16 November 2018
Juggling contract milking 400 cows, being a volunteer firefighter and an active member of Marton Young Farmers is all in a day’s work for Michael McCombs.
It takes Michael just three minutes to drive from the Manawatu dairy farm he calls home to Kimbolton’s fire station. The small one-truck station is staffed by community-minded people like Michael, who generously volunteer their time.
“I can hear the station’s siren from the farm,” he says. “The moment it goes off, I stop what I’m doing and jump in the car. The other morning the siren sounded just as I’d finished feeding the calves and the artificial insemination (AI) technician had pulled up.”
Within minutes Michael was on the scene of a ferocious house fire in Cheltenham.
“The house was well ablaze by the time our crew got there. We were one of six trucks called to battle the blaze, and most of the 40-odd firefighters were volunteers. Tackling a massive fire like that takes a huge community effort.”
The Marton Young Farmers member joined the New Zealand Fire Service four years ago. He’s been part of the Kimbolton Volunteer Fire Brigade for three years and finds it hugely rewarding.
“We train once a fortnight and we prepare for everything,” he says.
“A lot of our callouts are health-related. It gives local people peace of mind to know a familiar face will turn up if there’s an emergency.”
Michael’s dedication as a volunteer has helped him win a NZ Young Farmers Excellence Award. The awards are designed to recognise members who are leaders, achievers and role models.
“I was stoked just to be nominated, and to make the top six was a pretty cool achievement in itself. I’ve been in and out of hospital a couple of times this spring. So it was nice to take a minute and realise I’m being recognised for what I do.”
Michael’s club mates are buzzing about his win, including Samantha Tennent who nominated him for the award.
“Michael deserves to be recognised. He does a lot for our club and the community and never toots his own horn,” says Samantha.
Michael’s in his second season contract milking 400 cows through a 32-aside herringbone milking shed in Kimbolton. The location of the nearest fire station is a major factor when deciding whether to take a job.
“I’m lucky I have a supportive farm owner and staff member, which is vital,” he says.
Kimbolton’s chief fire officer Tony McIntyre said New Zealand needs more volunteers like Michael.
“He’s bloody brilliant. He’s 100 per cent committed and he’s always there. If we have training, he’ll get up earlier to milk beforehand,” says Tony. “It’s an ongoing struggle to find volunteers, so our brigade is extremely lucky to have someone as dedicated as Michael.”
The 26-year-old joined Marton Young Farmers just over four years ago. He’s always had a role on the committee and even served as club chair.
“I often use our club meetings as an opportunity to encourage members who’re close to fire stations to join them. There is so much to gain by volunteering. You learn first aid skills, give back to your community and it’s a great way to meet the locals,” he says.