A petition calling on the Government to deliver for rural New Zealanders and provide essential healthcare for 600,000 rural New Zealanders has been tabled in Parliament by Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger.
“Rural New Zealanders remain frustrated with Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor’s failure to ensure vital health services are provided to rural New Zealand and are angry about the Government’s decision not to continue funding for the Rural Health Alliance.
“The Rural Health Alliance delivers healthcare to rural New Zealanders and developed the Rural Health Road Map which identifies the top five priorities negatively impacting the health and wellbeing of rural people and provides solutions for addressing them.
“But at a time when our farmers are under significant stress with M. Bovis, Mr O’Connor and Health Minister David Clark have announced that they won’t continue Government support for the Alliance. It’s so short of funding it’s currently operating without a Chief Executive.
“In spite of this the Government has provided no alternative plan or bothered to explain why it’s won’t support the alliance. Meanwhile members of rural communities have no idea whether these services will endure. It shows this Government’s professed commitment to the regions is all talk.
“The Government has the money. It’s borrowing more and spending more yet it’s saying it doesn’t have enough money for rural health or for nurses and teachers and to keep promises like cheap universal GP visits.
“Yet it’s happy to blow billions on bad spending decisions like free tertiary and to keep NZ First happy with extra diplomats.
“It’s a slap in the face for rural New Zealand which this Government obviously doesn’t consider a priority and it’s no surprise that rural New Zealand feels left out.
“I have presented Mr O’Connor with the opportunity to prove himself as an advocate for the rural communities he claims to represent. It’s up to him to take it.
“On behalf of the 600,000 New Zealanders who now have poorer healthcare opportunities, I have tabled my petition in Parliament, renewing my call for Mr O’Connor to fulfil his obligation to rural New Zealanders.”
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has announced the election by Caucus of National’s three Whips, with Barbara Kuriger today elected Senior Whip, Matt Doocey Junior Whip and Tim van de Molen Third Whip.
“These three MPs have an important role to play in helping ensure the efforts of all 56 National MPs are focused on holding this Government to account and coming up with the plans and policies to take New Zealand forward.
“They have a big job. The National Party caucus is Parliament’s largest and it is brimming with energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to work in the best interests of New Zealand.
“It must also be disciplined and focused and represent our communities effectively.
“Ensuring that strength and talent is taking New Zealand forward is my focus as Leader and I am delighted to have these three strong MPs elected to play an important role in that.
“Our three Whips will help ensure the National Party earns the trust of New Zealanders and the right to govern in their interests in 2020.”
Long-awaited funding to fight the outbreak of the cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis will be welcome news to affected farmers, but it remains to be seen how quickly compensation will be paid out, National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“The Government’s announced funding of $85 million for operational and compensation costs but it looks like they’ve included $10 million previously set aside, and the $11 million that industry has been asked to stump up.
“It’s highly likely the Government’s contribution has been reprioritised from other funds that have been shelved. We know that irrigation projects have been put on ice – and the Primary Growth Partnership’s R&D funding has been raided to rebrand MPI.
“Given the massive spending pressures the Coalition is already under I can’t imagine the Finance Minister Grant Robertson writing out a new cheque for Damien O’Connor.
Bio-security spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says she hopes that the funding will at least mean the compensation process for affected farmers can move at pace.
“I’m pleased there is finally some relief and certainty for our farmers and rural communities. The sector has been crying out for this support for a long time now.
“The overall response has been too slow and the incursion has spread.
“It is imperative that farmers lodge a claim for compensation. So far it seems that just 51 have made claims for compensation out of 1500 that have potentially been affected.
“Of those 51, just 10 have been paid in full or in part so I’m urging all affected farmers to lodge a claim and get themselves in the system,” Mrs Kuriger says.
National’s Biosecurity Spokesperson Barbara Kuriger is calling on the Government to publish all of the information it has received from officials regarding the cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis, as the incursion reaches a crisis point for many farmers.
“The Minister has constantly delayed the release of information concerning Mycoplasma Bovis. I have lodged a number of requests to his office through the Official Information Act process but the required response time is 20 days,” Mrs Kuriger says.
“Twenty days is a long wait for farmers when so many are already under significant financial strain because of the uncertainty around the containment response. I urge Damien O’Connor to put politics aside and immediately release all of the information he has in the interest of our rural communities.
“Rural communities are strained throughout New Zealand, with farmers in Southland reporting they’re under significant financial pressure, and dairy sections at annual A&P Shows in South Westland are being canned to try and prevent the further spread of the disease.
“This is a very real issue and these people need certainty. The Minister needs to act now and come forward with all of the information,” Mrs Kuriger says.
The Government is going cap-in-hand to the primary sector seeking support to help eradicate the rapidly-spreading cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis, National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“It’s my understanding that the Ministry for Primary Industries is canvassing the dairy and red meat industry for contributions to fund the response and eradication of this disease.
“In Parliament yesterday the Minister Damien O’Connor couldn’t say how much money the Government is prepared to contribute to fully eradicate Mycoplasma Bovis.
“Knowing how tight the Government’s finances are because of its other big-spending commitments – and even with financial contributions from industry – Mr O’Connor has an uphill battle convincing his Cabinet colleagues how critical funding of over $100 million actually is,” Mr Guy says.
With the Minister confirming in Parliament that 23 properties are infected, 38 are restricted and a whopping 1500 are considered ‘trace’ properties, National’s Biosecurity Spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says New Zealand farmers deserve clarity and transparency from the Government around its plans to trace and eradicate the disease.
“Farmers are already dealing with challenging conditions, given the worsening droughts in many of our regions, now the uncertainty around the Government’s plans to contain Mycoplasma Bovis is adding unfair stress to the rural sector.
“Farmers deserve to know what plans are in place to contain the spread, and the Minister needs to be more open with the information he has received.
“Damien O’Connor has confirmed that he is regularly updated by MPI on the spread of the disease so if this Government truly believes in openness and transparency, then he should share that information with our farmers.
“It is crucial that we know what plans are in place to contain and eradicate Mycoplasma Bovis. Farmers need timelines to work with but all they have is a vague indication from the MPI that it is working towards a deadline in May. This simply isn’t good enough,” Mrs Kuriger says.
National Party Spokesperson for Biosecurity Barbara Kuriger is calling on farmers to be vigilant in light of recent Mycoplasma Bovis incursions to help prevent the spread of the disease.
“The discovery of Mycoplasma Bovis in Ashburton is a strong reminder to our rural communities that we need to be increasingly watchful and report concerns to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) if there are any suspicions of a further spread of the disease,” Ms Kuriger says.
“We cannot be complacent in any rural areas. The recent confirmation in Ashburton follows cases last year in Hastings, North Otago and the Winton District.
“It is important that farmers are familiar with the symptoms of infected cattle, which tends to show when animals are under stress. The current drought conditions around the country have already put pressure on farmers and animals, so the symptoms may be more visible if the disease is present.”
To report any concerns about the Mycoplasma Bovis disease please contact the Ministry for Primary Industries on 0800 80 99 66.
National Party Spokesperson for Rural Communities Barbara Kuriger has backed the call for the Government to declare a medium scale adverse event to better support those affected by the rapidly emerging drought conditions in Taranaki.
“Taranaki Regional Council have today met with organisations such as DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, Fonterra, Rural Advisory Group, Rural Support Trust, Taranaki Veterinary Association and Beef & Lamb NZ, with those organisations all calling on the Government to declare a medium scale adverse event for the whole Taranaki region,” Mrs Kuriger says.
“While Coastal Taranaki is of immediate concern the rest of Taranaki is likely to come under similar stress in the next few weeks, unless substantial rain falls. The situation is serious and exacerbated by the fact it is not long since these farms were waterlogged, in the most extreme change of weather patterns I have seen in my career.
“Approximately a third of dairy farms in coastal areas will need to dry-off their whole herds within the next few weeks, with more to follow.
“Everyone from farm owners to sharemilkers are beginning to come under severe financial pressure and I am also concerned about the welfare of the Taranaki people and their livestock, due to the lack of supplementary feed and feed available to be purchased.
“Without some good rain soon, I expect the strain will be felt in other areas around New Zealand and along with these rural organisations I am calling on the Government to act immediately and to support these farmers,” Mrs Kuriger says.
National Party Spokesperson for Rural Communities Barbara Kuriger has thanked the Rural Support Trust for the care and support they extend to people who are facing challenges and encourages those in need to reach out.
“This year has seen a number of challenges for the rural community. The Rural Support Trust has worked tirelessly to help support those who are in challenging times.
“The current extreme weather conditions across the country present hard times for farmers for a number of reasons, especially due to the need to source feed for animals.
“After a number of years of financial downturn, these weather conditions are adding extra pressure on families. On top of this, we have the further incursions of Mycoplasma Bovis and Myrtle Rust.
“The Trust is actively working with people from the properties where these incursions have been found and are supporting them through the actions they need to follow to minimise the spread.
“But the pressure continues to be felt, with a number of people in the rural communities having taken their own lives over the past few weeks. This is a tragedy and at this time of year when we look to be celebrating the festive season, there are families out there who are grieving for their loved ones.
“Severe weather, finances, relationships and work pressures can all mount up for those in rural communities so it is important that we all help the Rural Support Trust by taking care of each other and reaching out if we need support.
“The barbeques and community events run by the Rural Support Trust give people the opportunity to take some time to reflect together and know that they are not alone in their struggles.”
Barbara Kuriger – MP for Taranaki-King Country
Jonathan Young – MP for New Plymouth
Hon Chester Borrows – MP for Whanganui
26 January 2017
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