7 Apr 2021

Shearers and their whānau to benefit from new South Otago health funding

4:15 pm on 7 April 2021

Shearers in South Otago are expected to benefit from government rural health and wellbeing funding for a kaupapa Māori health and social service provider.

From left, Jo Kingi (Tokomairiro Waiora manager) Hoani Wipaki, Tia Potae (programme lead) and John Sayles (Tokomairiro Waiora Counsellor).

From left, Jo Kingi (Tokomairiro Waiora manager) Hoani Wipaki, Tia Potae (programme lead) and John Sayles (Tokomairiro Waiora Counsellor). Photo: Supplied / MPI

The Ministry for Primary Industries has announced $54,000 of funding support for Milton-based NGO Tokomairiro Waiora Incorporated. MPI was allocated $1.1 million over three years to deliver wellbeing and support services alongside those provided by Rural Support Trusts.

The Ministry said Tokomairiro Waiora would use some of the money to fund a programme specifically designed for shearers and their whānau, which aimed to include health workshops and three wānanga - wellbeing and life skills sessions for young people entering the industry.

Programme lead Tia Potae hoped their work would encourage young people to take up healthy primary sector careers, especially in shearing which was facing a staffing shortage in the region.

During her 20-year career in the wool industry, Potae noticed a lack of access to counselling and other health services due to long hours of work in remote locations.

"So we just wanted to create a wee programme ... and get that rangatahi interest in it, so that they could come in before they start a career in the agricultural industries and have awareness of all these services that are available to them in the local community," Potae said.

She said the programme aimed to show jobs in the sector could be wholesome and fulfilling, despite being physically demanding.

"We just want to really highlight the things that are good within the industry, the travelling, the finances, the fitness, the sports, and the meeting of really great people, and use that as a pathway for these kids to hopefully choose a career in the industry," Potae said.

The first wānanga would include wellbeing exercises such as counselling and meditation, as well as covering budgeting and financial literacy. There would also be lessons on mirimiri and rongoā (holistic and spiritual healing) with the aim of showing ways to look after the body and mind while doing tough work.

Potae said training from high-level wool workers was planned to give a head start with the practical side of the industry. Further sessions would include on-farm experience and education.

Tokomairiro Waiora manager Jo Kingi hoped at least 20 rangatahi would attend each wānanga in April, May and July.