Farmers race for a cause

A team of Gisborne farmers compegted in the 12-stage Godzone Adventure Race, trekking, packrafting, mountain biking and kayaking 550km from Te Anau in Fiordland to Riverton in Southland just days after the Cyclone Gabrielle floods.

In Wellbeing3 Minutes
The finish line in Riverton for Godzone Adventure Race. From left: Chris Cave, Peter Blake, George Williams and Caroline Maclaurin.

An agricultural pilot and three farmers, collectively called the Gizzy Gully Runners, had a promise to honour. They were competing in the 12-stage Godzone Adventure Race, trekking, packrafting, mountain biking and kayaking 550km from Te Anau in Fiordland to Riverton in Southland, navigating their way with just a map and compass.

Despite the damage to their farms, exhausted and emotionally drained, Pete Blake, Chris Cave, George Williams and Caroline MacLaurin with their three support crew of Chris Fraser, Chris Williams and Ray Blake made their way south just a week after the cyclone.

The finishing line in Riverton.

The Gizzy runners were raising money for Hear4U through their Give A Little page, a Gisborne-based charitable trust which, since its inception in 2002, has raised tens of thousands of dollars for mental health, wellbeing and suicide prevention.

The $6000 they raised by competing in the Godzone race was directly used to help ease the mental strain in the Gisborne community by providing funds for care packs and essential food after Cyclone Gabrielle.

But how it all began was back in 2019 when Chris Fraser and her husband Dan’s 21-year-old son Toby took his own life. During the aftermath, Chris knew of a local woman, Krissy Mackintosh, who made wreaths from bunches of flowers, and that was the start of a special friendship that created Hear4U.

“Everywhere Krissy went she knew people who knew Toby,” Chris said. “She’d see young guys in tears in the supermarket. Toby was bubbly and bright and vivacious. It was an enormous shock to everybody.”

Krissy Mackintosh has endured her own battles with mental health and by the age of 30 had lost 10 friends to suicide, predominantly rural men.

“When I heard about Toby, I thought enough is enough; it’s going to happen more and more if we let it happen.”

Hear4U offers a counselling service, transport and in-person support to appointments, encourages sport and recreation, and complements similar movements like Surfing for Farmers.

She says the main issues for men’s need for mental health support are environmental, political and financial, the detachment happening between husbands and wives because of farm life pressures, the isolating factors and the ever-increasing red tape requirements.

“It’s about breaking down the stigma, creating events and projects. We create the environment first, providing them the opportunity to open up and talk.

“I tell these rural men they are not getting off the farm enough. You can’t have gratitude when you are stuck in the same place doing the same thing.”