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Rural Support Trust sees nationwide increase in calls
Maria Shanks

Rural Support Trust sees nationwide increase in calls

Rural Support Trusts across the country saw an increase in call numbers in 2023.  Overall call numbers to the 0800 number were up 53% with areas hard hit by the weather events in the North Island receiving record numbers.

Rural Support Trust National Chair Neil Bateup says this is only part of the story, ‘The Rural Support Trust profile has increased in our rural communities and with our team often being well known members of their local community they are regularly approached directly for assistance’.  Neil says that they are also seeing an increasing number of cases come via other means with farmers and growers also reaching out via e-mail and social media channels.   

The weather events around the country in 2023 have had a snowball effect on many Trusts with little chance to recover from the January weather events before Cyclone Gabrielle hit.  Ongoing wet weather all through winter meant delays to the clean-up adding additional stress to farmers and growers. Northland RST Chair and National Trustee Michelle Ruddell noted that even now they were still seeing new cases coming forward.  ‘Many have not reached out previously but come along to an event and realise the support available and find the courage to ask for help.’

Whilst the recovery from adverse events has been highly visible during 2023, there have been other challenges keeping the Trusts busy.  Across the country Trusts are seeing a steady number of cases coming through where farmers and growers are feeling overwhelmed.  Whilst different sectors are facing slightly different challenges, there are consistent themes coming through with many farmers and growers citing pressures around staffing and financial challenges as impacting their wellbeing. 

The Farm Business Advice Fund which provided support to farmers under financial pressure received 157 applications from its launch in April 2020 until it’s closure at the end of 2023 with half of these coming in the past 12 months as inflation and commodity price pressures impacted many sectors.  Neil confirmed the Trust is keen to see the Fund reinstated and are investigating alternative funding streams to support the funding provided by the NZ Banking Association.

Neil said there are a variety of reasons people get in touch with their local Trust, ‘it may start as one conversation but as we peel back the layers there are often a number of factors impacting on their mental health’.  He urges people to reach out early. ‘We are here to help and the earlier we can provide support; the more options are available.’ 

The Trusts are the only organisation providing one on one support at a place that suits.  ‘It is easy to get buried in the work on farm and become isolated from family, friends and communities and we encourage farmers and growers to take a break, come along to one of our local connection events or give us a call and have a chat’.   The Rural Support Trust can be contacted on 0800 787 254.

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