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A project aimed at tackling the tough questions and issues facing our farming communities is back.  

Checking in on our rural communities

The Elephant in the Paddock began in 2017 when the Council teamed up with a number of rural support agencies to check in on the wellbeing of our rural communities. Championed by former Plains Ward Councillor Gill Leonard, the project encouraged rural people to talk about the effects of unhealthy stress or depression and provided information on what to do if they had any concerns and where to get help. 

Current Paeroa Ward Councillor Jo Tilsley says that project was so successful Council is working with rural support agencies to resurrect and rejuvenate it in view of the recent drought situation and other pressures facing local farmers at this time.

“Farming’s more than just a job - it’s not something you can just switch off from at the end of the day,” she said.

“Farmers are working around the clock to try to get the best out of their farms. Many things are out of their control, such as the weather, and it can be hard to get off the farm which can lead to exhaustion, anxiety and feelings of isolation.”

Local champions share their stories

The revamp includes three new local champions who will share their stories over the next few weeks, as well as a refreshed brochure with up-to-date information on how to recognise unhealthy stress or depression and where to find support services within the local community.

“It’s all about checking in with your neighbours and generating conversations within our rural communities. Hopefully people will be able to relate to our champions’ stories, pick up some useful pointers and tips for looking after themselves and each other, and share some of their own stories too,” Councillor Tilsley said.

Talking things through

Waihi farmers Graham and Melanie Rogers, who are also project champions, are big advocates of talking things through. Fostering relationships with a close circle of rural professionals, including his bank manager who he talks to at least every ten days, Graham attends most Fonterra meetings and Dairy NZ farm discussion groups. He also has a nucleus of people he can chat to if things aren’t going well.

“When you’re tired, wet and cold, something small like a water pump breaking down can be the last straw. Then you get on the phone to someone you know in the same boat and you realise it’s not just you having a bad day,” he said. 

In the wake of this year’s drought and Covid 19, when farmers are even more prone to the effects of loneliness and isolation, Melanie encourages all rural folk to check-in regularly with their neighbours.

“I’ve made meals for people I know are struggling. It’s just something little I could do to help, but small things can make a huge difference,” she said.

“Most importantly, remember to talk. Go to farm discussion groups, get out-and-about and catch up with like-minded people. Even chatting with the tanker driver for five minutes can help.”

Phase two of the project will include a series of wellbeing workshops run by rural support agencies, such as Waikato-Hauraki-Coromandel Rural Support Trust.

Find out more

Find out more about the project and where to get help