Waikato-Hauraki-Coromandel Rural Support Trust

The Chamber of Commerce is sitting down with each of the winners from the recent Waikato Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, supported by Foster Construction Group, to find out what they did to stand out from the crowd. This week's Winners’ Insight is with Waikato-Hauraki-Coromandel Rural Support Trust chair Neil Bateup and trustee Grant Coombes. The Trust won the Community Contribution – Non-Commercial Award.

The Waikato-Hauraki-Coromandel Rural Support Trust is a shining example of an organisation that’s entered the Business Awards previously and taken on board the judges’ comments. They worked on those, entered again, and this year took out the Community Contribution – Non-Commercial Award.

“Entering last time made us take a really good look at our polices and procedures, have a discussion about the judges’ feedback, identify the risks in the Trust and address those,” said Trust chair Neil Bateup.

The Trust, which is part of a nationwide network offering support and training to those in the primary sector, was reliant on one co-ordinator and one administrator to keep the whole operation going.

“We realised that if one of them tipped over for any reason, we were very vulnerable,” Neil said.

So, they brought two other part-timers into the team who all work together and support each other. The move also came at a time when the demand for the Rural Support Trust’s services was increasing.

“We have to respond to that need in rural communities and that need is growing so we’re always looking at how we can strengthen that support, whether it’s putting more training in place for the facilitators or introducing the buddy system where facilitators support each other around cases. I think because of that we provide better service than we were before and we’re supporting our people at the same time.”

And the latter is important, because the facilitators are the first port of call for workers in the primary industry who get in touch when they need help. The reasons they get in touch with the Trust are many and varied.

“They might be dealing with anxiety or depression. It could be someone is short of labour on a farm, they’re stressed because they’ve had no time off. There could be issues related to relationships with farm staff or personally. There might be farm management issues or financial difficulties, or a combination of all of these things.”

It’s the facilitators who go out and meet with the person, often at home at the kitchen table, to talk about what’s going on.

“They try to understand the issues, develop a plan, bring in professionals if required – it could be a doctor, counsellor, farm advisor, financial advisor. The facilitator makes the introduction and then checks back in to see how the person is going.”

And if the person is struggling financially, the Trust can help pay for the first visit or can tap into funding with the likes of Gumboot Friday or Will To Live.

“Essentially, we are connectors, we walk alongside them. Sometimes it only takes a short time to get on their feet, other times it might take a year or two. But we’re with them the whole way,” Neil said.

Grant says that as the Trust’s services are required more and more, it’s the community who help keep the Trust going.

“It’s really important that we raise awareness in the business sector about the valuable work that we do. As we get more people calling us, we really value the assistance we get from those who can contribute to what we do, whether that’s financially or by partnering with us for events that promote wellbeing and resilience.”

While the Trust provides one-on-one support for around 400 people each year, they come into contact with several thousand through their own events or events run by other organisations. It all helps with raising awareness around the services the Trust provides.

“It’s really rewarding to see the good outcomes,” Grant said.

“For me, it’s about getting back to communities. Community has to look after community. Personally, the dairy industry has been good to me, [wife] Kyly and our kids so it’s good to give back. The Trust is all about people having each other’s backs and I think that’s where it should lie – community taking care of community, not with the Government.”

That sense of community is only too evident when the Trust gets to work during adverse events. They receive funding from MPI to support the community when something major happens, whether it’s a drought, a flood, or something like mycoplasma bovis.

“We’re there with that psychosocial support for anyone in the primary industry – growers, farmers, horticulture, beekeepers, sheep or goat milkers. We’ll get stuck in with practical help and we’ll also do things like put on a barbecue where there will be that camaraderie as well as technical advice.

“There’s real value in having people on the ground, sharing ideas and experiences.”

The Waikato-Hauraki-Coromandel Rural Support Trust is always grateful to anyone who wishes to support them or partner with them. If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can support the Trust, phone 0800 787 254.


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