OPINION: When Covid-19 first arrived in New Zealand, PM Jacinda Ardern made great play of the fact that it would be the primary sector - and that means rural NZ - would be the saviour of the economy.
It appears the boffins at the Ministry of Health and the Government's Wellington-centric, top-down Covid-19 vaccination rollout programme is leaving rural New Zealanders as the poor cousins compares to their urban counterparts. No surprises there.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that unlike urban centres, many rural New Zealanders have to travel a long way to get to a city-based vaccination outlet. Meanwhile, with most in rural NZ classed as essential workers getting a vaccination during the day has also proven difficult.
Dunedin School of Medicine research has found that rural Covid-19 vaccination rates are more than 10% behind urban rates. The University of Otago data has found the number of people who had at least one dose of the vaccine was 11% lower in rural areas and up to 19% lower in remote rural areas compared to major metropolitan centres.
As New Zealand Rural General Practice Network chief executive Dr Grant Davidson point out these inequities are expected, but still worrying.
"What is most concerning is that it confirms that the productive rural backbone of our country is significantly at risk. Due to a lack of accessibility in rural New Zealand, it is no surprise that rural populations are lagging in vaccination rates."
Many rural employers have taken things into their own hands to try combat the hurdles their workers face in trying to get a jab.
While not making it mandatory, Fonterra has strongly ecnouraged its employees to get vaccinated. It has been offering workplace vaccination clinics at its sites across the country, through which more than 7,500 vaccinations had been administered to its 11,000 staff.
A number of meat companies have also offered workplace vaccinations and Zespri is also encouraging its staff to get vaccinated.
Federated Farmers has been telling farmers they should do all they can to enable and encourage their staff to get vaccinations.
Meanwhile, some rural and regional health boards have taken it upon themselves to take vaccinations out to the country, by setting up rural mobile vaccination clinics and travelling out to farms and shearing gangs to deliver jabs.
Feds employment spokesman Chris Lewis sums it up well: "The sooner we get everyone double-vaccinated, the sooner we might safely take steps to getting back to where we were with travel, events and all the rest."