The Government’s announcement of the 2021 Resident Visa will provide some welcome relief to rural communities, says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).
“Improving connectivity is vital to successful business, health and safety, education and social connection in rural communities,” says national president, Fiona Gower.
“RWNZ would like to see the Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISP’s) included in the Government’s new rural broadband funding – they have filled the gap left by the big telcos in getting internet into rural, remote and hard to reach areas of our country.
Gower says the rural women lobby also like to see a commitment to improving mobile phone coverage in rural New Zealand. She says because with only 50% coverage across New Zealand, it is the rural communities missing out.
“Covid-19 has highlighted the issue of digital inequity with incredibly slow rural internet speeds and landlines overloading.
“Children now being schooled at home are often struggling to get to their online classes. Women and children living with intimate partner violence are not able to contact support services and the additional health and social service support offered online is only available to those with adequate connectivity – it is our hope that this new funding from Government will alleviate these issues.”
Gower says across the board, self-isolation and restrictions on bubbles mean that it is vital that communities have the tools to connect to, at the very least, maintain mental wellness.
“We know that rural communities tend to be resilient and supportive and this new funding from the Government will, if allocated wisely, keep them that way.”