Friday, April 19, 2024

A strong sense of community

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Kohuratahi farmer Daniel ‘Pork’ Hutchinson spent many years working in the UK and parts of mainland Europe and Australia, but for him there’s nowhere better than the eastern Taranaki farm he grew up on. Colin Williscroft reports.
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Pork Hutchinson’s connection to the property where he and wife Ceri live, about 20 kilometres north-east of Whangamomona, runs deep.

Born and bred on the property, he’s the third generation of his family to farm it.

Schooled locally, the Welsh black cattle breeder and local community stalwart spent his early years just down the road at Marco School, before his secondary school years at Stratford High.

Growing up in the country he learned to be adaptable, being able to find practical but enjoyable things to do, including eeling, trapping possums and helping out on the farm where and when needed.

After leaving school he went shearing, first cutting his teeth with local contractors like ‘Bush’ Irwin, Graham Fergus and Ronnie King before taking over the old Riley gang and working sheds in the area for about 20 years.

Hutchinson went without a winter for more than a dozen years, alternating between NZ and shearing and fencing in England, Wales and Scotland for 13 seasons, while also spending five or six seasons shearing in Italy, with a stint in Belgium working out of portable trailers.

A typical UK season revolved around three months doing the main shear, with sometimes another two or three months on export lambs, complemented by a couple of months’ fencing.

Like many NZ shearers working overseas at the time, the money earned abroad meant he could put a little aside to buy a stake in his own farm.

For Hutchinson, that was the place he knew best, the farm where he was raised, a place he always planned to return to.

Hutchinson says treading between attracting the tourist dollar and maintaining the atmosphere that makes the place special can be a fine line, but it’s one that is working well.

About 80% of the tourists who come to the area are from NZ, and are generally older rather than young people.

He says there are a lot of campervans that travel the route and stop in Whangamomona, especially during the summer.

That popularity among NZ tourists, rather than those from overseas, means the downturn being experienced by destinations favoured by international tourists is less likely to have an impact on those living and working in the forgotten world.

Despite the foray into tourism, it’s farming that’s in Hutchinson’s blood and he keeps a close eye on what’s going on around him, the valley where he lives and works and the region as a whole.

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