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Kaikohe Heartland Services Centre opens

Kaikohe Heartland Services Centre opens

The Kaikohe Heartland Services Centre, opened today by Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton, is the fourth such centre to be opened since May.

Mr Sutton said the Heartland Services initiative was an important part of the Government's commitment to rural people.

"It also honours a promise that the Labour Party made in its 1999 manifesto to return Government services to rural New Zealand. This Government keeps its promises."

He said another 20 proposals for centres or outreach services were currently being worked on. The most advanced include proposals for service centres in Kaitaia, Pukekohe, Hawera, Kawerau, Opotiki, and Waipukurau.

There should be at least six more service centres opened before Christmas.

Mr Sutton said the Kaikohe centre opened today would eventually have two functions.

"Firstly it provides a one-stop shop for the public of the mid north of the district to access, face to face the services provided by Work & Income, Housing NZ Corp., ACC, Courts, Inland Revenue and Child, Youth & Family. 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."

Mr Sutton said the Kaikohe centre was based at the Work and Income Service premises. Not all the participating government agencies would be in the office every day and a Heartland Services co-ordinator will be employed five days a week between the hours of 10am and 2pm to provide a valuable link for the public and departments when the departmental representatives are not there.


Hon Jim Sutton
Speech Notes

Heartland Services Centre opening, Kaikohe

Tena koutou Tena koutou Tena koutou katoa

Thank you for your warm welcome and being here today in Kaikohe to celebrate the launch of the Kaikohe Heartland Service Centre ? the fourth of about 10 we hope to establish in provincial locations around the country before Christmas this year.

I also bring greetings and best wishes from my colleague, the Minister of Social Services and Employment, Steve Maharey who is co-leading this project with me.

The Heartland Service Centres we are opening in Kaikohe today and elsewhere around the country this year honours a promise that 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 I am, in my capacity as Minister for Rural Affairs, in a position to ensure that every decision Cabinet makes 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 promoted a review of rural school bus provision.

The Labour-Alliance Government has 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 Kaikohe are only available in Whangarei. For people living in the outlying parts of the District such as the Hokianga this has meant not just a ¾ of an hour long drive to Kaikohe but another ¾ hour drive to Whangarei.

For those on low incomes, the unavailability of services in Kaikohe 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 Kaikohe 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 Kaikohe, following our first service centre launch in Dargaville in May, 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.

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

Firstly it provides a one-stop shop for the public of the mid north of the district to access, face to face the services provided by Work & Income, Housing NZ Corp., ACC, Courts, Inland Revenue and Child, Youth & Family. 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.

Around the country we have more than 20 steering groups developing proposals for either Service Centres or outreach services. Those most advanced include proposals for service centres in Kaitaia, Pukekohe, Hawera, Kawerau, Opotiki, and Waipukurau.

Proposals to provide outreach services to outlying rural settlements are also well advanced with recent launches in the Central Otago towns of Ranfurly, Wanaka and Cromwell, and the Bay of Plenty township of Katikati.

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

Here in Kaikohe 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 the Work and Income Regional Commissioner, Sharon Brownie, along with Service Centre Manager, Saroja Subbiah and the many other agencies and people involved.

Their community spirit and drive is to be commended.

ENDS

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