Challenges in the Rural Sector

Sadly Mycoplasma Bovis is upon our rural community, and given the interconnectedness of the rural and urban communities, it is also going to have an impact upon our urban community. It is probably the most significant challenge that Mid Canterbury has faced in the last 30 years, given its attack on our biosecurity, and the damage that it could ultimately cause to our dairying and beef industry profitability, and  our farming practices.

At RMF we are concerned for the wellbeing of our rural community and those in our urban community who support them, at a time of such high stress. This really needs our whole community to remain connected with each other and supportive of each other. The cup of coffee/tea, the yarn over the boundary fence, the quiet beer and shared meal with each other, is vitally important. However Simply asking how you are going in this new environment, whilst a start, is probably not sufficient and we should gently ask more probative questions to ensure that our family members, friends, neighbours etc remain in a state of healthy wellbeing. As lawyers, we have a role to play in this also, when we meet our clients.

Regardless of our view upon eradication or management of Mycoplasma Bovis, the decision has been made to eradicate. Our observation is that the decision, whether right or wrong, needs the committed support of everyone in Mid Canterbury. We cannot risk the situation of undermining the decision through dissent, apathy, or inactivity. There really is only one chance to eradicate, and if it is to be successful, then clearly it requires a mammoth effort on everyone’s part.

MPI and its employees are undertaking their job as best they can. They too will be under significant stress and pressure, as they are clearly aware of the profound effects on many of the decision to eradicate, as individual farmers have herds culled. They have procedures to follow, and have a background of statutory mechanisms to employ. We do not believe that they are trying to discharge their statutory obligations in any perverse or punitive way, but are working hard to implement the decision that has been made. They too deserve Mid Canterbury’s support.

So how can we at RMF help? Mycoplasma Bovis reminds us of the late 1980’s farm crisis; returns were down, interest rates were through the roof, equity was dropping, and forced sales were endemic. It was a disaster for Mid Canterbury, as Mycoplasma Bovis could quickly become.

In the 1980s’ crisis, as lawyers we were able to take a lead role in facilitating agreements between our clients, banks, stock firms, and family members. We see a parallel role with Mycoplasma Bovis; we can be a facilitator, especially where there are compensation issues involved.

The advantages of being a professional in Mid Canterbury is that as a whole we are committed to a co-operative approach. We are used to working co-operatively around the table with our clients, bankers, accountants, farm advisors, and business advisors. That is a strength of Mid Canterbury, and it needs to be used in the Mycoplasma Bovis battle. The power of a well-constructed roundtable meeting should never be under-estimated, and we believe such meetings should be facilitated, especially when compensation claims are being prepared, and secondly when they are being negotiated should there be some form of roadblock.

We are happy to discuss any matter with our clients. Any initial discussion would be on a no-fee basis, simply to see where and how we might be able to assist. Once that is established, we would send a Letter of Engagement as we are required to by the New Zealand Law Society Rules of Client Care, which would define the work that we are to undertake, and give a realistic fee estimate for that work.

Please feel free to contact any member of RMF if you want to discuss any issues that you might be having in this area

Lawyers for farming and rural sector


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