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Rural Women Play Vital Role

Rural women play a vital role in business, in community life and in their families which deserves greater recognition, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said today.

Mrs Shipley today officially launched Rural Women New Zealand - the new name and identity for the previous Women's Division Federated Farmers - the day before World Rural Women's Day.

"Rural women often find themselves the mainstay of their business and communities. Government is taking steps in health and eduction to recognise that isolation and respond to it.

"This afternoon, Education Minister Nick Smith will announce a new approach to funding rural schools, together with new funding for rural schools with students with high special needs.

"Schools in rural areas have greater costs, and some are more isolated than others. Rural schools need a better way of measuring a school’s isolation and their costs.

"Dr Smith is asking for ideas from rural school principals, Boards of Trustees, parents, school communities and sector groups on the proposals, so that rural schools get the best possible system.

"I encourage the mothers and woman members of Rural Women NZ to get involved and have a say."

"As a former farmer I am well aware of the huge and increasing role that rural women play on the farm. Women alongside men are keeping agriculture still a main part of New Zealand's economy.

"Seeing WDFF rebrand itself to start the new century as Rural Women NZ is an indication of the clear understanding that exists of the changing role and needs of women in our provinces.

"I think it is a wonderful name which I'm confident will serve rural women well next century.

"At the beginning of the century women were on the farm wearing dresses and primarily supporting their husbands who worked the land. Now I am proud to see women alone owning and running stations."

"Government will continue to do what it can to help rural women feel empowered and independent despite the isolation," said Mrs Shipley.

By the end of the month the new freephone clinical advice line 'Healthline' will be a step closer for rural women. The line is being piloted in Canterbury, West Coast, Northland and the East Coast specifically to help people who cannot easily access doctors, namely rural women and families.

This Government has helped continue to make sure rural women are getting the services they need for themselves and their families, such as the mobile breast screening units.

In addition we have run the economy in such a way that has brought:
 Interest rates down to their lowest point in 30 years
 Reduced ACC costs in processing works and in business
 Reduced power costs in some areas
 Removed estate duties
 Reviewed the Resource Management Act
 Reduced tariffs so farmers can buy goods at world best prices
 Worked hard to get new markets for agricultural products through new negotiations for free trade agreements.

"National will continue to work hard to create conditions where rural communities will prosper," said Mrs Shipley.

ENDS

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