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Labour's rural policy launched

7 September 2005

Labour's rural policy launched

Labour had delivered for rural people and was committed to ensuring access to services and markets, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton and Rural Affairs Minister Damien O'Connor said today.

Labour's rural policy was launched by the two ministers in Fairlie today.

Mr Sutton said primary production was the backbone of the New Zealand economy, but rural New Zealand encompassed much more than that.

"Vibrant rural communities, thriving land-based industries and a healthy rural environment are interdependent. And we need to have them in balance if we are to maintain our productive edge."

Mr O'Connor said Labour continued to strengthen the partnership between central government, local government and rural communities to ensure rural people had the same opportunities as their urban counterparts.

"Health, education, law and order and telecommunications are central to this."

Mr Sutton and Mr O'Connor said the Labour Party was committed to ensuring rural people had access to high quality healthcare and education, as did their urban cousins.

"That is under threat by the borrowing the opposition will have to do to pay for their irresponsible tax cuts. Any gain from that will be lost when, as a consequence, interest rates rise and the dollar lifts in response, hitting export-producing regions especially hard.

"Opposition politicians promise there will be cuts in state sector funding to help pay for those tax cuts, and we know from the last time the Tories were in power just what that means ? the loss of services from our regions again."

Mr O'Connor said Labour would continue improving access to health services in rural areas through the roll out of the national travel and accommodation subsidy, fund further rural health workforce initiatives, provide funding for a second mobile surgical bus, improve Primary Response in Medical Emergency (PRIME) training schemes, and implement additional initiatives to attract and retain doctors and nurses in rural areas.

Mr Sutton said the Labour-led Government had boosted trade negotiations efforts to unprecedented heights.

"This Government has completed three trade agreements in six years, with another three underway ? the previous Government started only one in nine years and completed none. This is not a coincidence."

Mr O'Connor said Labour also proposed a study of Sustainable Land Use with a soil conservation focus, to mitigate the impact of major climate events, such as Cyclone Bola and the lower North Island flooding of 2004.

"Without soil, we will not have a productive industry."

Mr Sutton said Labour remained committed to enhancing public access to publicly-owned waterways and land.

"As announced earlier, this will involved further consultation on the proposals to achieve practical and secure access along coasts, significant rivers and lakes and other publicly owned conservation areas, while at the same time respecting the interests of property owners."

Because of this, proposed draft legislation to establish five metre walkways along certain waterways has been abandoned.


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