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Government Delivers On Rural Election Pledges

The rural sector would benefit by millions from measures in the Budget, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

"Recent economic reports have shown just how crucial agriculture and the rural sector are to our country and it is important to build on that. Today's Budget includes measures to do that."

The measures included are:

*$10 million a year for three years for a sustainable resource development programme fund, the continuation of the irrigation feasibility assistance scheme initiated by AGMARDT last year, as well as funding for extra policy work on water issues;

*$3.5 million extra for Bovine TB vector control, to supplement increased spending by local authorities and farmers;

*$500,000 for issues surrounding the dairy industry structural change; · $350,000 for climate change issues; and

*$150,000 for Animal Products Act implementation.

Also included are extra funding for varroa measures and SILMA forestry issues, in primary sector portfolios looked after by other ministers.

Mr Sutton said the most important measure was the sustainable resource development programme fund.

"Before the election, I said Labour would boost funding for sustainable land management initiatives. Now, the Labour-Alliance coalition government is delivering on that promise."

The sustainable resource development contestable fund will be increased in future Budgets. It is complementary to other Government initiatives ? particularly the regional development strategy and the environmental programmes underway.

Grants will be made to fund the investigation of proposals involving the development and/or use of natural resources in agriculture. They must be able to demonstrate a clear prospect of generating sustainable economic benefits for the locality, the likelihood of explicit social benefits for the community, and environmental benefits.

Mr Sutton said MAF officials were working on how the fund would be operated. However, applications could not be accepted till late October, because of the need to work in with the Government's regional development strategy.

Mr Sutton also highlighted the extra funding to be used to combat Bovine TB.

"Bovine TB is present among our cattle and deer herds. Though it is quite different from the tuberculosis which usually affects humans, there are consumer perception issues with it in some export markets and an effective TB control programme is vital to minimise that risk."

Mr Sutton said New Zealand continued to be highly reliant on its land-based primary industries for its export earnings. Making best use now and in the future of the resources which underpin those industries was critical to the future contribution to our country's well-being.

Rural New Zealand has been through a period of painful change and change continues to happen.

"Optimising the economic contribution of the land-based primary industries need not mean sacrificing environmental values to achieve economic and social outcomes. Indeed, given consumer concerns about the environmental impacts of the production, processing, and distribution of products, the opposite is true.

"Getting the best long-term contribution from the sectors to the social fabric of rural New Zealand requires not only the best ongoing economic performance, but also a positive contribution to the quality of life of rural New Zealanders. In turn, the rural community provides the infrastructure which supports profitable primary industries."

Mr Sutton said the Labour-Alliance coalition government was committed to strengthening rural communities. As the first Rural Affairs Minister, he was dedicated to that goal.

ends

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