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Record number of Rural Women members in local elections

4 September 2013

Record number of Rural Women members step up as candidates in local elections 2013

A record number of Rural Women NZ members are standing in this year’s local elections, motivated by the need for better understanding by councils and District Health Boards of the challenges facing rural communities.

At least 14 Rural Women NZ members are standing around the country, with three already certain of their seats, being unopposed.

Rural rates are a hot issue, particularly the disproportionate share of rates being shouldered by farmers, which is a top priority for many.

Sharyn Price, a Kauru Hill Rural Women member standing for the Corriedale Ward of Waitaki District Council, says, “Rates fairness and value for money are utterly essential. Rural ratepayers have seen much larger percentage increases in rates than council’s averages, thanks to farm development increasing capital values, while town values fail to keep pace. Paying ever more for a shrinking share of services is not reasonable.”

Associate Rural Women member, Geoff Evans, a sitting councillor for the Wairau/Awatere ward of Marlborough District Council agrees. He says in his first term of office the most distressing thing was the huge property revaluation-driven rate increases for some. “Over 40 percent for some rural people. Individuals cannot afford increases of this magnitude.”

Transport and roading are also important rural issues. Selwyn mayoral candidate, Olive Webb, says “Rural roads are fast and deadly if not well maintained. The intensification of land use means that hundreds of milk tankers, logging trucks as well as increased numbers of cars are thrashing the roads.”

Middlemarch Rural Women member, Kate Wilson, who is standing again for the Mosgiel/Taieri ward, adds certainty of water management in the next 10 years to the list of top priorities facing the Dunedin City Council.

Getting the silent majority excited and engaged in these elections is vital, says first time candidate for the Waikato District Council, Jacqui Church, a member of Onewhero Rural Women. She is standing in the extensive rural ward of Awaroa ki Tuakau, which stretches from south of Auckland to the Waikato River.

“Have we women, and particularly our younger women, forgotten how we fought and won the vote? How we were the first women in the world to vote? This is such a precious gift of our own to honour.”

Meanwhile, for those standing for DHBs, prime rural concerns include access to healthcare and retention of services.

Top of the South Rural Women national councillor, Pam Thomlinson, is standing for the Nelson/Marlborough District Health Board. She says if elected the key thing she’d like to achieve would be ensuring that older people in rural areas have the same access to in-home services as urban people do, meaning travel for carers must be paid at realistic rates.

Ainsley Webb, who currently chairs the Central Otago Health Inc board that runs Dunstan Hospital at Clyde, says inequitable funding for rural areas and the inability of urban-based administrators to understand the differing issues facing the rural sector, including isolation and distance to services, are the top challenges.

She will be the community representative on the board for a fourth term, as she is unopposed. She looks back with pride on the board’s achievement this year, purchasing a CT scanner for the hospital totally funded by the community. It was officially opened as part of the 150 year celebrations of continuous health service at Dunstan Hospital in August.

For more information about all the Rural Women NZ candidates in the 2013 local elections, go to: http://www.ruralwomen.org.nz/news-and-inspiration/local-body-elections


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