Thursday, April 25, 2024

Farmers back Bluff to Cape charity row

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Farmers grab their oars to raise funds for Lions Cancer Trust mobile ‘skin check’ clinics.
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He farms in the Far North but Colin Hannah’s best wishes are with rowers currently making their way up the coastline of the deep South.

A four-person rowing skiff, plus cox, is out on the ocean to raise money for the Lions Cancer Trust, the Child Cancer Foundation, Surf Lifesaving NZ and Starship Hospital.  

Volunteer crews tag in and out on marathon 50-70km daily rows, which started from Stewart Island in December. They’re aiming to make the final leg to Cape Reinga sometime in July.

As a melanoma survivor, Hannah – Federated Farmers Northland president – applauds the mission of the Lions Cancer Trust to fund two mobile ‘skin check’ clinics that will aid in the battle to reduce New Zealand’s appalling skin cancer toll.

“Skin cancer killed my father. He didn’t get to it soon enough,” Hannah says.

Nearly 30 years ago, a spot on his own face became sore to touch. A friend urged Hannah to get it checked and it was immediately removed, with tests later showing it was cancerous.

Hannah has since gone for skin checks every six months and has had dozens of other lesions and spots “burned off” with liquid nitrogen over the years.

“I’m fairer-skinned than many but my advice to all farmers is to get those checks done.  

“Us farmers are out in the sun every day, and even if you’re diligent about hats and sunscreen nowadays, maybe that wasn’t always the case.

“Better safe than sorry. As they say, ‘don’t let that spot be a full stop’.”

Federated Farmers used to share a site at Northland Field Days with Melanoma New Zealand, prior to MNZ offering skin cancer spot checks on their rural partner FMG’s site.

“Every year they’d find someone in trouble,” Hannah says.  

More than 6000 melanomas are diagnosed in New Zealand and around 300 Kiwis die of it annually – accounting for nearly 80% of all skin cancer deaths.

About 70% of melanoma cases occur in people aged 50-plus, and men are twice as likely to die from the disease.  

Invercargill Rowing Club president Ian Hamilton is a backbone of the Rowing for Life Aotearoa campaign.  

He was a member of crews that made crossings of Foveaux Strait (2010) and Cook Strait (2016) as charity fundraisers and was eager for an even more ambitious ‘length of New Zealand’ row.

Checking out beach landing sites at the bottom of the South Island, Hamilton ran into Federated Farmers member Colin McDonald, whose property at Slope Point is probably the most southern commercial farm on the ‘mainland’.   

It just so happened that McDonald is a member of the Toi Toi Lions Club and he put Hamilton in touch with Wendy Goodwin, a trustee of the Lions Cancer Trust.

The trust is fundraising for two skin check vans that, with the help of Lions and medical volunteers, will “get out into those towns and communities away out the back”, Goodwin says.   

It costs $300,000 to import and kit out each van and Goodwin says the first one is nearly ready for fit-out now.  

“We hope to have it on the road by September.”

She’s rapt Rowing for Life agreed to make the Lions Cancer Trust one of their charities and says she’s in awe of the rowers, other volunteers and generous sponsors getting in behind the epic voyage.

Goodwin, who farmed for 40 years near Mataura in Southland, understands well the farmer/skin cancer link.

“Over in Australia they use these big truck and trailer rigs for their skin cancer clinics. I happened to be visiting in 2012 and hopped on board one of them.

“Well, they picked up quite a few areas that needed to be looked at. I still get checked yearly now,” Goodwin says.

“We need these mobile clinics to get underway here. It’s not just farmers. It’s stock agents, truck drivers and all those others who are out in the sun and haven’t aways put sunscreen on.”

More: You can check out the rowers’ progress, and support them with a donation, by searching Rowing for Life Aotearoa-NZ on Facebook and GiveaLittle.

Federated Farmers, New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation, has established a news and insights partnership with AgriHQ, the country’s leading rural publisher, to give the farmers of New Zealand a more informed, united and stronger voice. Feds news and commentary appears each week in its own section of the Farmers Weekly print edition and online.

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