REX Online

Uniting NZ communities post-cyclone + supporting mental health on farm

February 23, 2024

Hosted against the bustling scene of the East Coast Farming Expo, rural mental health advocate Craig "Wiggy" Wiggins joins Dom George to reflect on the recovery efforts on the East Coast in particular, just a year on from the devastating Cyclone Gabrielle.

Wiggins discusses the positive response of the rural community, where the spirit of camaraderie shines through in the aftermath of the cyclone. The recovery, which Wiggins believes will take decades, is marked by an outpouring of mutual assistance, with neighbours lending equipment and retired digger drivers stepping back into the fray to help.

"When it's tough, the tough get going."

One of the significant initiatives highlighted in the conversation is the 'Lean on a Gate' mental health project and the Carr Family Foundation's health check and wellness van. The van provides immediate access to healthcare professionals at farming events, encouraging farmers to seek regular health checks.

"It used to be the case where I actually had to drag people in... Now we actually get people walking in saying 'I haven't been to a doctor for ages, can you please check?'"

Wiggins emphasises the importance of the rural service industry, which serves as a critical link between farmers and broader industry support. Through his 'Lean on a Gate' initiative, Wiggins seeks to strengthen this connection by offering mental health support alongside physical health, mapping local resources to extend their coverage and value within the community.

"We're going to put on a barbecue, we're going to do all sorts of things for you... so definitely come to them."