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Rural People Abandoned By ACT

1 July 2002

The ACT Party has shown its contempt for rural New Zealand by dumping two of its three rural MPs and putting the third in a marginal position, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton said he had always suspected that ACT's professed feeling for rural people was only skin-deep and the announcement of the party's list just confirmed that.

"It is a city party that does not care about rural people, as its own MPs say."

Former Federated Farmers president Owen Jennings was dropped from sixth last election to 12th, and former dairy farmer Penny Webster dropped from eighth to 13th. Gerard Eckhoff has moved up from ninth last time to eighth this time, but ACT is unlikely to receive enough votes for him to be elected again.

Mr Jennings told the New Zealand Press Association that he had always suffered in the eyes of the party because he was from the South Island and most of its members were from Auckland.

Mr Sutton said Labour, in contrast, recognised the worth of rural people.

Its record proved that, especially through the bringing back of Government services through the Heartland Centres, the retention of health services through the $32 million rural health premium, and the fostering of innovation through the Sustainable Farming Fund, he said.

"We recognise that the South Island is a powerhouse of the New Zealand economy. Auckland is important to New Zealand, as our largest city, but rural New Zealand is also critical to our nation's wellbeing."

Office of Hon Jim Sutton

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