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Labour's disgrace: 259 ghost towns

3 March, 2004

Labour's disgrace: 259 ghost towns

The worst fears of rural and provincial New Zealand have been realised today with the government's ruthless decision to consign 259 communities to the economic scrapheap, Green MP Sue Bradford said today.

She said that Social Development Minister Steve Maharey and Work and Income have ripped the heart out of the heartland by dooming so many areas as no-go zones, denying benefits to people moving to 'low employment locations' and actively case-managing existing beneficiaries out of these areas.

"It's a disgrace that a Labour government, which supposedly supports regional development, has condemned 259 communities to the economic scrapheap," said Ms Bradford, the Green Social Services spokesperson.

"Denying people the right to live where they choose is nothing short of crude social engineering. Even worse, the refusal to accept that tangata whenua with papakainga links to a district should be excluded from this policy abrogates Te Tiriti o Waitangi at a really fundamental level."

Ms Bradford said the list of no-go zones created by the government reads like a roll-call of shame.

"Labour has blacklisted Blackball, the birth of the labour movement and a town which has made great efforts to stimulate their economic growth and save their school. Their efforts have been swept away with this list.

"Whangara, home of the Whale Rider movie, is another area which now will have no chance to begin any exciting ventures off the back of the movie's success. Likewise, almost the entire Coromandel peninsula and Great Barrier Island have been blacklisted despite their tourism potential," she said.

"The Jobs Jolt package flies in the face of the government's supposed commitment to regional economic development. Instead, it has filed 259 communities in the too-hard basket.

"Why should a lack of public transport penalise people?" she asked. "The government should instead work on supporting local economic development and providing better public transport to these communities, not just wiping them off the map as they have today.

"The Government made a major miscalculation in attempting to ram through its school closure programme. It's a real pity that they haven't been willing to reconsider the no go zones in the same way that they are now reconsidering forced school closures," said Ms Bradford.

ENDS

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