OPINION: It’s said there is no gap between town and country in New Zealand, but I reckon there is. Watching 7 Sharp the other night, I saw a segment on the four-day working week that made me think the rural-urban divide gapes wider than the Grand Canyon – well, Skippers Canyon, anyway.
What I saw on TV was an office full of townie insurance clerks lined up in rows all gazing at computer screens and their boss was enthusing about how condensing their five-day working week down to four days was increasing their productivity because no-one was having any extra coffee breaks or whiling away work time on Facebook.
And I had to laugh – out loud. The 7 Sharp presenters were getting a bit excited visualising their four-day working week and the insurance boss was saying all businesses should definitely give it a try.
As a self-employed dairy farmer, I am in the midst of calving and working seven days a week. I am not complaining, mind. It’s my choice, my job. I could employ someone to lighten the load and have some time off, but it’s unaffordable and not practical at this crucial time of year.
If I take my eye off the calving ball for one minute, I guarantee something will go wrong and wrong in my job usually means something gets sick or dies and a whole lot of time and effort is for naught. Such are the joys of farming.
I used to work in a bank. Back in those days, I scarcely gave a thought to where food comes from. I just took it all for granted. Now I know how much stress and commitment and hard yards you have to put in the get meat and dairy products on the table. It is hard yakka. So many people – the public, the government and the dairy factory – have their eye on you, calling foul at the slightest hint of a misdemeanour. And it is the pressure of this scrutiny on top of the demanding workload that makes me sometimes think maybe I should chuck this all in and go and get a cushy four-days-a-week-paid-for-five town job. But where’s the satisfaction in that?
I know that many townies have probably never even met a farmer, which is different from old-day New Zealand, when people seemed more connected with the land. I could imagine that some would turn their nose up in disgust at a tired, dirty, smelly, seemingly incoherent yokel in a funny hat – because for some reason farmers come across terribly on TV – even I think that and I am one.
If you have eaten today, thank a farmer.
Most governments subsidise their farmers and protect them from the likes of the emissions-trading scheme. This is because they have read and understood Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and know that food is a basic essential for human survival. Seemingly not so the New Zealand Government – very unfortunate.
So townies are working in their clean, sanitised office jobs that would not even exist if not for farming, dreaming of a four-day working week, while farmers take care of business 24/7 feeding everybody. Meanwhile, the government dreams up more and more ways to regulate farming and collect tax revenue off fundamental things like water and cows burping, and looking for money to appoint well paid useless government jobs like animal advocates, inspectors to check that your dog is tied up on the ute and that you have your helmets on.
I think people should want to work more, not less. But, then, I suppose I am not a townie office wallah.
By: Lynn Webster