Initially set up 40 years ago at the request of the government to provide welfare for farming communities impacted by severe flooding in the Manawatu, the Rural Support Trust (RST) continues to offer welfare support to rural communities today.
Encompassing such impacts as weather events, earthquakes, the cost-of-living crisis, pandemic restrictions and agricultural diseases, the work of the RST centres around providing welfare to rural people. “There are now 14 trusts spread across the country. When something happens that affects a large part of the community, the government puts funding in place and the RST steps up,” says Katrina Knowles, North Island Development Manager for the Rural Support Trust. “Initially the RST was typically only involved in large-scale events but in recent years, requests for one-on-one support have grown and become part of our core business.”
With an independent trust board for every region, the Rural Support Trust also has a National Council which assists the regional boards with building resilience and capability, provides training and secures funding to distribute across the regions. In addition to any sponsorships the National Council manages to secure, the RST also benefits from some funding provided at a regional level by the Ministry of Primary Industries. “The amount of funding received varies for each region based on the number of farms in the region, but the additional funds required are fundraised by each community via a passionate group of around 350 volunteers across the country,” says Katrina. “From community dinners and breakfasts through to running the BBQ at Surfing for Farmers events or hosting high teas, our regional trusts put a huge amount of effort into bringing rural communities together.”
The formation of the National Board has boosted recognition of the trust’s work and increased engagement with the government. “It has been gratifying to see us gain a strong rural voice in a relatively short time,” says Katrina. “We see the gains we are making in areas like Civil Defence which was predominantly focused on urban New Zealanders but who have now widened their focus to include rural.”
Katrina is quick to point out that the RST is not just for farmers – support is offered to all rural people and she encourages anyone from a rural community to reach out via the 0800 number. “If all you need is someone to talk to, they will listen. But if you need further support, the trust will work with you to identify the support you need and point you in the right direction.”
The Rural Support Trust can be reached on 0800 787 254.