Bringing the rural and urban communities closer together is the goal of a series of events in Southland.

Former police officer, author and motivational speaker Lance Burdett will lead three free seminars for the trust in Southland and if popular, more will be planned around the country.

Newly formed charitable trust Ag Proud NZ will host the presentations.

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Initially the group wanted Burdett to speak to farmers about using practical tools around wellbeing and mental health, as well as how to negotiate some of the more challenging aspects of life working on the land said Ag Proud NZ Trust chairman Jon Pemberton.

"But then we decided to open it up to everyone in the community".

"One of our core objectives is to bring people from rural and urban areas closer together, to understand one another and I think that's our real point of difference" said Pemberton.

"It was also something that Lance really liked about our trust and why he's supporting this initiative."

Pemberton said there was keen public focus on animal welfare around winter grazing, in particular for Southland and Otago dairy farmers in August this year.

As a result, Ag Proud held a few barbecues to start bringing farmers and people from towns together "so we could understand one another better" said Pemberton.

"There were no speakers and these were non-alcohol events. It was just a chance for people to meet some farmers, have a yarn, ask some questions about things like winter grazing.

"It was more of an informal but educational gathering, to explain how we farm".

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The barbecue events were deliberately held in city centres like Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch, Whangarei and in Manukau.

"We're not expecting people to come to us, we're going to go to the towns to make sure it's easy for people to start the conversation".

Pemberton said the trust contacted Lance Burdett to run the free seminars because of his experience presenting on mental health, wellbeing, responding to emergencies and communicating in challenging situations.

"I had attended one of Lance's presentations in May and was inspired" he said.

"Also, the trust felt mental health wasn't something it could tackle itself because we're not health professionals.

"But it is something Lance has studied and presented on before, to many different organisations around the country".

Burdett worked in the police force for 22 years where he specialised in suicide prevention and crisis negotiation, among others.

In 2016 he published a book, Behind the Tape, Life on the Police Frontline, detailing his police career.

About five years ago he started his own consultancy business called Wellness, Awareness, Resilience and Negotiation (WARN).

Burdett said he was looking forward to working with Ag Proud NZ in Southland and hoped it would lead on to more opportunities to speak with rural people about wellbeing and what he called "mind health".

"I really wanted to be part of this initiative with Ag Proud NZ because I think there's a real disconnect between urban and rural people, something Ag Proud wants to change".

Pemberton said he hoped people would leave the seminars inspired by Burdett's presentation, just like he had been.

"Lance has a very good way of explaining some of the really practical things you can do to improve your wellbeing.

"He explains the impact of technology on our lives, how to reset the brain and uses personal stories to connect with people".

The seminars are supported by Waikato Milking Systems, which has been working in the dairy industry in New Zealand for more than 50 years.

The company operates globally now but Southland remains one of its key markets in New Zealand.

Others to offer support to help make the seminars a reality include Southern Wellness Activity Team; House of Travel; Malloch McClean Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors.

Lance Burdett's free seminars with Ag Proud NZ:

• December 5: Croydon Lodge, Gore, 1pm-3pm and at the Makarewa Country Club, Invercargill, 7pm-9pm.

• December 6: Rosebank Lodge, Balclutha, 1pm-3pm. · To RSVP or for more information, email: info@agproud.co.nz

Where to get help:
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.