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New Zealand Country Living Is No Paradise

WELLINGTON (dpa) – Although New Zealand is one of the world’s biggest exporters of meat and dairy products and agriculture remains the backbone of the economy, six out of 10 of its people live in the half dozen big cities.

And just like city dwellers in many other countries, many of them yearn for what they see as the “good life” on the land.

So called life-style blocks – bits of farms sold off to city people who hanker for a change – have become the fastest-growing sector in the real estate business in recent years.

The townsfolk see themselves building a cottage in the middle of nowhere, growing their own vegetables and maybe having some chickens to provide the eggs, and a horse, perhaps even a goat to underline their bucolic lifestyle.

But even in New Zealand, where the sheep and cow populations well outnumber the human one and there is no foot and mouth disease, life in the countryside is not all peaches and cream.

In fact, many ex-city life-stylers have found the rural good life is nowhere near as good as they thought.

Sheep dogs barking, herds of cows blocking the road and leaving evidence of their passing, smelly animal pens, clouds of dust from harvesting machines and light aircraft spraying chemical fertilisers over everything are just some of the daily occurrences that take the romance out of a shift to the country.

Not only that, some former city dwellers, who moved to get peace and quiet, get so angry with their new farmer neighbours, they find conflict instead of the relaxed calm they sought, says New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment.

Huge trucks moving sheep to market in the early hours of morning, giant milk tankers thundering through the streets, drifting smoke from burning crop stubble, bleating sheep and loud scaring devices used by wineries to scare birds off their grapes all take the gloss off rural life, the ministry says.

“The rural environment is not all clean fresh air, peace, quiet and open space,” says ministry policy analyst Tim Bennetts. “It is also a productive environment, which can lead to conflict in rural communities.”

The ministry on Monday released a brochure entitled “Thinking about living in the country?” which offers advice on how to avoid some of the pitfalls of rural life.

“The country is a working environment, with the noises, smells and other effects of primary production,” Bennetts said. “This reality can be far removed from the rural haven that those moving to the country for a lifestyle change are looking for.”

The brochure advises prospective good lifers: “Look around the rural neighbourhood and see what’s there. Think about how established activities might affect you.

“Ask around. Find out what day-to-day life is like in that rural area in all seasons. Spend some time there. Check it out in good weather and bad weather days and all wind directions.”

The ministry also reminds city dwellers of the need to think about some of the services and utilities they have taken for granted in the urban environment, such as water and sewerage.

“You’ll need to know how to maintain pumps and clear blocked drains,” it warns darkly.

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