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May 17, 2010 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Friendly Feilding

In writing this article, I am facing a past that I have spent the last five years trying to escape. I am finally admitting a shameful secret, an experience so terrifying that small children shudder in terror. Or laughter. (I’ve found that, in this case, there’s a fine line between the two.)

My initial response, when asked to write of my hometown, was to refuse. When I first moved into a Vic hall of residence, I was ridiculed about my origins. I was mocked by a girl from Waipukurau. A guy from Wainuiomata literally pointed at me and cackled. The people on my floor thought they would display their superior wit by pinning the name of my hometown to my bedroom door, to ensure that any mere passers-by could participate in the humiliation. It would be an understatement to say that I was in no rush to re-embrace my past.

However, after pondering the request a little longer, I decided that it was time to come clean. Surrounded by others who were revealing their origins, in an issue dedicated to small towns, I felt that I was in a safe environment. It could be cathartic, I told myself. It could prove invigorating. *Deep breath*

My name is Franchesca and I come from Feilding.

Feilding has a bad reputation. Not in the ‘you-will-probably-get-beaten-up-by-12-year-olds-in-the-square’ way like Palmerston North, but more in the ‘you-will-probably-die-of-boredom-before-you-reach-12’ kind of way. For some reason, a community that labels itself ‘Friendly Feilding’, and has won the title of New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town umpteen times, doesn’t garner too many cool points nationwide.

During my teenage years, this was exacerbated by the fact that the Holy Trinity of Feilding consisted of Rugby, Farming and God—generally in that order. When I attended FAHS—Feilding High School, the 1st XV rugby team were at their peak. The Whitelocks—a local rugby-playing family dynasty, three of whom now play for the Crusaders—were attending the school and, as a result, the team dominated almost any opposition they faced. Assemblies became little more than a bi-weekly wank-fest, where the principal proudly recited who made what representative team, who scored what try and who kicked what conversion. For many Feilding residents, a ‘cultural experience’ involved putting on the school colours, slipping on some gumboots and attending a rugby game. When the team met their arch-nemesis, Palmerston North Boys High School, 5000 people attended the match. Unlike the Crusaders, the 1st XV never had to drop their ticket prices to entice people to their game.

Feilding is a farming community. You can tell, because each Friday an unpleasant smell permeates the town as stock is transported in for the weekly sale. My farmer grandfather once told me that it was the smell of money. It put me off ever wanting to become a millionaire. When I first started high school, it was named Feilding Agricultural High School in honour of the school’s two working farms. While we didn’t have the numbers to sustain a Classics course, enough students were interested in the reproductive system of the school pigs to justify numerous Agriculture classes. For those of us who chose to take the bedrocks of Western education such as History, English, French and Geography, we were assured that our working farms were to our benefit as well. They gave us an edge over other schools, we were told. It showed the school’s diversity in the cut-throat world of secondary education. However, such justifications didn’t really help as we were being accused of bestiality at every inter-school sports exchange we ever attended.

For the 18 years that I lived in Feilding, it was generally accepted that if you were a true member of the community, you went to church. Despite the large question mark that I had hanging over my religious beliefs (aided, no doubt, by the fact that my mother had scorned institutionalised religion during my childhood in favour of the Spiritualist Church, where my siblings and I received new ‘spirit names’), the lack of local entertainment also drove me to God. Until my friends realised that if they kept inviting me, I would continue to argue with their pastors over the divinity of Jesus, my Friday nights were spent at various youth groups. Religion is so central to Feilding residents, that in a recent visit to the town I counted four churches in a one-kilometre stretch of road.

Yet, given the confessional nature of this article, I must admit that I loved growing up in Feilding. My childhood was literally a cheesy American family movie. Days were spent biking along tree-lined streets with the kids from next door, making forts and terrorising our younger sisters. We walked to school, spent the summer swimming in the river and played mini-golf at the Rotary-owned golf course. Feilding was a town where you could leave the door unlocked when you popped down to the supermarket. It was safe and, apart from the dairy owner who used to yell at us for taking too long to choose our one-cent lollies, everyone was cheerful. Despite the Holy Trinity, it can’t have been all bad. What I am today is a product of Feilding; and I think I turned out all right.


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Comments (12)

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  1. Rambo says:

    Franchesca from Feilding. Me and G-Money fully enjoyed reading your article. Especially the part about the ‘biweekly wankfest’. Love it. CHur chur chur

  2. K HATTLE says:

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…Love it chessa, LOVE IT!!!

  3. Laura says:

    You need to give Feilding more credit than one paragraph at the end, that most people won’t read because reading through your complaints gets old. You’re just perpetuating stereotypes – I grew up in Feilding and I didn’t come across religion as being so crucial to the town. In fact 80% of the Feilding people I know well aren’t religious.
    I’ve also never had people ridicule the fact that I’m from Feilding, are you certain theres no exaggerating going on?
    Growing up in a small town allowed me a childhood where I kept my innocence, and I’m proud of where I’m from.
    On a slightly different note – good luck ever buying your first home anywhere other than a small town like Feilding. While you can get a 2 bedroom starter home that needs thousands of dollars invested in it to make it comfortable and warm in Wellington (maybe out in Johnsonville?), 250k can get you a beautiful three bedroom family home with a garden and a lawn, close to town in an area where your children can walk to the dairy without being kidnapped.

  4. Sarah Robson says:

    I’m from Feilding. I’ve been ridiculed about being from Feilding. No exaggeration. It was all in jest, of course. A lot the people I went to school with are religious. I’m not. I’d suggest that Franchesca’s account of her time in Feilding is wholly accurate. Especially if you went to Feilding High School.

  5. smackdown says:

    i went to friendly fielding and said hello and someone said hello back and smiled and bought me an ice block from the makino aquatic centre good times great times

  6. G says:

    I have wittnessed a few people who grew up in Feilding literally shudder at the mention of the place. However my childhood was fairly good.

    But my motto about my town is “get out or get pregnant..”


  7. Thanks guys for all of the comments. Much appreciated!

    In response to Laura: as you can probably tell, due to the lack of quotes from outside sources, this is an opinion piece. My opinion. And in my opinion (and experience, having lived in Feilding for 18 years) the town is pretty much as I stated. Of course there are positive elements to the town…the only problem is that as I was writing the article, I couldn’t think of any.

    You have suggested that I overstated the ridicule that I received due to my origins. Believe me, I didn’t. I can get the girl from Waipuk, the guy from Wainui and the sign (which I still have!) to verify this, if you would like.

    Believe it or not, at this stage of my life, buying a three bedroom house with a garden and lawn are not on the top of my list in deciding whether or not a town is worthy of my praise. Quite frankly, I would rather shell out thousands of dollars to make a 2 bedroom starter comfortable than re-expose myself to small-town living.

    And on a final note, are you perpetuating a stereotype of city-living by suggesting that children are kidnapped in the city, but not in Feilding? Did you hear that over the weekend a man was kidnapped in Feilding and tied in a shipping container? Check out the website.

  8. Horace says:

    I too grew up in Feilding, and did the whole Feilding Ag thing (as it was then known). Franchesca, whilst you are entitled to your opinion, it is a little tiring. Why is it the trend these days to bag the small town where you came from, once you reach the ‘big city’? I can appreciate those who get used to that lifestyle may in comparison find Feilding a bore, but you risk sounding elitist bagging those who choose to make Feilding home – people whom include my family (and yes, no doubt yours too). Feilding, like many other small towns, does have a particular rural flavour. But who are we to rubbish that just because it’s not our scene? I don’t doubt that people may have mocked your origins – but you’ll find in time that this is probably a maturity thing, and people get over it. And from my experience I never found Feilding overly religious – who cares if it was anyway, each to their own.

    End point – get over it! I’m so sick of people who end up in Wgtn/Akl/Chch and find that suddenly they are too good for Feilding. Feilding has a lot to offer for some people, it may not be to your liking, but that doesn’t give you the right to trash it. And seriously, if the most you have to complain about it the ‘overly religous’ and the domination of the 1st XV, then I’d say that’s really not much to complain about at all.

  9. Franchesca Walker says:

    Maybe I should clear something up: I am elitist, and a snob. I whole-heartedly embrace those aspects of my personality, and did so as I insulted Feilding (while I was living there) and continue to do so as I insult Wellington in my daily conversations (I don’t consider it a ‘big city’, and actually think it is rather small). Indeed, my elitism and snobbish-ness literally has no limits, and no settlement (be it big or small) is exempt.

    To all of those who have disagreed with the sentiments I put forward in the piece, I challenge you to write an interesting article about the positive aspects of Feilding – without falling into an abyss of rainbows and butterflies – and send it to Sarah, the editor of Salient. Being a Feilding girl as well, I’m sure she would love to publish it.

    Oh, and no members of my family live in Feilding anymore. They now live in Perth, W.A., which influenced my point that while Feilding may be a great place in childhood, it’s not really a place to stick around once you hit puberty.

  10. Elle says:

    Good on you, Franchesca, for responding to these comments and defending your opinion – it’d be all too easy to ignore them. I come from a small town, too, and besides familial ties, I have no desire to return there ever again. And the man-being-abducted-and-tied-up-in-a-shipping-container story is pretty eye-opening.

  11. smackdown says:


    Welp, that’s all I’ve got to say. Seeya, Salient.

  12. Adam G says:

    Makino Aquatic Centre was ace as a kid taking the drive in from mighty Ashhurst. Get an iceblock, go swimming, hit the putt-putt, get some fried chicken at that awesome place that isn’t K-Fry. Good times as a nine year old. Not so good now.

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