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Labour True Champions Of Rural People

17 July 2002

Labour Now The True Champion Of Rural Communities - Minister

Outgoing Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson seems to be trying to use his last moments in the public eye to restore the Federation to its former role as the National Party in gumboots, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

But, Mr Sutton said, the record of the Clark Government in office demonstrated that Labour had now displaced National as the true champion of rural communities.

"We have addressed difficulties rural areas have in recruiting and retaining doctors, with an extra $32 million to be spent on a rural premium, as well as introducing the Rural Locum Support Scheme and the Rural Practice Support Scheme to help GPs in isolated areas. We have funded mobile surgical units to provide services in rural areas.

"The Government has also established Heartland Service Centres to restore face to face access to government services and providing support to local voluntary groups. More of these will be opened in other centres.

"We have also increased police presence in rural areas.

"More Government funding is going into research and development. The Sustainable Farming Fund has been established to help rural communities to improve their economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

"Provincial economies have been revitalised and employment boosted through the Regional Partnership Programme, launched in 2000."

Mr Sutton said that the Government had worked energetically to increase international trade opportunities for New Zealand farmers, both through improving market access and promoting the reduction of agricultural export subsidies.

"The Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations will be worth as much, if not more, to New Zealand farmers as the Uruguay Round ? and that puts $11,000 per year extra in the average farmer's pocket."

He said the Government was also seizing opportunities to get bilateral trade agreements with other countries as well.

Mr Sutton said Labour had implemented the toughest biosecurity and border controls in the world. "We brought in the $200 instant fine for biosecurity breaches ? which the previous Government had refused to do - and significantly increased biosecurity funding. New Zealand is now the only country in the world to screen 100 per cent of all mail, passenger, and aircrew baggage. "

Mr Sutton said the Government was charting a sensible, prudent course through the GE issue, as recommended by the Royal Commission.

He said the tender process for rolling out broadband telecommunication access was starting next week, and the Government was well on the way to announcing the Land Transport Strategy which would improve transport for all New Zealanders.

"As for the Kyoto Protocol, even the National Party's new whizkid Guy Salmon recognises that refusing to ratify the protocol until Australia does is not tenable, given New Zealand's extreme vulnerability to the impact of climate change.

"The Government will preserve the competitiveness of New Zealand farming by exempting it from taxes in respect of methane from ruminant animals, while assisting research to reduce those emissions."

Mr Sutton said the Government recognised that rural businesses had valid complaints about the Resource Management Act, and was working with industry and local government to help them streamline the administration of it and to make environmental management more user-friendly.

An important example of this was the team working to improve dairy industry environmental standards.

Mr Sutton said that smart, active government had been critical in helping establish Fonterra, and to progress farmer-supported reform of producer boards.

"This is an area where National was an abject failure. If they dwere still in power, farmers would still be waiting in vain for any real progress," Mr Sutton said.

Office of Hon Jim Sutton

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