Our rural communities deserve better
by Amy Adams, MP for Selwyn
Selwyn is typical of many regions of New Zealand in having large open spaces and small rural communities.
These communities are the driving force behind our primary sector, which contributes more than $45 billion annually to our economy and feeds above 40 million people. In order for our primary sector to contribute, we need our small rural communities to be thriving. That means they need access to quality healthcare and other essential services to ensure they are viable and desirable places to live.
Recently we have seen a lack of focus on these areas from the government with a number of policies making things tough. Rural health is a particular concern. For example, the government denied funding for Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ), an organisation that plays a vital role in addressing mental health needs. Mental health is a significant issue in rural areas as farmers grapple with physical isolation, unpredictable weather and swings in commodity prices.
The impact of proposed vocational education reforms on our ITOs could also see St John’s rural ambulance services get cut, further isolating rural communities. St John receives $1 million a year from the Industry Training Fund, which also funds ITOs. This $1 million is used to train rural and remote volunteers but is up for review under the government’s proposed tertiary education reforms. If St John no longer receives funding for rural volunteer training, this will be a bad thing for health in our rural regions.
The cumulative effects of such decisions, as well as proposed taxes on farmers, are permeating through tightknit rural communities and their local economies are starting to slow; these decisions impact more than just farmers, the local grocer has fewer customers, the local school roll starts to decrease, and the local pub has fewer patrons as people leave the community.
As the local MP for Selwyn, I will continue to support our small rural communities as well as our larger towns.