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Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 5
As a teenager growing up in
Christchurch, Mary Molloy
brought a horse back home one
day. Her mum gently explained
there just was not enough room
for a horse, but it was a strong
hint of what would become a
lifelong close relationship with animals.
Mary was born over the hill , the eldest of five
girls. Her dad died when they were quite young, but
thanks to his influence and their mum they were all
fed, well educated, and sent into the world with a
Mary started work with Early Bros (now EBos),
working her way up. She taught herself to use
the Burrows book-keeping machine, an early
accounting machine which retained a typewriter-
At the time her husband-to-be Lindsay Molloy,
whose family hailed from the Moana-Kotuku
area, was studying at Lincoln. Mary s uncle had
a dry stock farm and she had spent lots of time
there, so when she and Lindsay married in 1970
they got a place on a Cambridge farm working
for Geoff Laurent, who went on to set up Shoof
International. ey later moved to Tokoroa under
Dudley Lane, another big player in the farming
e young Molloys thrived with the help of their
mentors, and through lots of hard yakka. ey had
started married life with the airfare to the North
Island and did the rest themselves.
"Once we became sharemilkers I became more
hands-on. We had two children back then, I would
have one on my back and one walking. ey learned
a lot of self-discipline. But I did put them first," she
laughs, describing a happy childhood down by the
e couple suggested that the Young Farmers and
Country Girls clubs merge, and they did. Soon,
things became political; subsidies on farms were
under threat, and the New Zealand Workers Union
wanted all farm workers to join.
It was important in two ways --- it was her first
foray in politics, and it was the first time she got
involved in poison control, successfully arguing that
all poisons should display a decent-sized skull and
crossbones and advice on what to do in the event of
In time, the Molloys heard that a farm at Hari
Hari needed sharemilkers, and that it could be
available to buy later. Today they remain on the
same farm, though it is considerably bigger than it
was when they were sharemilking. Back then, it was
a one-man unit , but Mary laughs at the term: "It
took one man, his wife and all his children to run
it."She loved it. Loved the bush ("the birdlife, and
no more pine trees"). Hari Hari then was a thriving
community at the head of South Westland, with
several sawmills in the district.
She became an adult literacy tutor, and also began
helping people navigate government departments
or understand what their doctor had said.
But Hari Hari was in the eye of the native logging
storm. e mills were all closed, and the population
plummeted from 600 to 300. e Post Office,
bank and general store all shut. In the midst of the
upheaval, the Hari Hari Community Association
In time, farming expanded, the roll at the
composite South Westland Area School has
strengthened, and the new all-purpose facility the
community association has promoted for seven
years is about to get under way.
Back in their first days at Hari Hari the Molloys
also ran a fair number of deer. Dr Paul Livingstone,
now a senior manager at Tb Free New Zealand,
was then a veterinarian with the Ministry of
Agriculture and at the time was trying to establish a
tuberculosis (Tb) test that would work for deer.
"One farmer had brought in a lot of deer off the
back of a helicopter. ey had massive reactions to
the Tb test," Mary said.
More than 100 had to be killed on the farm, so
Mary and Lindsay went to help. However, when
autopsies were carried out on the carcases, including
the lymphs, they were found to be disease-free.
"It was pretty shocking. It irritated me; I started
About the same time the first 1080 aerial poison
drops were under way from fixed-wing planes. e
authorities assured Mary it was for the "industry
She exchanged "information" with Dr Livingstone,
asking why cattle were tested, but not sheep, goats,
pigs or donkeys.
"When we got here, there were birds absolutely
ere were also possums, which they trapped and
shot on the farm. Native birds remain, but not in
the same numbers, she says.
e toxin 1080 --- outlawed in most of the world,
but used liberally in New Zealand --- got rid of the
possums in the adjacent bush. It also dealt to the
birdlife outside the farm, she claims.
What birds are heard now? "Magpies ... starlings.
A couple of black-backed gulls, and I hear spur-
winged plovers ..."
She is not amused.
"We can t show our grandchildren what we
showed our children."
About seven years ago, she set up the lobby group
Farmers Against Ten Eighty. It aims to have a fresh
pair of eyes look at the bovine Tb problem, a new
attitude, more farmer responsibility.
e Molloy farm, she points out, is and always has
been Tb-free, without 1080.
"We (farmers) are taught that Tb is not our fault,
it s the naughty possum. I don t think possums
are involved, except where they have contact with
Several years ago, during a poison drop at Blue
Spur, Hokitika, Mary went toe-to-toe with a
contractor. In the end the protesting group there
got the police out to close the cycle track through
the drop zone.
It is that same spirit that led her on to the West
Coast District Health Board, and into the chair of
the local school board of trustees.
She still does some stock work, and the bookwork,
but her milking days are over. She never was a
morning person; when it was her turn to milk she
would use the trusty dog to round up the cows
while she did the school run.
Somehow, there are enough hours in the day to
garden, and chair the West Coast Community
Trust, which distributes community grants. She
knits and spins, belongs to the South Westland
Bowhunting Club ("though not the most
successful"), and loves travelling here and overseas,
interacting with different people and understanding
how they use their land.
Coming full circle, she also cares for her horses.
She spent nine years on the Appaloosa Horse Breed
Council and at one point had 30 horses of her own.
e couple also have six grandchildren, with a
seventh on the way, and of course Mary is busy
knitting baby clothes.
Reflecting on a busy life, she says she believes in
grabbing at opportunities offered.
"We were lucky that we took them."
She also notes the support from her husband and
family: " ey boost my confidence and give me a
rocket when that is needed, too."
Hari Hari PICTURE: Laura Mills
Hari Hari farmer Mary Molloy can milk a cow, knit and spin, and she can also argue science with the heads of the
country s pest control agencies. LAURA MILLS discovers how the founder of the anti-1080 poison lobby group
Farmers Against Ten Eighty got started.battler
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