The new vice president of Rural Contractors New Zealand, Helen Slattery, brings nearly 20 years of first-hand rural contracting experience to the role, and a depth of academic knowledge which she’s continually adding to.
She’s been on the Rural Contractors board, representing Zone 1 since 2014, and bringing a female presence back after a two-year break.
This voluntary role has its share of travelling as Helen will attend local zone meetings plus national board meetings. Further meetings with groups such as the Federated Farmers, Ministry for Primary Industries roadshows and discussions with government also require her being away from her Matamata home and business.
“I have an extremely supportive family, my husband Roger runs our own rural contracting business while I am away, and our staff deserve a special mention too,” says Helen.
Helen has been familiarising herself with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and has taken that portfolio on board, with a view to ensuring training and information is filtered down to the 500 members of the RCNZ.
RCNZ is the only national association and the leading advocate for rural contractors in NZ. It represent the interests of contractors engaged in a wide range of activities such as land development, drainage, fencing, cultivation and planting, harvesting of cops, highway vegetation control and maintenance, parks, reserves and landscaping, chemical application, sheep dipping and direct drilling.
Another role Helen embraced is working Immigration NZ, helping RCNZ members to employ overseas workers when they are unable to find locals to employ.
“It’s no secret that rural contractors struggle to employ suitable staff for this very seasonal work.
“We need people who are trained, capable, will work long hours, and can pass a pre-employment drug test.”
Helen is particularly passionate about rural health staff levels, which ties in with other rural issues, such as schooling and further education, and internet and cellphone coverage.
“Rural GPs are under a lot of pressure, and practices struggle to replace staff when someone retires. “Rural areas don’t have the same level of supportive health care as urban areas,” says Helen.
“If we train them rurally, they will stay and live and work rurally. With 500 hundred RCNZ members and their staff, there are 2000-plus families needing rural healthcare and schooling, so it is an issue close to our hearts.”
Keen to learn and interested in the subject, Helen is also studying for a Bachelor of Health Science Occupational Health and Safety, through Massey University. She’ll be adding this qualification to her Level 3 and Level 5 Certificates in Rural Contracting.
Helen thoroughly enjoys the challenge and the opportunity to help and give back to the industry that has been her livelihood for so long.