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Taking stock of what’s needed now

It’s been more than a month since South Canterbury was devastated by May’s flooding.

Wendy Hurst and David Hewson from the South Canterbury Rural Support Trust have been on the end of the phone to many farmers and have heard their stories. Most farmers say they’re okay, but then they might reveal they’ve lost over 10km of fencing.

“They’re unbelievably staunch. While everyone else goes on with their lives and the media move on, these people are still trying to shift truckloads of shingle and rebuild fences in the mud.”

That’s why Wendy and David are making it known that the Rural Support Trust is still around and there to support those affected by the May devastation.

In the initial aftermath of the flooding, the Nadia Lim My Food Box company donated a hundred food boxes to Rural Support for flood affected farmers. Thanks to the wonderful efforts of the Geraldine Lions Club and Rural Women, these were delivered in the Orari, Arundel and Peel Forest areas.

“The farming people were very grateful at that point, but many were shell shocked. Most have now got to a stage now where they’re now over the worst but those with the most damage are getting exhausted,” says Wendy.

Many are “amazingly positive,” but they have a long road in front of them.

“For some people, it’s going to be a good 12 months before they’re back on their feet.”

To help farming women feel less alone, Margaret Chapman from Rural Women and Wendy from Rural Support have arranged café catch-ups.

“It’s a chance to get people off the farm and away from the mud so they can have a chat. They can compare notes and realise they are not alone. It’s an important social connection.”

Wendy says the community support for all those affected has been amazing. There have been church fundraisers, feed sent by Southland farmers and more cooked meals delivered to affected residents.

“Many said how nice it was to come in at the end of the day and not have to cook a hot meal. It also made them realise that we hadn’t forgotten that they’re still struggling.”

“While these little gestures have made all the difference over the last few months, it’s the physical help that people have appreciated the most. Telford and Lincoln College students as well as many from the local Geraldine Football Club turned up to help shift debris and pull fences up from the mud. It’s this practical help that makes farmers feel like they are getting on top of clearing the damage,” says the Pleasant Point local.

“Most farmers wouldn’t ask for help, but once they saw the work being done, you could tell that it cheered them up.”

Many farmers have been hit hard in the pocket and face substantial bills. There is government funding available, but this is only for debris and shingle clearing, which means things like fencing has to be paid for themselves.

If you would like to help in some way, you can donate to the Rural Support Trust National Council and they will ensure it goes to the farmers most in need.

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