Working on a farm during the COVID-19 crisis...

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Published 2020-04-15 14:31

While most people are at home during the lockdown in New Zealand, expat Stumpy works in a farm, making sure that there is no food shortage.

Where are you from and where have you lived?

I was actually born in New Zealand. I gave up work and came back to my town of birth from Laos (based there with family for over 20 years) at the beginning of 2015 to take care of my elderly father after he had a stroke. I cared for him until he passed away late 2017 aged 97.

I worked in construction in many countries supervising roadworks, dam construction, bridges, mine development and rehabilitation. As I had been out of the game for so long it was impossible for me to find a job again. I had worked on farms before and after I left school so through friends I got a job on 2 farms in the area. So, yes my job changed from supervision of multi million dollar projects to farm work.

How would you describe the COVID-19 situation in New Zealand?

We are on total lockdown here. No travel anywhere unless to the supermarket to shop, or if you are an essential worker as I am. I carry a letter from my employer which I am required to show to police when stopped, along with photo ID. Schools closed, no restaurants, takeaways and shopping of any kind. Chemists along with corner stores only 1 person at a time allowed in. At the supermarkets you have to queue up, keep your 2 meter social distance and a security guard will allow you in when a person leaves. All trolleys are sanitized with a spray and hand sanitiser provided. Petrol stations are opened but you must prepay for fuel at a window before filling up. Electronic payment methods are preferred anywhere as this obviates handling money. Government is looking to lift the total ban next week from level 4 to level 3.

Tell us a little bit about your job...

My job is varied. My employer has 2 farms, one a dairy unit and the other for stock, pigs and small cropping of pumpkins, maize and silage for stock feed. The pumpkins are picked and stored for pig feed. I also do fencing work, hanging gates, painting farm buildings, feeding out. Also spread fertilizer on the paddocks using a tractor and small spreader unit. I maintain all the machinery on the farms. I start work at 8 am and usually finish around 4 pm unless there is a job that needs to be finished. Only work 5 days a week or less if the weather is inclement.

Are you following the situation back home?

I follow the situation back in Laos on a daily basis online. I use Facebook to contact family there by video. My family lives there. My youngest daughter (14) does her schoolwork online and my eldest daughter is married and living in our Vientiane house as she is a nurse working in a government hospital.

How has your life changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis?

Survival is nothing stressful for me here as I get out and about, chat online to friends and family. Having travelled and working around the world, including war zones,  I am easily pleased and quite capable of looking after myself.

What advice would you give to others individuals who need to work during the crisis?

I would advise anyone who is working in these times to be aware, be friendly, keep in contact, follow the rules laid out and importantly, take care of yourself health wise.