Once upon a time a man bought land in Southland.
It was poor land, an unproductive bog, but the man had foresight and wanted to improve the land and milk cows there.
The people applauded the man. He was a hard worker, they said. He was taking something of low value and improving it for the benefit of his family. He was taking something unproductive and making it productive, which was good for the economy, good for the country.
And so the man went to work on his Southland bog.
Borrowing money off the bank and investing it in drainage and regressing. Slowly but surely year after year his toil paid off as the land was drained and improved, he started building up cow numbers and his income improved with the land.
But the never-ending hard work and financial pressure took its toll on the man. He put years of his life into improving the Southland bog and his body and mind were weary.
To make the dairy farm successful took every ounce of his will, but successful he was and after time he had the trappings of success. A lovely home, a flash car and the top-notch farm machinery it took to run the farm.
It was his life's work and he was proud of it. Something to pass on to his son. He could look out the window and where there was once an unproductive bog was a successful and productive dairy farm.
But up the driveway came an inspector. The farmer did not have much time for inspectors. He felt they were unproductive people who checked up on productive people, imposing rules and regulations and all the costs that come along with them.
The rules have changed, the inspector told him. Your farm is a danger to the environment. People no longer see you as a hard-working productive person, and good for the economy. You are bad for the environment. You have drained a valuable wetland. But it was an unproductive bog, the farmer protested. No, said the inspector, the rules have changed.
And so the famer was forced to comply with continually changing rules around effluent and water use, stocking rate and fertiliser application.
Instead of being applauded as a food producer he was branded an environmental criminal. The costs of compliance put pressure on him financially and the stress mounted.
He could feel his heart rate quicken on hearing helicopters circling his farm. Were they tourists or inspectors checking for breaches in compliance?
His self-esteem took a drop, everything he had been proud of achieving was suddenly being misconstrued in a different light by people who didn't want to understand.
He had been the man with foresight, taking something of low value and improving it: surely that is what you should be doing with your little bit of life? But the finger pointers and inspectors wore him down. What should be seen as good was branded bad.
The man looked at what other people were doing and could see many people working at jobs dependent on the government and many others not working at all. He knew what a huge contribution his cows were making to the economy but all he heard was criticism and the compliance costs kept on rising.
The man's attitude became negative. He turned to the whisky bottle and he took his frustration out on his wife and family who left him. He eventually had nowhere left to turn except the shotgun cabinet. And they spread his ashes over a Southland bog.
- © Fairfax NZ News