Rural Women call for prioritisation of health and wellbeing of rural communities ahead of election

Rural Women New Zealand president Fiona Gower
Rural Women New Zealand president Fiona Gower Photo credit: Supplied

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is calling on the country's decision-makers to prioritise the health and wellbeing of rural communities ahead of the upcoming election. 

The group released a manifesto this week in a bid to remind political parties not to forget the rural population as they create their various policies.

Fiona Gower, RWNZ president, says more needs to be done in the areas of health and wellbeing, as well as with rural connectivity, in order to help communities thrive.

"We're really asking those that are in the decision making space to ensure that our rural communities are looked at when they make their policy development put the rural impact assessment tool over everything they do just to make sure how will that affect our rural communities," Gower told Dominic George on Magic Talk's Rural Today on Thursday.

"We need to build those resilient rural communities for the rest of the country to thrive."

Gower said the rural population's distance from key services such as hospitals "creates extra pressure for our communities", making it even more important that people feel connected.

Rural connectivity - both internet and cell phone coverage - has been a major issue in recent times. And while it is improving, Gower says there's still a long way to go.

"We want to make sure that we feel safe in our homes, that we feel connected in our homes, and that leads to the wellbeing of our rural communities." 

Better internet and phone connectivity would not just benefit people's health - allowing them to have virtual and phone consultations with doctors - it would also make education easier.

"We discovered over COVID, especially when a lot of us were schooling from home, the issues we had getting onto the internet," Gower said.

"There's still families out there who do not have adequate or affordable internet at all, let alone cell phone coverage, so for their children to learn is quite difficult and for them to access services is really really difficult, so that's a big push for us," she said.

"We realise that New Zealand is hard because of its terrain and things like that, but if we can push that little bit further out so that nearly all of us have access to something without having to travel too far that would be really great."