Federated Farmers advocates on behalf of the rural community in many ways from rates to rural services. Below is a snapshot of our current work:
Rural services, including but not confined to hospitals, schools, post offices and other government offices, have in many areas been in decline, particularly where there has been economic change and population decline and as improvements in transport and communications and searches for efficiency have driven consolidation of services into larger towns and cities.
When rural communities are experiencing economic growth and increasing population and this has seen services preserved and even expanded. However, we also support specific government initiatives to retain rural services, for example bonding arrangements for rural vets, in recognition of the challenges posed by the distance and isolation experienced by rural people.
Similarly we want to make it easier for people to live and work in rural areas, including those where isolation adds to the cost of things most of us take for granted like school education where boarding allowances are woefully inadequate.
Rural Mental Wellbeing
Rural New Zealanders have a 43 percent higher suicide rate than the urban population. Furthermore male suicide rates are around 67 percent higher in rural areas. This difference is at least partly due to farming related factors, such as staff management, debt and farming expenses, workload, animal welfare, and adverse weather events, as well as personal health and relationship issues. Stoicism and an unwillingness to talk about problems is also a common trait among male farmers in particular.
This is a very serious problem and Federated Farmers has been working hard to highlight the issues and promote discussion. The Federation has been a running a campaign, ‘When Life’s a Bitch’, and we helped establish a Rural Mental Wellbeing Working Group. Increasing awareness of the issue and that is okay for people to talk about their problems helps with finding solutions and we support increased funding into rural mental health initiatives.
Distance and isolation of rural communities and less reliable telecommunications pose real challenges for the safety and security of farming. There are also some very specific issues farmers have to deal with, including people wanting access to their land, sometimes with firearms and dogs. Criminals are also able to exploit distance and isolation by engaging in crimes such as cannabis cultivation and theft of equipment and livestock.
Federated Farmers wants to ensure that farmers, their families, and their workers are able to access police and other emergency services essential to their needs at level that maintains community confidence in their safety and security. We want to develop stronger relationships with the Police and other agencies so they better understand rural and farming issues and that they are given sufficient priority. We also want existing practices and measures to combat stock theft and poaching spread throughout the country.