FarmersWeekly covered the work Sally did as a vet during the period when Patoka community was completely cut off from the town by Cyclone Gabrielle. Read it below or read it on their website here.
Help for creatures great and small in cyclone-ravaged Pātoka
by Craig Page, FarmersWeekly
March 8, 2023
From stapling wounds on a pet chicken’s neck to treating farm dogs injured while bounding over slip-covered paddocks in search of missing livestock, it has been like old times for Sally Newall, Pātoka’s only resident veterinarian, since the arrival of Cyclone Gabrielle last month.
Newall hadn’t worked at a vet practice for five years but, with Pātoka isolated after the cyclone destroyed roads and bridges, her skills were called on to help in the aftermath.
“I’m the only vet that’s based out here so I’m doing the small-animal stuff, emergency work and putting animals down that need to be put down,” Newall said.
When Farmers Weekly called, she was on her way to yet another call-out, this time to remove staples from the neck of Hershey, a pet chicken who was attacked by two dogs.
“I stapled it up last weekend. It’s a pet chicken that belongs to a teenager and it is her absolute pride and joy.
Vets from around the region have been flown to Pātoka to tend to the larger animals on farms. But small animals and routine work, such as vaccinations, have fallen to Newall. A sleep-out at her and husband Nathan’s bull beef farm has been converted into a temporary clinic.
“It’s been stressful for people. As well as not being able to get yourself to town, you can’t get your animals to town if there is a problem with them.
“Having a vet here relieves a bit of that stress. It’s nice that you can use your skills to help.”
Newall said injuries to working dogs have been among the most common complaints. The ground is wet and unstable, and dogs have been working hard to get stock back into paddocks.
“There were quite a few injuries – wounds to dress and staple up and lots of antibiotics.”
Getting medical supplies to the isolated area was initially a challenge, although large-animal clinics in Hawke’s Bay had helped out, as did donations from Auckland vet clinics.
“I’ve been trying to get in contact with MPI to have a smooth run of supplies but that has been really difficult. Now, three weeks in, we’re starting to get a process in place but it was quite a headache to get those wheels to turn,” Newall said.
She has also been spreading the word through her popular Facebook page, Kiwi Country Kids. The page was set up in March 2020, during covid, as a way to share her family’s farming life through lockdown.
Its following encouraged Newall to continue the page “to educate people about farming, but also trying to counter some of the misinformation about farming as well”.
“I put up a post saying we were short of animal feed. We got absolutely overwhelmed with donations.
“The page has gone from strength to strength and it’s great when it can help support a community.”
Newall said the main things locals now need are reliable road access and support with decision making.
A culvert has been installed at Rissington but access is reliant on weather conditions being right. No date has been set for when a Bailey bridge will be installed, which is frustrating locals.
“The adrenaline is wearing off now. People are tired and thinking about what is going to happen over the next few months and they’re getting quite down about it. We need to get feed in and stock out.
“The biggest help with mental health would be for the big bodies in farming to come in with practical solutions in how to help.
“Without a reliable way of getting to town, we are in this no man’s land.”