Rural-urban divide highlighted in major new study on rural communities

  • 23/04/2019

New research from a major study looking at resilience in New Zealand rural communities has highlighted a disconnect between urban and rural areas.

Heartland Strong is anchored by a ten-year study led by AgResearch senior social scientist Dr Margaret Brown and involving a team from PricewaterhouseCoopers New Zealand.

It looked at levels of resilience in rural communities, and what that meant for their future.

The book's team of 14 writers found great examples of resilience and ways in which it was built by different communities.

However the research also found that New Zealand has a disconnect between urban and rural.

"Only around 20 per cent of the population lives in the countryside, and decisions are being made about them and for them by predominantly urban people, many of whom have little understanding or empathy for their rural neighbours," said Dr Brown.

'Heartland Strong' looks at resilience in New Zealand rural communities.
'Heartland Strong' looks at resilience in New Zealand rural communities. Photo credit: Supplied

"The continued centralisation of governance and resources to New Zealand's major cities, away from rural communities, can create a 'skeleton staff' feel in the regions, which can begin or exacerbate a cycle of decline."

The book also points to the opportunity that lies in changing the way government services are delivered in rural areas. 

"One overlooked opportunity is the interest and capability of many rural people, who would like to be engaged and valued in making decisions about rural resilience that directly affect them."

The research found that New Zealand's most resilient communities had in common:

 Strong social networks and resources

 Highly-developed digital technologies and innovations in rural entrepreneurship

 A functioning and progressive informal economy.