the two dynamic women behind the $1,500 “Virbac Rural Women New Zealand Animal Health Graduate Grant”

This grant is available to veterinarians or veterinary nurses who’re either seeking employment or are already employed to work and live in one of NZs smaller centres or rural areas. 

The grant is to provide support and/or assistance to the recipient(s) who’re starting their careers or new life in their chosen small centre or rural community.

We’d originally planned to record this week’s episode at Virbac’s office here in Kirikiriroa Hamilton but we ended up implementing Plan B when Godzone Aotearoa NZ went into various levels of Covid-19 induced lockdown. 

Plan B meant using Zoom – so the audio quality in places is a bit Zoom-like – with some digital time lag and then catchup.  Apologies in advance for that.

Women behind the initiative

Katie Turner – Virbac’s Digital Product Manager and Fiona Gower, Immediate Past President of Rural Women New Zealand.

Virbac New Zealand

Virbac New Zealand is an independent pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor that offers New Zealand veterinarians, farmers and pet owners a comprehensive and practical range of veterinary products and services.  The range covers the majority of species and pathologies, including antibiotics, vaccines, parasiticides and diagnostics.

From humble beginnings as Techvet Laboratories in 1993, to the acquisition of the Stockguard group of companies in 2012, Virbac New Zealand has grown to be the no. 5 animal health company in New Zealand. 

Virbac employs 70 Waikatoites in sales, marketing, finance, operations, quality, and research development and licensing.  All are based out of the sterile/GMP-accredited manufacturing facility, distribution centre and office in Pukete, Hamilton.  

GMP or Good Manufacturing Practice is the term used to describe the systems manufacturers of medicines are required to have in place to ensure their products are consistently safe, effective and of acceptable quality. The requirements are expressed in a code of practice referred to as a Code of GMP.

Rural Women New Zealand

Rural Women New Zealand has been an integral part of New Zealand’s rural landscape since almost forever.

From their early days as the Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union back in 1925, Rural Women New Zealand has become an authoritative voice on health services, education, environment and social issues in the rural sector.   

Rural Women New Zealand seeks to empower rural women and girls by nurturing their talents and encouraging its members to develop their skills through leadership roles within branches and provincials.  They hope to see their members turn these talents towards leadership roles in their communities.  

In addition to leadership and empowerment, Rural Women New Zealand provides both social and business networking opportunities for members to connect and reconnect.

As we’ll hear in today’s episode, one of the things that was equally attractive and important to both Rural Women New Zealand and Virbac was the values that each organisation stood by.

Rural Women New Zealand’s values are:

  • Charitable – to continue their traditional role of supporting rural communities.  
  • Forward thinking – to lead the development of strong rural environments for today and the future.
  • Flexible – to be creative, proactive and innovative
  • Professional – to be reputable and use best practice, and
  • Inclusive – to welcome diversity in all its forms.

Virbac’s values are to:

  • Nurture entrepreneurship – to show initiative and boldness … to venture off the beaten track.
  • Stimulate innovation – each action is nourished by creativity and an astute mindset … a commitment to offering evermore ingenious and useful solutions for their customers.
  • Demonstrate their engagement – they work with passion to do the best possible job in each and every project.
  • Foster a customer driven approach – they’re mindful of the expectations of veterinarians, farmers and pet owners … they want to anticipate needs and provide useful lasting solutions that improve veterinary practice and animal qualify of life.
  • Pay attention to people – they pride themselves on providing all employees with an environment of continuous development, so they can grow and move the company forward in an environment where sharing and team spirit are key.
  • Choose sustainability – they’re always careful to only make high-quality investments and emphasise long-term profitability above short-term pay-offs. They believe that performance is only sustainable when adopting an approach that simultaneously reconciles economic growth, care for people and the environment.   They consider it their responsibility to find the best balance among those three dimensions – economic growth + people care + the environment.

Questions asked and topics discussed

As with all great ideas – they become even better when more minds and ideas are called into the mix.  I wanted to know how the grant first come into existence and how much did it change from the original idea to what we have today.

I got the impression that Fiona and Katy were great friends – did they know each other before they started working together on the grant?

As you heard, it was Virbac that first approached Rural Women New Zealand.  It came out of the blue.  What were Fiona’s first impressions?

When Katy first approached Rural Women New Zealand was she fixed with this is the grant, help us find a recipient or was Virbac open to ideas and input?

There were many different organisations Virbac could have chosen to partner this grant with.  Why did they choose RWNZ?

Regardless of how open minded we all like to think we are, we all go into situations with preconceived ideas.  I asked Katy what she thought Rural Women New Zealand was and then what did she discover about them, after working alongside Fiona and her team to get the grant to where it is today?

Fiona then shared her experience of Virbac – her prior knowledge and then what she discovered along the way of working with Katy and her team to get the grant to where it is today.

What ideas does both Rural Women New Zealand and Virbac have for how the grant might be used?

One of the aims of this grant is that it will help or encourage a veterinary professional to ditch townie life in the fast lane and move into rural Godzone.  I invited Fiona to share what was really so good about living rurally.

Different cities have their own vibe and personality.  Similar to different veterinary clinics within the bigger corporate groups.  Is that the same for different rural areas?  Do different rural towns, or villages, have their own vibe as well?

Who is eligible to apply for this grant?

Upping sticks and moving into the country is a major change.  It’s something I’d absolutely love to do myself – especially after listening to Fiona describe what life is like in rural Godzone. 

I also asked her what things a townie should consider before making the change.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the jokes about the Queen Street Farmers, or the Lambton Quay Farmers.  Here in Hamilton, you’d be known as a Victoria Street Farmer.

But seriously, all jokes and labels aside, if someone’s serious about moving into Heartland New Zealand, what should they avoid doing, or saying or wearing to avoid the eye-rolls and raised eyebrows of the locals?

How easy is it?  Has Fiona seen it work for people to put on their redbands and make a success of living rural?

I get to chat with different veterinary clinics in different parts of Godzone every week.  I hear one side of what life is like right now – it’s filtered through the glasses of veterinary shortages. 

Fiona’s lens is different – hers is hands-on.  The veterinary shortage affects her in a completely different way to how it affects townies. 

I asked her what it was like in rural veterinary clinics right now.

Now – hopefully – there are a few veterinarians, veterinary technicians and / or veterinary nurses who’ve been listening to Fiona and Katy today and have decided they’d either like to move to a smaller rural area of New Zealand and apply for the grant at the same time, or that they’re already living in Heartland Aotearoa and would like to apply.  What do they do?  What’s the criteria and how do they apply for the grant?

Virbac Rural Women New Zealand Animal Health Graduate Grant Application Form

What expectations do Rural Women New Zealand and Virbac have of grant recipients?   Is there a use-by date?

It takes a lot of people lots of time to put something like this together. 

Let’s assume there are listeners who’ve been inspired by listening to both Katy and Fiona today, how would they go about joining or supporting Rural Women New Zealand?