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Rural not consulted again

For Immediate Release:
18th December, 2003

“This is yet another case of the government ignoring rural communities”, says Ellen Ramsey, President of Rural Women New Zealand.” We found out about the proposed change through a small brief in the Otago Daily Times, not through official channels and at a busy time of year when it could have easily been overlooked.”

A consultation document on the change in the District Health Board voting system, doing away with the rural ward system, was circulated around the District Health Boards and Local Government but not through rural interest groups such as Rural Women New Zealand or Federated Farmers. The government has ignored the rural vote and the primary industry that keeps this country economically viable earning 65% of GDP (MAF 2002 Statistics)

Rural Women New Zealand has met with the Damian O’Connor, Associate Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Agriculture to discuss the meaning of the voting system to be told that the process is in train. Rural has been left out because it is thought that the candidates were not able or not listened to at DHB level to put the case for rural health requirements. Under the proposed system this is not going to change. Broadening the candidate pool for DHB districts of varying population compositions between urban and rural, will not assist marginalised groups such as rural. Furthermore, there are few rural people, with limited time to spend sitting on boards due to the nature of their business, able to lobby candidature for DHB’s in rural and urban.

What will the change in voting system do? The system does not recognise that rural is a marginalised group and specifies Maori, Pacific Island and Asian cultures as marginalised. Rural Women New Zealand has research conducted by Ruth Panelli and Lou Gallagher titled ‘Rural Health Care’ that identifies a number of gaps in the provision of care to rural New Zealand.

Further, the new system will promote a ranking system for candidates who may or may not have rural perspectives. Getting a rural perspective is about networking on a daily basis from chatting to the neighbor, to chatting at the local Farm Discussion Group. It is about being known by the rural peer group and being part of a rural community. It is not about a candidate living and networking in town who say they have a rural perspective but do not network with the relevant constituents they purport to represent.
The only change that rural can now affect is by putting preferential rankings against rural candidates and hoping that the urban voters are not as diligent as the rural voters are.

The Minister of Health has the option of appointing a candidate where it is felt that a marginal sector (Maori, Pacific island, Asian) is not well represented.

Rural people need to write to their local MP and say that rural want to be included as a marginalised sector. Considering all DHB areas have some rural population, then they should, as of right, get a member on the District Health Board.

Research Background

Panelli, R. & Gallagher, L (2003) Rural Health Care: Service Access and Experience

  • The research points to 43% of rural households stating that follow up services for early discharge were unsatisfactory.
  • Constraints in accessing services varied according to type of service; most difficulties were experiences accessing specialist services
  • Concerns about access to health services were based on limited or declining services, and quality of existing services

Consultation Document: ‘Constituency arrangements for DHB Elections under STV’ is available on Ministry of Health website

A town population under 10, 000 is noted as rural as per Statistics NZ

The President Rural Women New Zealand, Ellen Ramsey: Phone
Executive Officer Jo-Anne Stokes, Phone



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