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Rural People Benefit From Government Budget

Rural People Benefit From Government Budget

Rural New Zealand has done well from the Labour-Alliance Government's third Budget, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said significant new initiatives as well as enhanced programmes that would make rural people's lives better had been funded in yesterday's Budget.

These included:

· More than $11 million new operational funding for biosecurity work over the next four years; ·

broadband high-speed Internet access for rural areas;
and ·

a further nine Heartland Service Centres in rural communities.

There would also be a important announcement shortly about the rural portion of significant new primary health care spending, Mr Sutton said.

"Government has recognised the need to support rural communities. As Rural Affairs Minister, I provide a voice in Cabinet for rural people.

Mr Sutton said he felt the $1.4 million provided to establish another nine Heartland Service centres in rural communities was particularly important as this initiative was bringing government services back to areas that had lost them during the past 15 years.

"The 12 centres established since 2000 are proving very popular and are bringing back 'face to face' contact with government agencies for people living in rural areas. With another four Heartland centres already funded from the 2001 budget to be established this year, the total number of Heartland Centres will stand at twenty-five."

The high-speed Internet access for rural areas was also important, Mr Sutton said.

He said Internet access was necessary for both business opportunities and social development.

"Rural people should have the same access to online services as other New Zealanders do."

Telecommunication suppliers will be asked to tender on a regional basis and it is hoped to have a substantial portion of the work completed by the end of next year.

Beneficiaries in rural areas looking to take up seasonal work opportunities are included in a $131 million package of initiatives in yesterday's Budget, Mr Sutton said. This builds on the $45 million Making Work Pay package contained in last year's budget.

"A further $10 million in reallocated funding will enable a new payment to be made to those in seasonal work who lose income because of adverse weather conditions."

The needs of agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, and forestry industries for new skilled employees is being addressed by a $41 million increase in the modern apprenticeships funding, Mr Sutton said.

"Modern Apprenticeships provide prestige training opportunities for young people to access relevant, high quality work-based education. Funding worth $41 million will enable the Modern Apprenticeships programme to more than double from 2,500 to 6,000 apprentices by December 2003."

Rural communities would also benefit from extra funding allocated to regional polytechnics for regional development, he said.

Mr Sutton said the Government's record on providing support for rural people was a good one.

"These programmes, as well as the Sustainable Farming Fund and initiatives funded in Budgets last year and in 2000, will make rural people's lives better."

ENDS

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