Tuesday, 19 June 2018 12:05

Nice idea — Editorial

Written by 
Damien O'Connor. Damien O'Connor.

Minister for Rural Communities and Agriculture Damien O’Connor last week at Fieldays launched his new Rural Proofing Policy – with great fanfare.

O’Connor claims this new policy will make it easier for Government rule-makers to ensure rural communities are at the heart of their decisions.

All well and good, but what will it mean in reality?

As the minister pointed out at the policy launch, people living in rural communities face unique challenges that must be reflected in Government policy.

“This year alone has seen drought, floods and cyclones. We’ve also seen biosecurity incursions such as Mycoplasma bovis cause huge stress in our rural communities,” he says. 

“The Rural Proofing Policy will ensure that when policymakers sit down to design the rules they take into account the unique factors that affect rural communities such as low populations, isolation and reliance on the primary sector for employment.”

O’Connor claims MPI will have an important role in supporting agencies to build their own rural knowledge and capabilities through practical resources, training and getting analysts out to talk to rural communities and businesses.

He says the especially relevant areas are connection infrastructure, access to services and the ease and cost of doing business and achieving compliance.

Nice words Minister, but getting your Government to actual practise what it preaches on ‘rural proofing’ would be a good start. 

How much ‘rural proofing’ went into recent Government policies that impact heavily on regional and rural NZ? To name just a few:

- Cancelling Crown support for irrigation schemes

- Deciding to curtail oil and gas exploration

- Turning down the Rural Health Alliance of Aotearoa NZ’s (RHAANZ) extra funding bid of $600,00 – meaning the organisation has now gone into hibernation

- Restricting the right of farmers to sell their land to the highest bidder

- Imposing a zero carbon policy and bringing agriculture into the ETS

- Scrapping several regional highway projects.

How have these decisions contributed to improving rural New Zealanders’ connection to infrastructure, access to services, or the ease and cost of doing business and achieving compliance? 

Bugger all, one can safely say.

So let’s call the ‘rural proofing policy’ what it actually is: a nice idea but completely lacking any real substance.


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