestyler at Ohoka for 20 years and created the Waimak Lifestyle Block Group page on Facebook two years ago to help new lifestylers in response to questions being asked by lifestylers on social media.
"I asked if people would be interested in setting up a new group and I was amazed with the response."
During the Waimakariri zone committee’s zone implementation plan addendum process in 2018 and 2019 there was tension between farmers and lifestylers, so one of the speakers was environmental consultant Megan Hands, who is now an Environment Canterbury (ECan) councillor.
"It comes back to the confusion about where do lifestylers fit in and what do you do if you want to do the right thing," Cr Mealings said.
ECan has a lifestyle block environment plan process for properties of more than 5ha which were winter grazing or irrigated, but Cr Mealings said anyone with at least 4ha should consider having one.
Cr Mealings is originally from Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States, and moved to New Zealand after meeting and marrying her husband Philip Mealings, who was born and bred in Kaiapoi.
The couple bought a 1ha block at Ohoka 20 years ago and over the years have kept Dorpher, Suffolk and Texel sheep, ponies and chickens, and have a large garden and small orchard.
She said by getting to know their neighbours they had become largely self-sufficient, including being able to get milk from a neighbouring dairy farm.
"We have had it all except for the house cow. We even had a beehive for a while, which a friend managed.
"It’s been interesting. The more I’ve lived in the country I’ve become more ‘countryfied’."