Editorial: The Vulnerability of Living in the Country

F_AU15_Editorial-RedsCafeFire.jpgThe devastating sight of the Red House Cafe burning down showed graphically how vulnerable we are here in our idyllic little world. Through no one’s fault, there was no water available to save it. It makes you pause to think. Should there have been? Whose responsibility is it anyway? And at what cost? Is it a cost the community as a whole should bear or the individual? Or is it even desirable or necessary to provide services for that one in a million chance of something dreadful happening?

Following close on our editorial saluting our volunteers, we have here another opportunity to praise the bravery and staunchness of our volunteer firemen, and those who came from as far away as Levin and Waikanae to give aid and support to the Te Horo Rural fire service and the Otaki Volunteer Fire brigade.

It is not only the terror of fire which may assail us but also the prospect of diminishing health services, care for the elderly or public transport that may prove to be the demise of small rural towns. Without a retirement village in Otaki our community regularly loses its elderly who have played an important part in the fabric of our town. They move to be nearer support services which we here are unable to provide.

 If we choose to live in a rural environment, far away from ready local services should we expect more than we have? Or do we accept that travelling to services, dependence on volunteers is the price we pay for our rural existence. Are we any safer in an urban environment anyway? And then there is the issue of living near rivers and the increasing regularity of downpours which causes flooding and the disruption to those people living in flood prone areas. Yes there are storm water services, much of it old and unable to cope with a growing town, and the inevitability of the effects of global warming? 

We like to think that here in Otaki we have the best of everything: A rural environment which provides for us; fire, health, education and social services that meet our everyday needs with the exception of the more  major events when we have to travel. But essentially social services of all varieties are everybody’s business and living well and safely requires collaboration across all sectors. Should we therefore as a community talk about what level of vulnerability we are prepared to accept? And at what cost?

The Red House cafe event made us think of the value of the community acting together as a whole. We are lucky, in spite of our infrequent disasters, here in our little piece of rural paradise.