Cyclone Gabrielle left a trail of destruction in its wake, including thousands of kilometres of broken fencing in New Zealand.

The Rapid Relief Team (RRT) is the charitable arm of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, and it recently stepped up to help hundreds of New Zealand farmers who were devastated by the cyclone.

Replacing this fencing is no cheap exercise – in fact, the cost of 5 kilometres of re-fencing is about $150,000.

In two separate Farmers Community Connect (FCC) initiatives, RRT donated 165 kilometres of fencing materials to about 550 farmers in fencing packs valued at $1,500 each.

RRT provided 75 kilometres of free fencing to farmers in Hawke’s Bay in July, and 90km to farmers in Gisborne in August.  The first event, held in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay was the inaugural FCC event in New Zealand.

Both operations were supported by truck convoys, which wheeled into Hastings and Gisborne laden with the materials.

“We are overwhelmed with gratitude at the kindness, generosity and support we received at the RRT event in Hawke’s Bay,” said recipients Simon Franklin and Alice Beamish, who were among 250 farmers to receive the donations at that event.

“RRT has been, in our humble opinion, an outstanding agency to work with throughout the cyclone recovery.”

The events were not only a chance to collect the donated fencing packs, but an opportunity to be treated to a hot breakfast or lunch.  Across the two events, over 1,500 people had the opportunity to sit down over a meal or a coffee and connect with their community.  The Gisborne event saw RRT donate fencing to around 300 farmers.

“We were so grateful for the fencing supplies and then to be treated to food, coffee as well as time to sit with others in the same situation,” said Wendy and Murray Burgess.

“It blew both my husband and me away to be treated to such kindness. What an amazing charity RRT is, as well as the volunteers who were there to make it run so smoothly.

“We were devastated by the cyclone and have had more bad days than good since February 15, but this has definitely been a great day for us.”

The Rapid Relief Team’s FCC events are designed to provide farmers with both the physical and emotional support they need in the wake of natural disasters such as bushfires and floods.

At the events, RRT provides donations that address the need at hand, whether it be hay bales, fencing or other items, but one of the most important is hope. The events give people who are struggling, the chance to connect with each other and community support services over a good meal and a coffee.

“It would be remiss to underestimate the psychological, physical, and emotional stress cyclone-affected farmers have been under the last few months. The event was the boost that many, many of our rural folk needed,” farmer Simon Franklin said.

RRT NZ Director Danny Blampied said the charity was inspired by community spirit to step up to support farmers and their families.

“These NZ Farmers Community Connect events provide a point to connect farmers with their community and support services and were designed to provide a small moment of relief from the mental strain farmers have experienced since Cyclone Gabrielle struck,” Mr Blampied said.

“RRT is a charity established by the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church in 2013 – and our volunteers here today are driven by their Christian faith, and values of compassion and giving to help these farmers get back on their feet.”

Farmers Community Connect is a unique initiative of the Rapid Relief Team.