Rising from the rubble: Fencing woes + mental health resilience in NZ's rural heartlands

Rising from the rubble: Fencing woes + mental health resilience in NZ's rural heartlands

One year on from Cyclone Gabrielle and the devastating weather events that battered much of the East Coast of the North Island, many are still working to repair the damages including thousands of metres of fences knocked down and broken during the disaster.

Phil Cornelius is the president of the Fencing Contractors Association of New Zealand (FCANZ) and joins Dom George to shed light on the multifaceted challenges that the rural community faces a year after the cyclone. 

One of the primary concerns discussed is the extensive damage to fencing, which has posed significant logistical and financial hurdles for farmers and contractors. Cornelius emphasises the persistent efforts required to reach remote areas and manage the financial constraints.

"It comes down to the contractor and money. Money is a big thing. Obviously, someone's got to pay for it," he explains, highlighting the economic burden that farmers have shouldered for 12 months, with the prices of sheep and beef not providing sufficient income to cover the expenses. 

Moreover, the conversation delves into the mental strain contractors experience when they are unable to meet all the demands for repairs, and the reluctance of farmers to seek help. Cornelius shares an anecdote about a contractor who felt stressed and partially at fault for not being able to assist a farmer in need.

"It's quite stressful for him because he has had customers ring up and they're in desperate need of a fencing contractor and he just cannot get there... and it kicked back on the contractor and he felt like it was, you know, partially his fault." 

The episode also shines a light on the importance of mental health support within the rural community, recognising individuals like Wiggy, the FCANZ patron, who provides emotional support.

In an uplifting moment, Cornelius discusses the Great Gate Giveaway initiative, a charitable effort to provide relief to farmers in need. 

"We set up a bit of a charity fund to buy some gates... we had a great donation come in from Golden Bay. So we've bought a hundred gates to give away at the Expo and Waiaraw next week." 

Rising from the rubble: Fencing woes + mental health resilience in NZ's rural heartlands

This gesture of support exemplifies the community's solidarity and the ongoing journey toward recovery. 

The episode not only offers a glimpse into the hardships faced by New Zealand's rural heartlands but also serves as a rallying call for support and solidarity.

Listen to the full chat between Phil Cornelius and Dominic George above.

To check out more episodes listen to the REX Podcast anytime on your favourite streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and Rova or tune in to REX Mornings live on Magic from 5 am to 6 am every weekday.

Visit the Rural Exchange Facebook or Instagram page for more information and regular updates from the REX team.