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Putting the heart back into rural New Zealand

Hon. Steve Maharey

Embargoed until 1am Friday, 11 May 2001
10 May 2001 Speech Notes

Putting the heart back into rural New Zealand

Comments at the launch of the Dargaville Heartland Services Centre. Department of Work and Income office, Dargaville.

Introduction

Tena koutou
Tena koutou
Tena tatau katoa

Thank you for your warm welcome and being here today in Dargaville to celebrate the launch of New Zealand’s first Heartland Services Centre – the first of about 10 we hope to establish in provincial locations around the country before Christmas this year.

I also being greetings and best wishes from my colleague, the Minister for Rural Affairs, Jim Sutton.

What a beautiful part of the country this is – and just about as different and as far away from the Beehive as you can get in New Zealand.

You have the three largest Kauri trees left in New Zealand, the longest driveable beach in the country, the longest navigable river and I hear that the trout fishing in the Kai Iwi lakes is reputed to be some of the best New Zealand has to offer. You have a lot to be proud of in this region.

Heartland Services

This launch today honours a promise the Labour Party made in its 1999 Manifesto to return Government services to rural New Zealand. Heartland Services is one way we can achieve this goal.

This Government has a commitment to rural people.

We promised and have delivered a minister of rural affairs. That means that there is now a minister – Jim Sutton – who sits in the Cabinet room ensuring that every decision that could affect rural people has been considered specifically for those effects.

That scrutiny has ensured that Telecom's Kiwishare obligations to rural people were safeguarded in the recent telecommunications review and it has prompted a review of rural school bus provision.

We don't leave it all to Jim Sutton, of course. And I'm delighted with the work my officials have done in establishing the initiative we're celebrating today.

I have been aware for some time now of particular difficulties being faced by rural communities around New Zealand.

This district in particular has been experiencing a flight of services for nearly 20 years. Many services that were once available in Dargaville have now moved across to Whangarei. For people living in the outlying parts of the Kaipara District this has meant not just a 40km drive to Dargaville, but a 100km drive to Whangarei.

For those on low incomes, the loss of services in Dargaville has made life complicated to say the least. And for those without a phone, the loss of local access to government and other services, has been really hard.

When businesses and services close or move away, entire families are lost to the district. This has a ripple-on effect and the Kaipara district now has a fairly static population. A vibrant service centre can help support the heart of the community and attract new skills, enterprises and employment into the area.

This Heartland Services initiative here in Dargaville is a first for New Zealand. It will be the start of a trend to bring services back into rural areas and help strengthen communities in the regions.

The needs of people in this area are many and varied. They are also different from the needs of people to the north and south of the district. By being on the spot, government officials will have a better idea of the real issues local people are dealing with.

The prospect of a range of government agencies setting up shop in this district is exciting. Government officials will be able to work more closely with each other at the local level, and develop partnerships with iwi and local community organisations.

What Heartland Services Centres offer

The Service Centre we are opening today, based in Department of Work and Income premises, will eventually have two functions.

Firstly it provides a one-stop-shop for the public of the Kaipara district to access, face to face the services provided by Work & Income, Housing New Zealand, ACC, Inland Revenue, Child, Youth & Family and the Maori Land Court. Information on services offered by other Departments such as the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry will also be available. And we hope to expand the range of participating Departments over time.

Secondly, in recognition of the pressures being placed on community and particularly voluntary agencies, we expect that where space permits it will be possible to develop a community resource centre to support groups needing to access photocopying, fax, or training and meeting facilities.

Not all the participating Government Departments will be in the office daily. In their absence, Heartland Services is employing a co-ordinator to provide a valuable link for the public and Departments when the departmental representatives are not there.

That co-ordinator will be able to help enquirers making telephone contact with Departments either by using a public phone or computer on the premises. They will also be able to assist people access information from government websites.

A nationwide initiative

Around the country we have over 20 steering groups developing proposals for either Service Centres or outreach services. Those most advanced include proposals for service centres in Pukekohe, Turangi, Murupara, Ruatoria, Opotiki and Waipukurau.

Proposals to provide outreach services to Kaeo, East Coast, Mangakino, Ranfurly, Wanaka and Cromwell are also well advanced.

This is a great start and one that I am sure will be appreciated by communities around New Zealand.

Conclusion and thanks

Here in Dargaville the Service Centre has become a reality through the hard work and support of many people.

I can’t mention them all, but would like to acknowledge the sponsorship of the project by Graeme Ramsey, Mayor of Kaipara District, and Work and Income Regional Commissioner Sharon Brownie, along with Service Centre Manager Jackie Theobald and the many other agencies and people involved.

Their community spirit and drive is to be commended.

Once again, thank you for your warm hospitality. I look forward to returning in the near future to see how Heartland Services is progressing. Maybe even for a spot of mountain bike riding.

ENDS

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