Farmers rally to cull for coastguard
Southland farmers spend their working days on the land but many of them, when they get a chance, play on the sea.
Southland Demonstration Farm farm manager Barry Bethune is one of those farmers and more than most knows the perils of the southern sea and the coastguard's role in helping those in need.
Bethune lost his son, Shaun, 23, and his best mate Lindsay Cullen, in Foveaux Strait in 2012.
Since the boating accident, he has worked hard to find a way to help the Riverton Coastguard who were there to help him.
Farmers for Coastguard is an initiative Bethune and Riverton Coastguard president Allan "Dusty" Duston hope will drive much-needed funds to the organisation.
Southland farmers culling livestock are being encouraged to donate one or two beasts to the Riverton Coastguard.
"A farmer can let their meatworks company know they want to donate the monetary value of the carcass to the coastguard," Bethune said.
"Not all farmers have a piggy-bank full of coins but giving a culled animal is something they can afford."
Bethune said he also hoped stock agents would back the initiative and tell their clients they can donate a beast.
The campaign is a personal one for Bethune.
"Without the coastguard I wouldn't have been able to bring my boy and my mate home to be buried," he said.
"This is my way of repaying that debt."
The financial cost and volunteer time was enormous but could not be sacrificed, Bethune said.
"If there was no coastguard many more families would have lost loved ones," he said.
Duston said a lot of farmers were also boaties.
All farmers could donate livestock to the initiative.
"We had a sheep farmer in west Dipton make a large donation of animals to the cause," Duston said.
There was an added bonus for farmers who did make a donation - a Swazi polar fleece shirt acknowledging their generosity.
Duston and Bethune believed the campaign had the potential to raise considerable funds.
"Foveaux Strait is a treacherous stretch of water and the reality is it takes money to keep the coastguard operating at full tilt," Duston said.
"If it's not farmers themselves, it's someone they know who go out on the water and it could be their lives in the balance."
The Southland Times