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Government services for rural New Zealand boosted

Pre-Budget announcement - embargoed until 1am, Friday 11 May 2001

10 May 2001

Government services for rural New Zealand boosted

Government services are being brought closer again to people in rural areas with the opening of Heartland Services centres across provincial New Zealand, says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey and Minister for Rural Affairs Jim Sutton.

Mr Maharey opened the first Heartland Services Centre in Dargaville today which is to be based from the Department of Work and Income premises in Normanby Street. The Centre will serve the Kaipara district and is the first of approximately 10 Heartland Services Centres planned to be established in provincial locations around the country before Christmas this year. $2.27m is to be provided in the Budget to establish and staff the centres over the next four years.

“Heartland Services is a new government initiative which restores face to face access to a range of government services in provincial communities. Over recent years small towns across the country have experienced a flight of government services.

“People in rural areas experience significant difficulties accessing government services because of poor telephone coverage and lack of public transport.

"Heartland Service Centre coordinators will provide the link between local people making enquiries, and government agencies. A public telephone and computer is provided at each centre and the coordinator can help with general enquiries, including accessing government websites for job searches and other information.



"Government services most in demand in the Kaipara area included benefits and pensions, employment, childcare and protection, rental housing, tax and family assistance, Maori land issues and accident compensation. The centre offers a one-stop shop in a convenient location.

. . / 2

“Heartland Service centres make links to these agencies a whole lot easier, friendlier and better coordinated,” the Ministers said.

Apart from DWI and Child, Youth and Family, Heartland Services in Dargaville will involve ACC, Housing New Zealand, Inland Revenue and the Maori Land Court. Representatives from these agencies will be at the Centre at scheduled times, where possible synchronising their visits for the convenience of those using the service.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will also use the Heartland Services Centre for disseminating information. Other Government Departments have also been invited to participate.

As it develops, its is hoped the role of the Service Centre may be expanded to serve as a community resource centre, supporting community and voluntary agencies in the area when they need photocopy, facsimile, training and meeting facilities.

ENDS

Attached is a Question and Answer sheet on the Heartland Service centres.

What is Heartland Services?

Heartland Services is about improving access to Government services for people in provincial and rural New Zealand. It is also about providing more support to local voluntary groups through access to resources available within the service centres to be established in smaller provincial centres.

Heartland Services consists of two parts:

1 A service centre from where Government services can be delivered whenever Government Departments representatives are in town. These centres will, in the main, be located in the towns that serve as the administration centres of rural local authorities. However some other isolated towns of significant size such as Turangi, Murupara and Ruatoria will also have service centres.

2 An outreach service that will involve a number of agencies synchronising visits to remote communities once or twice a month to provide a face to face service to rural clients.

Why are these services being established?

- To improve access to government services for people in rural areas

- Improve government interagency collaboration

- Support community/voluntary agencies in rural areas.

Studies have shown that the past 15 years of restructuring of services has meant many rural people now just have remote access to government services. Even the commercial centres of rural districts often now have few government agencies other than schools, the Police and the Department of Work & Income.

However the populations of many small towns and rural areas are growing from natural increase and migration. Migration of people on low incomes to rural towns has led to the transfer of some urban social issues to rural areas where there are fewer on the ground support services.

Many people in rural areas see delivery of government services as fragmented and lacking in co-ordination. This can cause direct and indirect financial and other costs for rural people.

This initiative is designed to help improve the delivery of Government services.

What Government services are involved?

Departments currently collaborating on the provision of improved client services are ACC, Housing NZ, Inland Revenue, Maori Land Court and Work & Income. The Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, Te Puni Kokiri and the Community Employment Group of the Department of Labour may also be interested in using the centres for information dissemination.

A range of other Government services are being proposed by communities and the relevant Departments are being approached to participate.

District Councils may participate in outreach services in some areas.

How will these services be established?

Before a service centre is developed or an outreach service established a number of factors will have to be considered. These are:

- District council and community interest to provide local leadership and support

- The availability of suitable, existing premises (which, in relation particularly to the outreach service, offer a safe and secure environment for staff)

- The capacity of the government departments to participate

- Availability of finance (for service centres).

How will the community or voluntary sector benefit?

Community interest and support for either a service centre or an outreach service is important if their introduction is to be effective and the investment, in terms of time and travel, worthwhile. Local councils can provide leadership and community support for the service improvement.

It is a longer term aim that the service centres would see voluntary or community groups located in the same building as government agencies, so the voluntary sector can gain some tangible support from the government agencies they are working with, through sharing resources like meeting and interview rooms, training facilities and photocopying equipment.

That would provide a one-stop shop for people in the community and improve the linkages between government and community services in communities. However there are a number of issues still to be worked through in this initial stage, such as security of tenure for community organisations.

How much is Heartland Services costing?

Government is making money available in the new financial year for the establishment of service centres in up to 16 locations over the next two years. Where practicable centres will be set up in existing Government owned or leased premises.

The outreach service component of Heartland Services (which involves interagency teams travelling into remote settlements once or twice a month) is not an expensive exercise, so long as suitable premises and telephones are available. The costs of outreach services are being absorbed by participating agencies out of existing budgets.

Where else will Heartland Service Centres be established?

The initial intention is to establish service centres in Dargaville, Pukekohe, Paeroa, Te Kuiti, Taumarunui, Opotiki, Murupara, Turangi, Kawerau, Ruatoria, Taihape, Waipukurau, Dannevirke, Marton, Westport and Kaikoura. However a number of other local authorities are seeking centres in their towns including Taupo, Hawera, Hokitika and Queenstown.

Where will outreach services go?

There are potentially over 40 remote locations to which outreach services could be provided. Their introduction will depend on community interest, the availability of a suitable base and the capacity of the various Government agencies to participate.

Bases being offered to date for the periodic delivery of outreach services include iwi social service offices, medical centres, an area school community library, community resource centre, and district council service centre.

What timeframe has been set for the implementation of this initiative?

The implementation of a Heartland Service initiative in any area is dependent on district council and community support. There are currently 23 steering groups considering the potential for either a service centre or outreach service in their areas.

These groups are working at their own pace and implementation will occur as and when communities are ready for it to happen.

ENDS


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