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Ministers Let Rural Communities Suffer

Ministers Let Rural Communities Suffer

The plight of small, isolated rural schools is being ignored by Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton, ACT New Zealand Rural Affairs Spokesman Gerry Eckhoff said today.

"Mr Jim Sutton has abandoned rural schools such as North Otago's Cattle Creek School, which faces closure due to the Education Ministry's drive for `rationalization of resources', Mr Eckhoff said.

"Neither Mr Sutton, nor the Education Ministry, understand that rural parents' prime motivation is quality education for their children - especially in their formative years - and not the Ministry's real or imagined logistical problems.

"A meeting, last night, made it abundantly clear that local parents are totally committed to Cattle Creek School and the quality education it provides. While Mr Sutton swans off to wine and cheese meetings overseas, these people are desperately seeking help to maintain their community, which is based around the school.

"It is also obvious that Education Minister Trevor Mallard is too preoccupied with implementing the disastrous NCEA. He has lost control of his Ministry, which is hellbent on `restructuring' rural communities.

"Cattle Creek is 1,200 metres above sea level. This means that ice and snow make winter driving extremely hazardous. Just how a five-year-old is supposed to benefit from travelling more than 100 kilometres each day to a new centralised school is beyond understanding.

"Mr Mallard is clearly unable fulfil his responsibilities to rural communities while grappling with the worst teacher shortage in New Zealand's history.

"It is high time that Mr Sutton met his responsibility to his own electorate constituents - or is the Minister too busy enjoying overseas jaunts to meet the needs of his local people," said Mr Eckhoff.

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