Farmer lashed out over financial stress

A Waikato farmer who pushed his pregnant partner down a flight of steps and threatened to slit her throat with a scalpel went on to offend while on bail.

For more than 12 months, and against a backdrop of growing financial woes, the Ohaupo man subjected his partner to a catalogue of threats and violence.

Despite the intervention of police on several occasions, the man, who cannot be named because of a court order, continued to offend against the mother of three, finally pulling a knife on her.

Details of the man's offending were revealed yesterday as he was sentenced in Hamilton District Court to two years and nine months' jail.

The 27-year-old earlier pleaded guilty to nine charges, including three charges of assault using a weapon and four charges of assaulting a female.

Judge Philip Connell said the man's offending left his partner terrified and suffering nightmares. The period of offending was also marked by his declining mental health and increasing pressures on the farm where he worked.

Although it was a not mitigating factor, Judge Connell noted the enormous financial stress the couple were under, and the man's effort to please his employer.

Speaking afterwards, Federated Farmers health and safety spokeswoman Jeanette Maxwell said the organisation did not condone domestic violence but the defendant's actions could have been a sign of struggling with mental health issues. The court was told the man had been treated for depression and was in remission.

Ms Maxwell said there were resources available to rural people experiencing depression.

"Federated Farmers is working alongside a number of other organisations to make rural mental health a priority in rural communities and has mailed out a wallet-sized ‘When Life's a Bitch' card to farmers throughout New Zealand, with helplines to phone when everything gets a bit too much," she said.

Latest data released by the Health Ministry show depression was an increasing issue for rural communities, with suicide rates significantly higher in rural areas than in urban centres.

A wellbeing research study by AgResearch showed 50 per cent of farmers did not seek help when they need it, while 17 per cent identified with depression and anxiety symptoms.

Last week Rural Women New Zealand launched its "Feeling Rotten" survey to build up a picture of what contributes to anxiety or depression.

Rural Women NZ executive officer Noeline Holt said early responses to the survey indicate the majority of people felt anxious due to financial stress.

When it came to depression, family problems were showing up as a major contributing factor, with "abusive situations" playing a part.

Waikato Times