Cotter passionate about supporting farmers in need

Published on Friday, June 26, 2020


Passionate about the rural sector and people’s welfare, Southland Rural Support Trust chairwoman Cathie Cotter says the best aspect of her role is being there for farmers.

‘‘Our role is to talk to farmers who are having some kind of stress and . . .to connect them with the right people to make a positive difference.’’

These could include various agencies, such as mental wellness providers, financial institutions and other rural stakeholders such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand. ‘‘We are here to support all farmers [whether it be aquaculture or on the land] in Southland.’’ As part of its holistic approach, the trustees were also volunteers. Most have been through challenging times themselves, so could relate and understand when others were having difficulties, Mrs Cotter said.

It was about farmers helping farmers.

Mrs Cotter described the trustees as awesome.

It had been a busy time for them and southern farmers with an ongoing chain of stressful events.

Not only did she have empathy for farmers, she also had farming experience as Mrs Cotter and her husband, Phillip, are former sharemilkers and also ran winter grazing on their Dacre farm, as well as operating a rock quarry at Mataura Island.

Although she was more than capable of operating machinery, she preferred more interaction with people.

Born and raised in the North Island, the Cotter family relocated to Southland in 2000.

‘‘We really love it down here. It’s a great place to raise kids.

‘‘Even when we have been away, we always think it is nice to be coming home [to Southland].’’

There was something about Southlanders, she said.

‘‘There is still respect in the community. . .a real community feeling, which is missing in a lot of other areas.’’ Mrs Cotter was previously the Dairy Women’s Network’s South Island regional manager for more than five years, a role in which she provided leadership, education and support to its members and branches.

Part of the role was identifying women who were leaders.

‘‘Women aren’t good at recognising leadership in ourselves. . .we are so used to being a farmer’s wife, but they are the ones who juggle everything — work on the farm, bringing up the kids, doing the books.’’

A registered nurse and former support care officer for the Cancer Society of New Zealand, it had been a year since she took up the reins as chairwoman of the trust.

Mrs Cotter was elected to the position in May last year after being a trust member for six years.

She ended her role at the cancer society at the beginning of September last year.

‘‘With a son at boarding school, and the farm at Dacre, and other commitments, I couldn’t be everywhere . . .and I couldn’t concentrate on everything.

‘‘Farming is ultimately my passion. Although I miss being able to help people, I was really torn when I left that [Cancer Society] job . . .the nursing side of it . . .the listening and being able to help.’’

The other side to the decision at the time was thinking how lovely it would have been to have the extra time.

But Mother Nature had other plans.

‘‘This summer had been a really lousy time for farmers . .. with so much rain.’’

Part of the trust’s role was working alongside Emergency Southland when there was a state of emergency.

‘‘We set up a base at Environment Southland [Emergency Southland] to work with them during the floods.’’

The Cotters had been on holiday in the North Island visiting Mrs Cotter’s parents when the Southland floods happened.

‘‘It got to a stage where I just had to come home [to Southland].’’

Potentially, there were 1100 affected farmers, she said.

It was a mammoth job finding out who were grassroot farmers and which farms were corporate farms. About 800 farmers were phoned to determine who needed help.

‘‘We had to identify the need, then triage it accordingly. Red meant they needed immediate help; orange, then green, with some moving into orange as the weeks progressed.’’

In early May, into week 14 of the state of emergency from this year’s floods in February, she said farmers were still cleaning up their properties, sorting their fencing and other work going into Covid.

‘‘I probably morphed into the Covid situation, as I was already regularly meeting with rural stakeholders due to the [ongoing issues because of the] floods.’’
She said 13 people in her team had put in 570 hours during the first month of the floods to assist with immediate help for farmers, as well as work with the Emergency Management Southland team.

‘‘It’s a lot of hours when people are still running their own businesses.

It’s also nice to be able to be here when people need us . . . most of us have had challenges.’’

During the Covid-19 lockdown, fences and lanes still needed to be repaired because of the February flooding.

‘‘Who was essential had to be determined. A fence can be used to isolate to contain animals, which could be an essential service.

Engineering workshops needed to be accessed for machinery breakdowns.

Matching the information to the farmer’s need, such as connecting them to farm consultants and financial institutions.

Physical help was one aspect, wellbeing was another essential part of the trust’s work.

‘‘Nothing is worse than being stuck in a dark place . . .wanting answers . . . it’s important to get people the right help they need.’’

 - Janette Gellatly

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Author: Terri Anderson

Categories: National, Southland




News & Alerts

The Community Mindfulness Project

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Author: SarahWhite

For our farmers and rural community in the Hurunui

The Community Mindfulness Project presents two events especially for Hurunui residents; both on scientific and practical ways to build resilience.

                               “You can’t stop the waves….but you can learn to surf!” Jon Kabat Zinn

Life and farming are always going to be unpredictable and uncertain, however hard we try to control the variables. What we can do something about is how we approach difficulties and ourselves, how quickly we bounce back.  These events cover a range of proven practices that provide a buffer and support us when we experience inevitable stress and hard times.

The Community Mindfulness Project: A collaboration between Mindfulness North Canterbury,  Community Wellbeing North Canterbury Trust and Logan Smythe and Associates to bring free science-based resilience and wellbeing courses, workshops and podcasts to North Canterbury, made possible by AIA Vitality.

Building Resilience 5 Week Course: Hurunui

Build a resilient brain and a resilient community, together.  

5 consecutive Monday nights

Starting 22 Feb 2021

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Categories: North Canterbury



Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Author: SuzanneOsborne

Business Advice Fund

The Business Advice Fund is available to help fund consultancy or financial advice for farmers and growers who are struggling with the financial viability of their business. This fund is available for growers hit hard by the recent storms and who now find their business in jeopardy.  It is there to help them make sound decisions for the future of their business. Up to $3000 is available from RSTs with matching funding from their bank giving a total of up to $6,000.  Growers should approach their bank in the first instance to ensure they are supportive of their application.  If they are to apply then they should contact their Rural Support Trust.

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Categories: Top of the South


Wishbone Pet Food partners with Rural Support Trust to help New Zealand farmers The family-run company is giving $5 for every bag sold of Wishbone Gold, their newest pet food specially made for work

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Author: WandaLeadbeater

Wishbone Gold is the first New Zealand-made pet food using New Zealand ingredients for the country’s working dogs. Deemed as the heart of New Zealand farms, working dogs make a huge contribution to a farmer's success. They work in all weathers, running 60 up to 100 kilometers a day, often at the speed of 20 to 30 kilometers per hour, to guard and herd sheep and cattle.  

To keep their hearts healthy, Wishbone Gold is formulated with Taurine, an amino acid that aids in heart function. Each 20 kg bag is made with 100% free-range New Zealand Beef and Lamb for strong muscles and enriched with Glucosamine for joint health. Working dogs will also benefit from the power of Wishbone Gold’s 8 superfoods: Mango, Papaya, Blueberries, Cranberries, Flaxseed, Rosemary, Basil, and Peppermint. Each superfood helps boost the immune system, maintain a healthy digestive system, and power working dogs throughout the day. 

Bateup is thankful for Wishbone Gold’s support. “Rural Support is a not-for-profit organisation so we are incredibly grateful for the support of Wishbone Gold.  It is a great partnership - just like a farmer with his dog/s. Funds raised from the sale of bags can be utilised across Rural NZ to help make a difference.”

To order your sample go to


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Categories: National


Surfing for Farmers - Southland

Give it a go - Thursday nights on the South Coast

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Author: KatrinaThomas

The popular Surfing for Farmers programme has started in Southland and will be held at either Colac Bay, Riverton Rocks or Monkey Island at 6pm on Thursday nights.

It’s all about getting off farm and learning something new while having some fun! Grab a car load and come down.
🌊 Surfing For Farmers (S4F) is free!
🌊 Lessons, boards, wet suits and H&S provided by local surf school
🌊 Location depends on the where the waves are (Colac Bay, Riverton Rocks or Monkey Island)
🌊 If there’s no waves we will still be at the beach with snorkels and paddle boards

Go to our Facebook Page for more details and the destination on the day -

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Categories: National, Southland