I recently heard a quote along the lines of “Try getting out of your comfort zone, it’s where the magic happens,” which really resonated for me. When I was a young girl growing up in the urban jungle of Auckland I would never have dreamt that in my early twenties I would move away from my family and friends to follow my heart and the love of my life to live on a farm in the Deep South.
I have lived in Dipton, Southland for nine years. Dipton is a rural town roughly a 50 minute drive north of Invercargill and a 1 hour 20 minute drive south of Queenstown. It doesn’t boast a mall on a grand scale like Sylvia Park or restaurants and bars like those at the Viaduct but it has what I need and has got me hooked on a line that I can’t imagine breaking - Dipton is home.
When I first moved to Dipton I was relatively fresh off a return flight from my whirlwind OE in the UK, Europe and the United States. During my travels I certainly saw some amazing places but nothing quite compares to the view looking north while on the Dipton Castlerock Road on top of the bridge that crosses over the Oreti River where the river winds its way in a seemingly endless fashion into the snowcapped mountains in the distance. It’s reminiscent of the wondrous Mainland Cheese “Good things take time” Ad’s from my youth, which, I might add that other than riding horses and Footrot Flats was likely my only other exposure to rural life growing up! I think it’s a great place to raise children and we enjoy taking our them swimming in the river and exploring in the willows along the river’s edge. I also feel very fortunate to be able to work within our farming business and live simply with ample space for the kids to play with their pets with plenty of fresh air and views of cows and sheep dotted across lush green pastures.
The beauty of the area and the farming opportunities for building a future with my husband and children are some of the main reasons why I enjoy living here so much, as well as the wonderful people in the area who I would describe as kind, generous, salt of the earth, shirt off their backs kind of people. Dipton is the kind of place where we give a friendly wave to everyone we drive past and where I could call into a neighbours place for a cup of sugar if I had run out.
A sense of “community” for me differs greatly in my experiences of living urban and rurally. I have found Dipton to have a great community feel where people look after each other and I feel that a sense of community is especially important in rural communities where some of the challenges faced can come about from being potentially geographically and socially isolated and not having the means either via availability of transport options or availability of cell phone reception/reliable internet can make it difficult to keep in touch with peers. There can be additional pressures for some where it can be difficult to maintain a work/life balance due to livelihoods and legacies needing to be made and/or sustained.
It is possible for the communication of messages and sharing of event information through friends, neighbours, employers to employees, community liaison people, emails, district newsletters, text or phone trees, event fliers and social media platforms and by having an open opportunity to be included and see and interact with others whether it be with the local playgroup, school, social sports team or other types of events held by other groups that are world famous in Dipton like the Dippy 500 or the Swede Night, it can sometimes make all the difference between thriving in a community or not.
There are some great local community groups that cater for varying interests and there are meetings and events throughout the year that can bring people together to be able to get involved in groups to help out, collaborate, learn, support, give back and work towards a common cause that will be of benefit to those living in the area now and for the future. Being involved can be hugely rewarding and I've found in doing so that we can utilise and grow skills that can also become transferable into other areas like employment, leadership and governance. It’s wonderful to have caring people in the area that we can look up to as they lead the way and put themselves out there to help with the continuation of community groups however there is always a need for more people in communities to get involved and I encourage anyone wanting to get more active in their communities to get amongst it! I've found making time to give back and be involved is good for the soul and develops a sense of belonging/connections/friendships that I otherwise may not have made and sometimes getting out of the house or off the farm (the “comfort zone”) is where the magic happens and journeys just begin!
Rebecca Dawkins, Mother of Jack and Thomas, Farmers Wife to Tim, Dairy Women’s Network Co-Convenor for Northern Southland, Dipton Toy Library Secretary and member of various community groups.
Note: Not a writer! ;-)