‘We’re all in it together’

Coffee break. . . Mimihau neighbours and Southland Rural Support Trust members meet for a hot drink at the district’s transformer corner on Friday as part of a support trust event. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

He has been in this situation before and Mimihau farmer Bruce Robertson has a few tips how to get through.

Mr Robertson has been meeting his neighbours at transformer corner in Mimihau on Fridays for about a year.

Mad Cow Coffee owner Karena Gorman, of Edendale, stops there at 9.30am and neighbours gather for a chat over a hot beverage.

Last week Rural Support Southland paid for the drinks and Rural Women New Zealand provided the morning tea.

In these “exceptional times talking and communicating is the best thing you can do,” Mr Robertson said.

“We’re all in it together and I think that is the big thing – supporting one another.”

In 1974 there was a similar period with little rain, he said.

“It was a long time ago and people aren’t aware of the consequences, probably.”

It was not easy to deal with the challenges the drought brought especially with Covid-19 and rising fuel costs.

“There is just a wave of things all hitting at the same time.

“We’ve really reached a crunch time.”

Reducing stock numbers was one practical thing farmers could do, he said.

“The mental part of it is the hard part.”

Unlike when the weather was miserable and everybody in the community suffered, those who did not live on farms were enjoying the fine summer weather, he said.

They might not understand what farmers were going through.

“They think ‘what a great summer it’s been’ but the great summer’s just been a bit long.”

Mimihau farmer Brent Muir said farming was more of a lifestyle than a job which meant it was not easy to have down time.

“Farming’s a funny thing.

“It is not really a clock-in clock-out job.”

The welfare of the animals was paramount, he said.

“If they’re not happy, you’re not happy.”

Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter said there had been good support for the events that had been held in the most drought-affected areas including Winton, Glenham, Mimihau, Fairfax, Wyndham and Te Anau.

“It is hard to know what our farmers are going through and we really like to have that face-to-face connection.”

It was especially good for the younger farmers to be able to chat to those who had experienced drought conditions before, Mrs Cotter said.

“We’re not used to having a drought and some of our younger farmers won’t be prepared for it, so it is about sharing experiences and ways to get through,” she said.

“If there’s farmers in areas that feel they would like us to come to them, then get in contact with us.”