A generation of farm owners made changes to their farming business for the benefit of the nation with encouragement and incentives by government and processors.

We saw Land Development Encouragement Loans funding the conversion of bush and scrub into pasture and Livestock Incentive Schemes create unsustainable stocking rates. Both schemes had little regard to environmental consequences.

Drives for production to meet developing international demand for commodity products have seen investments in irrigation, feeding systems, large numbers of cows and intensive farming practices.

On the side we have watched exotic pine forests established on farmland – to the detriment of local communities, capital-burning rationalisation of the meat industry, and urban sprawl driving significant rural land-use change and loss of our most productive soils.

These drivers and many more have guided New Zealand farmers to undertake change, in the belief that it would be good for their business and the national economy. There have been some difficult consequences with product prices unable to sustain onfarm investments.

On top of this our wider community are recognising that NZ, our collective whenua, is being adversely impacted by what were accepted practices, and global markets have increasing expectations on the production and environmental standards of goods they will buy.

When we bring this together with drought, floods and Covid-19, there is a sense of general unease in the farming community and resilient people are questioning their ability to stand up and go again.

There’s wariness with the increasing expectations on matters that were previously theirs to determine and uncertainty about what is coming next. A weariness at feeling like the villain for delivering what they believed had been asked of them. A frustration at funding the costs to remedy the past and prepare for the future.

Fortunately, this is not a universal affliction and there is undoubtedly support available for those who know where to find it and are willing to accept it.

It is common in this environment to be distracted by looking for someone or something to blame. It can mask the view of opportunities and compromise the enjoyment and success of current activities. In many cases perception has become reality, too often fuelled by misinformation, disinformation or the assumed agreement that comes with silence. Most farmers work with a trusted circle of influence. Friends and professionals who help them understand their business and make decisions.

Outside this are those who endeavour to join that circle, some with genuine supportive interest and others promoting their own agenda.

The radar for identifying and addressing those with an agenda is typically strong but there is considerable global evidence to suggest we are being overloaded by influencers whose voice should be reliable. Consequently, our ability to identify and reject is at risk of being overwhelmed.

As part of this, the act of “throwing someone under the bus” is increasingly common. All-encompassing blame is laid on those not present to ensure the information is accurate or debunk statements that are blatantly wrong. It commonly attacks people rather than addressing the issue and is too frequently used to ingratiate.

It is readily rationalised, occasionally justified and provides temporary relief, but always perpetuates uncertainty, unease and distrust in the community. A community without it would be better informed, clear about issues that need to be addressed and why, and confident about how to contribute to a desired outcome individually and collectively.

There are always questions to ask ourselves and others.

How do we:

  • stay focused on issues and solutions rather than personalities
  • challenge our own and others statements
  • avoid transferring misinformation and disinformation
  • check that silence of others may not be acceptance of our point of view
  • question those who too readily agree with all our opinions
  • avoid distractions which do not contribute to achieving our vision and goals
  • surround ourselves with positive people with whom we can achieve great things.