Mayors inspire farmgate drive

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PLANNING is well under way for Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks and Southland District Mayor Gary Tong’s “farmgate tour” of the deep south in early November to visit up to 25 small communities to boost vaccination rates.

The Southern District Health Board (SDHB) earlier this week said the Southland district had 54% of its population over age 12 double-vaccinated and 77% had received the first dose.

Mr Tong said two weeks ago it was realised travel logistics and farm life demands affected rural Southland vaccination rates.

Those who had been vaccinated had travelled to Invercargill, Queenstown, or Gore for it.

There was an appetite in rural communities for vaccinators to head into the hinterland, he said.

The idea for the “farmgate tour” sprung from the mayors.

“We had a talk on what we could do and rather than getting involved in the Super Saturday… we decided it will be better to get vaccinators out in our rural areas. And it has been growing legs from there, really.”

Mr Hicks said both wanted to make the process as easy as possible.

Firstly, they were planning to get mobile vaccination clinics in rural community centres and small townships. The regions would be those the SDHB identified as having lower rates of vaccination.

Health professionals would be available to provide reliable information about the roll-out or answer questions.

“We will make it very obvious that we are there and available beforehand. And we will see how that plays out. I’m quite excited, really.”

After this first stage, mayors and SDHB staff would consider whether a knock-on-the-door approach would be necessary, he said.

Mr Tong would lead the vaccination tour in the western side of the district, while Mr Hicks would focus on the east and north areas.

“I think Southland farmers are so incredibly busy and we need to recognise that – we are a  farming province. Both, me and Gary, want to make whatever we can to have them, their families and workers safe for whatever the future will look like,” Mr Hicks said.

Both were working with the SDHB around the schedule and details of the tour.

More information would be provided as soon as possible, Mr Tong said.

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