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Goodhew: Rural Women NZ conference dinner

Jo Goodhew

23 May, 2013

Rural Women NZ conference dinner

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Thank you Liz and Noeline for your kind welcome and for inviting me to open the Rural Women New Zealand 2013 Conference this evening.

It is my pleasure to be here today to celebrate your achievements as enterprising women, and as entrepreneurs and business owners.

In looking through the entrants for your Enterprising Rural Women Awards 2013, it is clear that rural women run a wide spectrum of diverse businesses based on the land and in the villages and towns throughout New Zealand. I acknowledge also the importance of your younger members to the future of your organisation and as future enterprising leaders in the rural sector.

I am pleased to be able to speak to you from the perspective of both my Women’s Affairs and my Associate Primary Industries portfolios.

I would like to acknowledge Bob Parker and Jo Nicholls-Parker, Mayor and Mayoress of Christchurch, Liz Evans, your President, Wendy McGowan, Vice President, Kerry Maw, the Conference Convenor, and the other National Councillors – Mary Dale-Taylor, Shirley Read, Anne Finnie, Pam Tomlinson, and Margaret Pittaway.

I would especially like to welcome all the conference participants. I am very aware of the efforts you made to take time out from your busy working and family lives to be here. I am sure you will gain from this opportunity to share what you know, to learn from others, and to further develop as leaders in your communities.

The rural sector is vital to our growth

I come from a farming background and I know how important events such as this Conference are both for you as leaders in the rural sector and for the economic future of New Zealand.

I acknowledge your skills as leaders and business owners, leading the development of innovation and change in your sector. Your contribution is vital to New Zealand’s economy and your creativity and dexterity are exactly what New Zealand needs for a great future.

Challenges of adverse weather events

I am very aware of the challenges that many of you will have faced this year with the widespread drought that has affected many areas. While the recent rainfall will have been a welcome relief, the effects of the drought and dry weather will continue to test your strength and fortitude for some considerable time, as will other adverse events that are sure to come your way.

NIWA has confirmed that the 2013 drought is the worst in 40 years in some areas and as many as 70 years in others. Some areas such as Hawke’s Bay have still not received significant rain and the drought is in fact getting worse. I am advised that the drought status will not be formally lifted until it expires at the end of September.

I am aware of how individuals and organisations in the rural sector pull together to find solutions, and to co-ordinate support for those that need it. I have been advised that your organisation provides some funding so communities can come together to support each other while dealing with the drought.

Rural Support Trusts provide a co-ordination and facilitation role and the Government provides financial assistance through Work and Income for those suffering financial hardship as a result of the drought.

I understand that your organisation met recently with other rural networks to find ways of promoting farmer wellness through the development of a Rural Health Policy.

This resulted from concerns that were raised about anxiety and depression in rural communities particularly following the difficult weather conditions that you have experienced this year.

While the issues that you are addressing are hard, this demonstrates for me the commitment you and your organisation have to ensuring better health outcomes for those in your sector that need help in difficult times.

Rural mental health

While my colleague Peter Dunne has responsibility for mental health, as part of my Associate Health portfolio I have responsibility for rural health issues. So I have been closely following recent work to assist people in rural areas who may be experiencing mental health issues.

The 2006 New Zealand Mental Health Survey found that about 47 per cent of New Zealanders will experience a mental illness and/or an addiction at some time in their lives.

There is a significantly higher rate of suicide in rural areas - 15.9 per 100,000 of population compared with 10.8 for those living in urban areas.

Despite the high prevalence, mental health and addiction issues often go undiagnosed and consequently can cause serious disruption to people’s lives and wellbeing. But there is a lot of help out there.

I know you are working with Federated Farmers on their campaign launched earlier this year to spread information on accessible resources such as telephone help lines, online resources and talking therapies for people with common mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

At the request of the Ministry of Health, Federated Farmers is recommending the online self-help tool, “The Journal” fronted by John Kirwan, and two telephone services: depression helpline and Lifeline, which are part of the National Depression Initiative.

The Ministry also funds the infrastructure for the delivery of mental health awareness programmes such as its Mental Health 101 course. The course promotes a message of “Recognise, Relate, Respond” helping those who are influential in their communities to recognise mental health issues and better respond to them.

I’m very pleased that a Mental Health 101 workshop was run for Dairy New Zealand in December 2012 and the organisation has purchased a second workshop for 2013.

But the kicker here is this. Those who need to know about the help available are most often those paralysed by depression, often incapable of seeking the help they need. If that is the case then it’s up to the rest of us in rural areas. It really is incumbent on us all if we care, and I know we do, to be on the lookout and to know how to urge or support someone to get help.

Rural health workforce

I am aware that Rural Women has an ongoing interest in the Scheme, which was launched in 2009 to incentivise medical, nursing and midwifery graduates to work in communities and specialties considered to be hard-to-staff.

As many of you will be aware, the scheme was reviewed in 2012. I would like to thank both Rural Women New Zealand and the Rural General Practice Network as part of the key stakeholder group consulted for their valuable contribution.

The review showed widespread support for the scheme and just last month the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, announced that the registration of interest for the scheme’s fifth intake (2013) is now open.

Every year we have seen an increase in the number of graduates who want to be on the scheme and now we’ve opened up even more opportunities for GPs to participate. For the first time this year, doctors have two opportunities to enter the scheme – they can either enter upon graduation, or when they start training as a GP after completing their usual post graduate education.

Recruiting and retaining front line staff is a key priority for this Government and investment in schemes such as this are an integral part of achieving this. The popularity of this scheme means more health professionals are working where we need them most. There are now 2,060 participants on the scheme, and we know they are already making a significant contribution in traditionally hard to staff areas. And so far the Government has made payments to 50 doctors, 288 nurses and 51 midwives in the Voluntary Bonding Scheme.

While I know Rural Women would like to see a stronger link between rurality and the hard-to-staff communities and specialities identified under the scheme, there are a range of issues to consider as to what makes an area hard to staff, of which rurality is just one. New Zealand also faces recruitment and retention issues in urban communities such as Counties Manukau, where more midwives are needed to support population growth.

In addition, the Voluntary Bonding Scheme is only one of a number of initiatives that supports rural health services. Other examples include the Rural Immersion Health Training Programme, Rural Original Medical Preferential Entry (ROMPE), the Rural Midwifery Recruitment and Retention Service, PRIME, mobile surgical services, rural after hours funding and the rural adjustment to DHB funding.

I am pleased to note that there has been a steady rise in Rural Hospital Medicine registrants on the Scheme, especially given that this is a relatively new specialty.
I look forward to the Voluntary Bonding Scheme continuing to attract health professionals to work in hard to staff specialities and communities, including those in rural areas.

Water management

I was pleased to hear that earlier today you held a water forum workshop with Environment Canterbury. You will be aware that fresh water is one of New Zealand’s key economic assets. New Zealand needs a better way of managing fresh water to get the best for our economy, our environment and our lifestyle.

In 2012, primary industries that depend on fresh water – such as livestock farming, horticulture and forestry – delivered more than 12 per cent of our GDP and over 52 per cent of overall exports (70 per cent of merchandise exports).

The Government’s proposals for improving the way New Zealand manages fresh water are necessary to secure our future and protect the quality of our water.

I understand that more than 2000 people attended over 50 meetings to hear the Government’s proposals and give their views. More than 360 comments on the freshwater proposals were received which showed general support for the thrust of the freshwater proposals.

I want to thank those of you who provided feedback – this is invaluable to informing the decisions Ministers will have to make.

In addition to the reforms on water management, the Government has invested in the areas of water storage and distribution infrastructure.

As the recent drought and dry conditions around the country attest, water does not always fall in the right place, at the right time, or in the right quantities.

If current proposals are advanced there could be another 420,000 hectares of irrigated land available over time. Research suggests that exports could be boosted by $4 billion a year by 2026, supporting thousands of new jobs.

Economic development and women leaders

I would now like to talk to you about some of the work that my Ministry of Women’s Affairs is doing particularly for women in leadership. Leadership diversity is increasingly recognised as a priority for business success and credibility. Having more women in leadership roles in companies provides a richer range of views in key operational and strategic directions and decisions.

The Government aims to increase the numbers of women to 45 per cent on state sector boards. We are committed and delighted to see our target of 10 per cent on private sector boards has already been exceeded.

The number of women on the boards of the top 100 companies listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange reached 14.75 per cent in 2012, up from 9.3 per cent in 2010.

Agribusiness is also making progress in getting more women on boards. Companies in the agribusiness sector with no women on their boards are now in the minority particularly those with headquarters in Auckland and Wellington. Companies located in the regions, however, are not doing so well.

Recent research shows that companies headquartered in Whangarei, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill, are more likely to have no female representation on their boards.

These companies still need to hear the message and understand the benefits that diverse leadership can bring to company performance, and to companies’ bottom lines.

These messages are equally as important for you, when you as business owners have decisions to make about whom to employ or promote within your company.
I am determined that there needs to be change, not only at governance level but in the management and executive profiles of organisations.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, for example, has begun work this year to understand the pathways open to women to reach middle and senior management roles. The work will create a momentum for change.

We want to support the career progression of women and understand more about how employers can ensure women achieve their potential.

The Ministry is working closely with a range of stakeholders, including NZX and the 25 Percent Group, to ensure they have access to the latest international research and emerging best practice in the area of increasing gender diversity within organisations.

Growing rural leaders

Earlier this year I was pleased to meet participants of your Rural Women New Zealand’s Growing Dynamic Leaders course. The course, sponsored by Landcorp, and known as the ‘Wellington Experience’ has been growing rural leaders since 1989.

The participants have demonstrated leadership in their communities prior to attending the course and while not all work on farms or come from a farming background, have all shown a commitment as members to your organisation.

I want to congratulate them and your organisation for your foresight and hard work in stepping up to meet all the challenges that come your way.

The Government is also investing in the development of female leaders in dairying to ensure the sector is well-placed to face future challenges. I was very pleased to announce recently that the Dairy Women’s Network has been approved for a Sustainable Farming Fund grant of $180,000 over three years.

The Network has identified the need for leaders to drive reform in the dairy sector so that it’s meeting social and environmental footprint obligations without compromising overall productivity.

Project Pathfinder aims to build the leadership capacity of New Zealand’s dairying women. Activities will include a leadership and mentoring programme, e-Leadership Development Hubs, and an Individualised Pathway Programme to assist women map their own development journeys.


I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening.

I will continue to work on your behalf to support initiatives in business generally and agribusiness that will provide opportunities for New Zealand women to achieve at the highest level.

I ask that each of you continue to seize the challenges that come your way and use these to grow and develop as rural women. You play a vital part in the New Zealand economy.

I will continue to take an interest in the work of Rural Women New Zealand and I wish you every success for your conference.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.


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