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Extra support to help with rural stress

Rural Support Trust [RST] have had to increase staff numbers to help combat the ongoing pressures of farming and this year’s extreme weather events, according to Chair of the National Council of RST Neil Bateup.

Based in 14 different locations across the country– RST is a free and confidential organisation run by local, rural people, providing support for those facing challenges in the rural sector.

In a survey conducted in July this year showed that more than 1000 dairy, sheep, beef, and arable farmers found their farmer confidence was at “historic lows”, Federated Farmers President Wayne Langford said.

“Farmers are dealing with a lot at the moment with high-interest rates, huge inflation, and a steep decline in both meat and milk prices they receive for their products,” Langford said.

“This time last year, just 3.5 per cent of farmers reported making a loss. That figure jumped to 27 per cent in this survey, which was conducted prior to Fonterra announcing its pay-out downgrade.”

Bateup said Cyclone Gabrielle is the most significant event that RSTs have had to deal with while also increasing staff numbers to keep up with the growing stress in rural communities.

Recognising farmers don’t have to “tough it out alone” during stressful times is important advice RST Wairarapa Area Coordinator Sarah Donaldson can give to them.

Donaldson believes farmers’ mental health is very much on the radar, as more people are mindful of this year’s extra pressures – which have impacted farmers hugely.

“It’s not just affecting a few people. There are a lot of pressures and that impacts on people’s wellbeing.

“We need people wrapping around each other and monitoring and supporting each other,” she said.

RST has different layers to supporting rural communities, from helping liaise with housing and insurance companies, giving out respite packs, delivering furniture, firewood, fencing supplies, meals and much more.

Meanwhile, in July this year, the Government pledged $2.4 million to support and provide more help to farmers and growers affected by severe weather events in the North Island. The money would go towards RSTs in Northland, Waikato-Hauraki-Coromandel, and the East Coast during the 2023/2024 financial year.

“During those significant weather events, the RST stepped up to provide critical response and recovery services to affected farmers, growers, and rural communities,” said Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty.

“The funding will assist RSTs to co-ordinate local recovery services, clean-up efforts, wellbeing events, extension workshops, and provide other specialised support.”

Wairarapa RTS can be contacted on its nationwide number, 08000 787 254, or visit www.rural-support.org.nz/Regions and select the ‘East Coast’ region.

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