Supporting our rural communities

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The primary sector is one of the most important drivers of New Zealand’s economy. Our primary industry export sector is worth around $37 billion, with export revenue expected to reach $36.7 billion in the year to June 2016. While the dairy sector has been affected by some global volatility, this is being offset by the strong performance of other primary industries, especially horticulture, wine, kiwifruit, and beef.

The outlook for our primary sector is very positive. More wealthy consumers are demanding our high-quality produce. Once the TPP comes into effect, it will save our primary exporters hundreds of millions of dollars in tariffs each year.

A successful primary sector is a key part of the Government’s plan to create more jobs, raise incomes, and build a more productive and competitive economy. This is why the Government invests in areas such as biosecurity which will help protect the health of our primary sector. Our annual spending on biosecurity has now reached a record $223 million.

Over the past 12 months we have delivered 90 new frontline staff, 24 dogs and six new x-ray machines.

We have also invested $300 million on improving broadband access to around 300,000 rural homes and businesses.

The Government recognises that we need skilled people to take our primary sector into the future, so we set up two primary industry training academies. We also invested more in Budget 2016 to lift tuition subsidies at degree level for agriculture by 16 per cent. We’re piloting a new competitive funding process to allocate up to $35 million in annual tuition subsidies for levels 3 and 4 tertiary education study in agriculture, horticulture, and viticulture qualifications. 

As well as a source of national economic growth, primary industry is a livelihood for farmers in New Zealand. Families are the heart of our rural communities, which is why this Government is committed to ensuring they get the services and support they need.

We recognised the pressure many South Island farmers have been under over a prolonged period, which is why we extended the medium-scale adverse event (drought) declaration.

We also announced an extra $600,000 to support rural communities as the second phase of the Rural Mental Wellness initiative. This builds on last year’s investment of $500,000.

The second phase of funding will go towards a number of initiatives. This includes ten more suicide prevention workshops in rural areas not yet covered, as well as the development of a new workshop programme focused on managing suicidal patients in a rural setting. Another initiative is the upskilling of 0800 operators so they are better equipped to respond to distressed farmers and their families.

The extra funding will also support the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand’s 15 regional Clinical Champions and Medical Director to continue their work to strengthen linkages and support local initiatives. It will also assist in the development of a longer-term approach to improving rural mental health outcomes.

The Government recognises that rural life goes in cycles, with ups and downs. The new funding will help to strengthen local networks for farmers, workers, and families in rural communities. It will provide more suicide prevention workshops and employ coordinators to work with Rural Support Trusts.

We are committed to supporting rural families and ensuring they are getting the support they need to reach their potential.