Alcohol in rural NZ:  Let's have the conversation
Health and Wellbeing
Health and Wellbeing

Alcohol in rural NZ: Let's have the conversation

Freddy Gane is a farmer at Kaituna Ridges just out of Havelock, Marlborough, who joined REX host Dom George for his regular catch-up. This week he shared a personal experience.

He had been caught being over the limit after driving home from an event at a rural pub. Gane told George the experience made him think hard, as he never thought he did that type of thing now.

"For a while, I felt ashamed but now I actually feel galvanised that we've got an opportunity to help people and hopefully catch a few people that were like my 21-year-old self.”

"Particularly when you're a young male you feel bulletproof and once you've done it a few times you know you can do it, you normalise it and old habits die hard."

He is keen to have that wider conversation with rural people, about helping people get safely home and education about planning for responsible drinking.

As someone who has shepherds on his rural property, he is keen to now discuss with them more formally about how they can make plans to get home or stay in town after drinking, 

Discussions when new staff sign-on may be useful, he said, as well as potentially including outside-of-work leisure plans in written contracts.

"How do we bring this conversation up with our young people, understanding that they still need to go out and have fun. How do we make that safe?”

"I know it's easy for employers to say to their shepherd, 'If you had called me I would have picked you up' but would you have? Did they know that?”

“Have we written anything in the contract around what happens with drinking? Did you talk to them before they went out for the weekend and say, where are you staying and how are you getting home?”

“Because I haven't done any of that as an employer?"

With just a fine and no licence for 28 days, Gane said, relative to what the potential consequences of drink-driving could be, he's going to 'walk away pretty much scott-free'.

He sees the experience as opportunity to address the issue. 

"I know we see ads on TV, I know we see signs on the side of the road but in rural communities, we are so much more exposed by being disconnected from where we need to be at the end of the night.”

"If you're in the middle of rural Gisbourne, are you going to get a taxi?"

Senior farmhands and employees have an influence on the culture of younger staff in rural communities, he said.

"There is no way most shepherds would feel comfortable calling their boss at 11 o'clock at night and saying can you come pick me up?

"When we take people on board into our businesses we need to be having these conversations and being up-front."

His final message was on breaking the cycle of leaving young adults in rural communities to fend for themselves. He plans to offer support and advice, while still supporting their freedom and ability to enjoy their early years as young adults.

George and Gane touched on a number of other topics throughout the conversation including the wool industry and farmers creating their own brand.

Listen to the full chat between Freddy Gane and Dominic George above.

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