It's the countdown until New Zealand's second biggest agriculture show opens to the public but work organising the big event has been underway for months.
That includes work from Te Whatu Ora staff, whose aim is to have the benefits of a good show continue long after next month's Northland Field Days gates close. Visits in the past to the Te Ara Hauora well-being site at the annual event have literally saved lives.
Among health messages, innovations and insights into regional programmes and services, visitors will see innovative equipment such as Te Pahi O Nga Iwi - the 'People's Bus', a diagnostic van that can provide echocardiograms that examine the heart, as well as vascular and eye exams. Te Whatu Ora, staff from bowel, breast and cervical screening, will be on hand to discuss how screening works.
The staff, messages and health gadgets at Te Ara Hauora Wellness Hub will be at sites C1, C2, D1 and D2 in a large pavilion devoted to regional, public and community service.
Te Whatu Ora (formerly Northland District Health Board) annually grabs this chance to reach out to many thousands of people. This year Northland Field Days organisers expect around 18,000 visitors each day the event is on. The long history of being part of the Field Days reflects Te Whatu Ora's mission to improve the well-being of people in the agricultural, horticultural and outdoor industries as well as urban sectors across the region.
Area-wise, Northland is one of the largest regions in New Zealand. Because of the distance between service centres, the remote nature of many settlements, a historic proportionately low income and employment level combined with related bad health outcomes, and a perceived lack of funding to overcome inter-generational problems across the board in Northland, the region often sits at the bottom of the rung on most social indices. Te Whatu Ora has had a tough haul trying to overcome many obstacles to improve accessibility and health outcomes in its region and has been recognised nationally for local programmes it has introduced and piloted.
So, what's all that got to do with what is primarily an outsized ag-hort show? Well, nowhere do town, country, and a myriad of industries, community services, innovation, and old-fashioned fun come together more colourfully and accessibly than on the Northland Field Days' 36-hectare site on Dargaville's outskirts.
This year, more than 300 exhibitors will display stuff for cows, ploughs, big rigs, farm bikes, work wear, fencing gear, dog trials, tractor pulls, solar power, clean water, wastewater, crop trees, amenities, barbecues, eco-loos, cabins, kitchens, leisure craft, arts and craft, kids' games, playgrounds, food halls, tasting stalls ... and so much more, including Te Ara Hauora Wellness Hub, showing what prevention-aimed, practical solution public health initiatives look like.
Being held for the 36th time since 1985 but stymied by COVID in 2021 and 2022, the show is on from Thursday, March 2, until Saturday, March 4. At its pre-COVID peak, the event had over 500 exhibitors and up to 27,000 visitors a day. The Northland Field Days is second only in size to the annual national event at Mystery Creek, near Hamilton, and attracts exhibitors and visitors from all over New Zealand.
Photo: L-R: Louisa Kingi, Vicky Maihi, Evan Smeath (President Whg A&P Society), Annette Te Hira, Stuart Selkirk, Tina Quitta