Seems to me that while there's a lot of talk about the "town and country divide" – mostly from farmers – there's not so much about the social contract between farmers and their wider communities. At least, not from the community perspective.

See, I hear farmers talking about how they're the backbone of the country, and how their community needs them to be successful in order for the whole to thrive; and to a large extent that's true.

Smaller towns like Waipawa and Waipukurau would virtually cease to exist if there were no farms around them; they grew up as farm service towns, and they still are today.

Even larger centres like Hastings and Napier remain, to some extent, farm service towns, but are diverse enough they also support industry that has nothing to do with farming the land.


Regardless, just as most "townies" in these places rely on farms doing well to also do well, so the farmers rely on the towns doing well to provide all the services they need at hand.

Vets, doctors, hospitals; schools and teachers; Police and emergency services; petrol stations, grocery stores, hardware and clothing and shoe stores; car yards, machinery sales and service; timber yards, metal products, agrichemicals; banks, councils and regulators (much as they might decry them), even social welfare and counselling services.

Not to mention the businesses that buy what the farms produce: meatworks and dairy and cheese factories, canning and bottling plants, packing sheds, grain mills and fresh vegetable outlets; and of course transport every which way and everywhere.

Plus all the technology that makes the modern world tick, from electricity to monitor-drones. And even the marketing and PR-fluff types who swan about in glass towers.

In short, pretty much every type of commerce you can think of, farmers rely on.

The cockie who thinks this isn't so, and that they can carry on pretending they're owed a living by the townies, had best wise up fast: they wouldn't last five minutes if the people they malign decided to stop supporting their business.

The truth is, there has to be a fair and equitable balance between town and country for both to thrive. That's the "social contract" both inherently enter into.

Whereas if one does well at cost to the other, the imbalances created will eventually cause strife for both.


And that, frankly, is the situation as it stands on the Ruataniwha Plains when it comes to water use.

Okay, you can blame the (previous) regional council for over-allocating the supply. You could even get your dugs in a mangle about the present council canning the dam scheme.

That doesn't alter the fact that the main cause of the current problem is the big irrigators who have intensified land use without regard for the effects – or to be fairer, without acknowledging the effects once they became known.

It's a measure of how badly the RWSS board of inquiry got things wrong that they believed there was more water (the so-called "tranche 2" allocation) available. There isn't.

When a small town like Ongaonga runs out of water because the farms are taking too much from the aquifer, you know the social contract is broken.

But I don't hear any of the irrigators involved, or the tranche 2 applicants, saying so. They should. See above.

At which point, if I were an affected resident I wouldn't give a rat's behind if the big irrigators had to scale back their operations to re-balance the social contract.

I would simply demand they did so – or have their consents cancelled. That's the fair socially responsibly solution. Isn't it.

■Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet. Views expressed are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's.