He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata. Our communities are going through change and it seems like it is happening so fast we may not feel the full impact until it has already happened.

Change is good but only if there are clear outcomes sought for all involved.

The rapid expansion of forestry throughout the Tararua is causing much angst and stress for our communities and it concerns me to watch our people genuinely hurting in so many ways.

This is hurt at a local level, far removed from Government politicians and policymakers, and there are few levers to pull as we see our local democracy eroded by central government aspirations.


We want trees, however, the loss of thousands of stock units on fertile land and the ensuing loss of families from our towns are unintended consequences of chasing carbon credits.

I'm not saying our Government is trying to close down small towns and rural communities, but if they are not considering the impact on people and places, we will see more of the same.

I am not questioning a farmer's right to sell their farm, but I am questioning the large-scale land-use change that is emptying out our communities.

Social media is rife with urban-rural conflict and we must remember that our rural communities have held it together through some very difficult times.

Some commentators have referred to the challenges facing our communities as the third wave, with the first starting in 1973 when Britain joined the EEC, affecting New Zealand's ongoing trade.

The second wave in 1984 was when agricultural subsidies were removed, and a lot of government-owned industries were privatised.

Agriculture became one of the most deregulated sectors in New Zealand and had to stand on its own two feet.

The loss of jobs through the privatisation of forestry and the sell-off of other public assets did not help either.


We are said to be going through a third wave and our communities need to hold strong as they always have done.

A great piece of advice I received from Doug Avery, a farmer and mental health commentator, was to control the controllables.

What you can do is submit to the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill and tell the Select Committee how it affects you and your community.

Talk about your concerns for the future of our rural schools, our rural services, the economics of doing business rurally and the inequity of our farmers not being able to offset emissions.

In this money-talks world, tell them you are worried about corporates buying our land to plant trees as an offset so they don't need to change their behaviour.

Help the Government understand the unintended consequences of these policies in our lives and the impact to the wellbeing of our communities.

If the Government is seeking to reduce poverty and address mental health, why are we seeing such a focused attack on agricultural jobs in rural New Zealand through seemingly innocuous policies.

This time last year, the concept of Rural Proofing was launched to ensure rural communities were at the heart of policy decisions.

Our challenges are low population, isolation and longer travel times to access health and education.

Rural Proofing was to bring about equity, to have access to social and economic opportunities, and to have the ability to reach the same potential as urban New Zealanders. Were these promises more words and more aspirations with no grunt? I sincerely hope not because our people and communities are worth fighting for.

• Tracey Collis is the Tararua District Mayor.