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Rural Families Benefit From Govt. Decisions

Media Statement
3 April 2004

Rural Families Benefit From Govt Decisions

Families working in seasonal rural work will benefit from the extension of the Paid Parental Leave scheme, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton told the Labour Party's regional conference in Rotorua today that since the Labour-led Government was elected in November 1999, the Government had focused its efforts on returning services to the rural community.

Heartland Services centres had returned essential government agencies back to rural and provincial areas, new programmes to retain and enhance medical services had been introduced for rural areas, and the Sustainable Farming Fund had released innovation and maintained the sustainability of rural communities.

"Pastoral agriculture, forestry, horticulture, the whole primary production sector is important to us and to New Zealand as a whole. To ensure that rural economy is sustainable, we support the sustainability of the rural environment and social services.

"Rural citizens are important citizens to Labour."

Mr Sutton said an example of that was demonstrated when Prime Minister Helen Clark and Women's Affairs Minister Ruth Dyson announced last month that the eligibility and duration of paid parental leave is to be extended.

The leave period will be extended from 12 to14 weeks, phased in over two years. And women who have been in a job for six to 12 months will now qualify for paid parental leave. Their job must be held open while they take their 13 weeks' leave.

Further work will be carried out this year on extending the scheme to self-employed parents.

Mr Sutton said he had been approached by Meatworker Union members about the lack of eligibility for meatworkers, who worked every year for up to 11 months, but got laid off between seasons.

"I agreed with them that this is an area that needed to be addressed, and this extension should help them and other women working in primary production where the work is not all year-round.

"The proposal to extend the scheme to self-employed women will help more rural families too, and is something I will continue to push for, as the family partnership is a very common business structure in farming, and both partners normally work long hours in the business."

ENDS

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