Kristy McGregor and her partner, a 50/50 sharemilker, live together on his family farm in the Horowhenua. She makes no false pretences about it – she doesn’t consider herself a farmer, but she does have an appreciation for rural communities, and the place of agriculture in them. Kristy wears a number of hats, she is a policy advisor working on resource management and local government issues and a Masters student at Massey University looking at community and stakeholders in policy development. As well as this she is a lover of cooking and good food "that’s an important part of the industry, right?" and a founder of community projects both in remote Australia and rural New Zealand.
Kristy grew up on the edge of Sydney, in what once was a small country town, now swallowed by growing suburbia. She wanted to leave Sydney as soon as she was able, drawn by the vastness of out west. At seventeen she headed to university in Wagga Wagga, NSW. Every uni break was spent travelling further west and north, to cattle stations in Australia’s vast outback; meeting new people, who soon seemed like old friends.
Working a wet season in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory, Kristy decided she wasn’t heading back south to uni. The allure of Northern Australia was too great. She then took a job on Durham Downs Station, on the Queensland/SA border in the Channel Country, as a governess for four boys, teaching them via School of Distance Education. She didn’t know it at the time, because taking a job on a property is a bit of a gamble, but she would later become good friends with the station managers, and in the two years at Durham, collaborated on the first annual Channel Country Ladies Day. This event was founded to bring women from across remote Queensland, South Australia and north-west New South Wales together, using the arts for wellbeing outcomes. "I’m incredibly proud of how far it has come over the past six years, and I continue to be involved because I believe in what we’re doing."
After a few months travelling, a short stint in north Queensland, and another in the Torres Strait off Cape York, the strong sense of community in western Queensland drew Kristy back, and she ended up in Longreach working on a preventative health project that took her to fifteen remote communities across the Central West. It was while in Longreach that she met her partner, who was a few months later heading home to NZ and embarking on taking over the running of the family farm. And so, rather unexpectedly, Kristy found herself getting a good introduction to rural New Zealand.
She is now working in the Federated Farmers Regional Policy team, on complex resource management issues across the Marlborough and Horizons regions. "I’m passionate about building strong relationships with stakeholders, including local government, iwi, environmentalists and within the primary sector. I’m interested in meaningful community engagement, which leaves people feeling though their voice is heard, and ensures the best outcome for policy development – which has influenced the subject of my Masters thesis, which I’m currently undertaking."
Alongside this, last year with a few local growers in the Horowhenua, Kristy founded the Horowhenua Taste Trail, an event that celebrates the array of quality local produce in the District, connects the local community with their producers, and importantly builds community pride. They have plans to grow this event over time.
Despite being just across the Tasman, there are many differences between life on a farm in NZ and outback Australia – not just in distance, but for Kristy most notably, in social interaction and sense of community. After three years of complaining about the lack of social opportunities and chance to dress up and go out, at least in the Horowhenua. In a few weeks time In Vogue in the Village is going to transform a small village hall back to the roaring 1920’s, with a live band and cocktail bar. "With a few projects in the pipeline, and an ever-growing list of concepts to develop, what makes me excited is the opportunity to create ripples of change through community events, and the arts." Kristy still remain closely connected to western Queensland, and is fortunate that she is able to work with communities across both rural Australia and New Zealand. "I am really passionate about creating positive change, building resilience and vibrancy in our small rural communities, across both Australia and New Zealand. It’s about more than just the agriculture, but ultimately, it’s good for the industry"
Kristy you are a fantastic change maker and rural advocate which New Zealand is very lucky to have gained. We hope that you will continue your quest of developing resilience and positive change in our rural communities, and that these opportunities grow.