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Rural Women dispute Government commitment

PRESS RELEASE

6th April 2004 For immediate release

Rural Women dispute Government commitment to rural communities Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is deeply concerned over signs that the Government is writing-off rural communities, despite Jim Sutton’s claim to the contrary.

A speech by the Minister yesterday in Rotorua stated that the Government is implementing policies to ensure that people can stay in rural communities.

RWNZ President Ellen Ramsay queries this claim, saying that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has recently narrowed their rural affairs section from being a watchdog over social policy to dealing solely with economic-related issues.

“Recent changes in the MAF policy section, and also to the District Health Board (DHB) voting system, mean there are no systems left in place to protect the social interests of rural communities at government level,” says Mrs Ramsay.

Traditional Rural Wards within the DHB’s have been removed and replaced with an STV voting system that provides no guaranteed rural representation.

Minority groups are routinely represented in policy, making it mandatory for DHB’s to address their specific needs.

“Where the rural sector is not mentioned in policy, there is no incentive for DHB’s to provide any information associated with rural health, despite the fact that rural people represent almost 16% of the population base of DHB’s,” says Mrs Ramsay.

“Without formal representation in policy, the rural infrastructure will continue to erode, making it increasingly difficult for the agricultural producers living in these communities to sustain their livelihood,” says Mrs Ramsay.

Social services, including schools and health care, are an essential part of the economic equation for agricultural producers, who contribute 65% of New Zealand’s GDP.

“How can the Minister make claims about the Government’s commitment to rural communities when 12 rural schools in his own electorate have been earmarked for closure at the end of the year?” Mrs Ramsey asks.

ENDS

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