OPINION: “It’s just a hill…get over it !” Golden Bay locals often repeat that slogan to visitors who find the long winding trip over the Takaka hill challenging and occasionally nausea inducing.
Getting over that hill has been more of a trial since cyclone Gita’s devastation and on-going closures during required major repairs. Much to relief of travellers, especially freight firms, the road crew are making great progress. We still have queues and convoys to make the trip but now one-lane flow is safe for all vehicles including truck and trailer units. Traffic controllers report 1000 to 1200 vehicles passing through daily which is a surprising number considering only 4000 of us live in Golden Bay.
Last week I left home before daybreak and already a stream of traffic was driving south through Takaka. Looking up from the bottom of the hill I could see dozens of headlights zig-zagging upwards through the blackness. It gives a sense of being on the move together and I wondered at the purpose of all these other travellers. Having to head over at restricted times does mean more organisation, earlier mornings and no chance to pop over and back for an appointment.
But any feelings of being hard done by hold ups and disgruntled about delays and disruptions to my routine and life were put in perspective when I listened to news on the radio.
Parked in the darkness waiting for our turn to convoy down across the damaged section I heard a serious and sad announcement. The Minister of Primary Industries had authorised the slaughter of more cows to control Mycoplasma Bovis. This dreadful disease had been in the news for months since the first case was diagnosed in New Zealand. Only cattle are affected and it causes mastitis, lameness, and pneumonia which may be fatal. Thousands of tests from farms all over the country indicated that M.Bovis hadn’t yet spread widely so the difficult decision has been made to cull 22,000 cows on 22 more farms.
This jolting but justified attempt to eliminate further spread is devastating for all the people affected. The trauma and loss to individuals and families is immense. I can’t begin to understand how it feels to see valued and valuable animals all gone and a farm empty of stock. Dairy farming has taken hits from many critics recently but whatever political, ethical or philosophical opinions are held surely there must be some comprehension of the suffering resulting from losing livestock, livelihood and lifestyle.
In some cases this means a life’s work of breeding animals is wiped out and children losing beloved pets. No cows, no milk, no income and huge impact on a business. No cows, no milkings, no routine, no jobs, and major disruption to families, staff and rural communities. Paddocks empty, grass growing long and painful time of waiting until stock can be reintroduced and then a difficult search for good replacement herds and facing the start all over again.
In addition, possible feelings of isolation and ostracism due to being the infected ones. Major stress and wellbeing issues so many people will be experiencing. I can’t imagine the daily and long term burdens they are under.
New Zealand was one of few countries in the world free of M.Bovis and although the original source has not be identified we are now in this shocking situation because someone, somewhere was somehow careless and casual with biosecurity.
As I line up to join the convoy back over our hill my thoughts are with everyone impacted … may they have some sense of travelling together on this traumatic trip, and eventually make it through this long winding journey and get over their hill and find a fresh start over on the other side.
By: JOYCE WYLLIE