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Labour Releases Its Rural Policy

Labour's rural affairs policy recognised the importance of rural communities to New Zealand as a whole, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton released Labour's rural affairs and biosecurity policies during a visit to the Otaki electorate this morning.

At the core of Labour's rural policy, he said, was the conviction that vibrant rural communities, thriving land-based industries, and a healthy rural environment were profoundly interdependent. Unless each of these elements is sustained, the others will not be sustainable in the long term.

Mr Sutton said Labour would continue to strengthen the partnership between central government and rural communities to ensure that people living in rural communities had the same opportunities as their urban counterparts. Key areas in this would be the provision of telecommunications services, health, education, and law and order.

"Labour has done more for the land-based industries and rural communities in this first term than the previous National Government did in nine years. Labour has taken a more active and consultative role in partnership, enabling Labour to succeed where National failed.

"Labour has and will continue to work in partnership with rural communities and land-based industry to ensure the best outcomes for all stakeholders."

Mr Sutton said that, while there were many issues affecting rural people, there were three key ones: market access internationally, so that farmers and growers could sell their products; access to services so that communities were maintained and strengthened; and growth and innovation.

"Labour has a good record on this.

"In trade, we:

* played a significant role in launching the recent Doha round of multilateral WTO trade negotiations and advocated strongly for the phasing out of agricultural export subsidies, enhancing market access, and reducing trade-distorting domestic subsidies by industrial economies; and

· established the Closer Economic Partnership trade agreement with Singapore, begun negotiating a similar partnership with Hong Kong, and actively explored and advanced further similar initiatives "For rural communities, we: · established the Heartland Service Centres, which are restoring face to face access to a range of government services and providing support to local voluntary groups through access to resources; · kept open courts in provincial centres, and increased police presence in rural areas; · started a $32 million premium to attract medical practitioners to rural and provincial areas, as well as introducing the Rural Locum Support Scheme and the Rural Practice Support Scheme to help GPs in isolated areas; and · funded mobile surgical units to provide services in rural areas.

"To help rural people grow and be innovative, we:

· set up the Sustainable Farming Fund, which has driven innovation in rural communities, helping to make them economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable; · implemented industry development strategies in sectors such as wood processing and biotechnology; and · revitalised provincial economies and boosted employment through the Regional Partnership Programme, launched in 2000.

Mr Sutton said Labour would continue to work to strengthen rural communities, provide rural people with opportunities to sell their products, and increase innovation.

Office of Hon Jim Sutton

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