There's so much talk about the urban/rural divide at the moment I think it's safe to say a lot of us perceive it to be true.

Labour's proposed water tax/levy (depending which side you're on) has once again highlighted the disconnect between these two sectors of New Zealand society.

Urban Kiwis seem to have lost the affection they once had for their do-it-yourself country cousins, while the rural sector have all but given up trying to get it back.

There is undoubtedly a myriad of factors over a number of decades that has contributed to this, but the question is how do we try and bridge the gap - and do we even want to?


As a townie who's married into a farming family and working in the agricultural media I find myself defending and promoting both sides in almost equal measure.

My off-sider, Online Producer Hanoi Jane, finds herself in a similar situation.

A decade long residency in London and a monolithic consumption of television makes her one of the most dyed-in-the-wool townies you're ever likely to meet.

But even she has developed an appreciation of country New Zealand through little more than education and a pen pal.

When I say pen pal, it's the modern day equivalent; email and Twitter. A regular reader and contributor to our social media platforms at The Country is a man by the name of Farmer G (not real name).

Farmer G will often send through pictures and updates of what he's doing around the farm and life in general. And before you send your grubby mind plummeting down to the gutter, the correspondence is more along the lines of a brilliant sunset, or how the day was on the farm, or what the family cat has been up to.

Farmer G's family cat. Photo / Supplied
Farmer G's family cat. Photo / Supplied

Over time he's revealed the human side of farming; he's simply a person doing a particular job in a particular part of the world and goes through the same range of highs and lows as people in all walks of life.

He doesn't pretend to be better than anyone else, or worse off, or hard done by - he just says, "hi there, this is what's happening in my world, what's happening in yours?" It's not hard to find common ground with this kind of approach.


Best part of all - Farmer G is not defensive. He knows he works in an industry that can get a bad rap; some of it warranted some of it not. Again, it's like many professions - there are both positive and negative aspects.

But the chasm between the city dwellers and the rural inhabitants seems to be getting wider. Part of the issue is the unmalleable nature of humans once they reach a certain point in life. Some ideas are so entrenched you just simply can't make the old dog perform a new trick, especially if that trick involves dismantling a stereotype or two.

The key to bridging the gap, aside from a willingness to extract one's head out of one's own posterior, is communication. I'm not saying the urban/rural divide is a new phenomenon but the gap is certainly widening and because it's taken years to get here, it'll probably take years to close it back up.

We need to encourage our kids to keep the lines of communication open and make sure we don't beset our prejudices onto them - they'll develop their own in time, they don't need ours as well.

My eldest son attends a school populated with dozens of boarders from farming families. He's great mates with many of them and couldn't care less where they come from or what their parents do for a living.

As always the currency in those formative years is what music you like, what sports you play and what your sense of humour's like. When they go home for the holidays they'll keep in touch, sort of like Twenty First Century pen pals.

For them it's personal, not political - maybe that's something we could all take heed of.