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Farmers And MPs To Clash In Sports Fundraiser

Farmers and politicians are no strangers to a stoush over rules and regulations, but they’ll be going head-to-head in a different way this weekend.

To support farmers still recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle, a Federated Farmers versus Parliament fundraiser sporting tournament is being held in Gisborne on Saturday.

With more than a quarter of Parliament turning up to play rugby or netball, the event has already raised close to $300,000, Federated Farmers national meat and wool chair Toby Williams says.

"As well as being a bit of fun, this is primarily about showing some support to East Coast farmers, who’ve copped more than their share of hardship in the past year," says Williams, who’s organised the event.

"It’s been a tough time for farmers down here, not just with weather events but also because it’s been so challenging financially for farming.

"It’s a little bit of support but everything helps."

Williams, a sheep farmer just north of Gisborne, says Federated Farmers originally set out to raise $100,000 to $150,000 but the goalposts soon shifted.

"We’ve had some incredible support from Woolworths New Zealand, and then from a local charitable association and other generous parties.

"We’re really pleased to have hit nearly $300,000, but even if we don’t get much more than that, it’ll be an incredible help for 100 or so farmers in the Gisborne and Wairoa regions."

Federated Farmers partner FMG has generously donated all the rugby and netball uniforms, and local businesses have got in behind the cause, paying for sponsorship on the back of each uniform.

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Woolworths New Zealand are generously sponsoring the post-match function.

The funds will be used to purchase fencing equipment for farmers still rebuilding their properties after Cyclone Gabrielle.

Williams says the event isn’t just about raising funds, though.

"It’s free to come along to the games there’ll be a gold coin sausage sizzle for the public. This will be a bit of fun for everyone and it’s about bringing the community together for a good cause and a good time.

"The big thing with this game is that we want it to be a full stop after Cyclone Gabrielle - this is the end. We need to focus on some new things and new challenges.

"This is just a small token of support and appreciation for our East Coast rural communities."

Williams, who’ll pack down in the front row alongside Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford and national dairy chair Richard McIntyre, says there are some big names running out in the rugby and netball teams.

Rugby players include Todd McClay (Minister for Agriculture), Mark Mitchell (Minister for Police), Mark Patterson (Associate Minister for Agriculture), Simon Watts (Minister for Climate Change), and Peeni Henare (Labour MP).

The netball side will include Louise Upston (Minister for Social Development), Karen Chhour (Minister for Children), Barbara Edmonds (Labour MP), and Catherine Wedd (National MP).

The rugby game will be refereed by new Bay of Plenty MP Tom Rutherford.

The games are being played in memory of the late Parekura Horomia, who hailed from the East Coast and was Minister for Māori Affairs between 2002 and 2008.

There will also be a special ceremony at halftime where Federated Farmers and CNH Industrial will be giving away a tractor to a deserving family impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle. Case IH and New Holland, through East Coast dealer Stevenson & Taylor, donated two tractors last year to help restore fencelines on farms in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. A second tractor was given away at the Hawke’s Bay Farmer of the Year competition on May 21.

Get along to the Ngatapa Sports Club in Patutahi on May 25.

The netball starts at 12:30pm, the rugby kicks off at 2pm.

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