Expansion for online rural mate, Wiggy

No CCraig and Annabelle Wiggins were surprised with gifts from the rural community for their good work this year. PHOTO ANGELA CUSHNIE

The founder of Whatever with Wiggy, a word-of-mouth online forum for people nationwide in rural communities, has been praised by his peers for keeping members connected and sane during Covid-19.

Traditionally a behind-the-scenes type of guy, Craig Wiggins of Mid Canterbury puts himself out there to help farmers.

Fellow Mid Cantabrian Angela Cushnie, organised a thank you surprise for Mr Wiggins from the members nationwide which was delivered last week: Members bought a Te Wepu retreat voucher for Craig and wife Annabelle to enjoy in remote Banks Peninsula, a Cleaver’s Corner restaurant voucher for the whole family to enjoy a meal together and a few treats for the festive season.

“Craig has given generously of his time, energy and knowledge,” Angela said. “He understands the importance of connecting people and has been very involved in advocating for rural New Zealand for many years, wearing lots of different hats.

“The secret of Wiggy’s success is his grassroots approach to tackling the topics that matter. He keeps things real and gives everyone a chance to be heard which is something the group appreciates.”

Mr Wiggins is a public figure working as an MC, columnist, videographer, sports commentator, horse trainer and farmer. And in his spare time he is a rural health advocate and farmer wellbeing champion.

Mid Canterbury-based wellness advocate Pup Chamberlain, who has sat in on a number of Whatever with Wiggy Zoom meetings, said anything that reached out to people and gave information was helpful to people’s wellbeing, especially to those in isolated rural communities.

Wiggy covered a range of topics current relevant to those in the rural communities that week. The discussions he facilitated gave farmers and others in the rural industry a chance to vent, or just connect with others, he said.

Northland farmers Suzanne and Terence Brocx, who were in Mid Canterbury last week, said the online platform allowed them to be a part of, and connected with farmers from all around New Zealand in a time where food and fibre industries are vital to New Zealand’s prosperity.

“It has widened our understanding of New Zealand farming issues outside of our usual dairy focus.

“Wiggy’s great facilitation allows everyone to input, debate and think about potential solutions to nationwide issues,” they said.

“We love the thinking, challenging conversations and friendship this group has grown. A highlight of a recent trip south was meeting Wiggy as well as a few other www’ers.

The online sessions started during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown as a way to connect with other farmers.

In early March Craig had a whiteboard and diary full of engagements then suddenly he had nothing.

He knew he wouldn’t be the only one and set up a word of mouth Zoom session; 15 people turned up.

It had since morphed into a real support and a current affairs network.

Guest speakers included Sir David Fagan, Hamish Marr, politicians David Bennett and Barbara Kuriger, and Damien O’Connor. And they have covered a range of topics including migrant workers, road user taxes, sharemilking issues, and glyphosate use and all under Chatham House Rules to allow free discussion.

Some of the discussion topics have made it into mainstream media and to Parliament.

Hopkins Farming Group chief operating officer Heidi Sixtus, who has taken on the social media, PR and business manager role, will restart doing some of the facilitating as Whatever with Wiggy expands in 2021.

“Our posts, vlogs etc are reaching 15-20k people most times, our Zoom Thursday nights are anywhere from 40-100 interacting people depending on time of year,” she said.

As well as starting the chat room, Mr Wiggins also teamed up with Rakaia GP Dr Sue Fowlie to found a mobile health clinic for farmers.

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