Rural women point water woes finger at townies

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 08:10 23/07/2014
Margaret Webster of Turakina and Kathy Reardon of Marto
Fairfax NZ
RURAL ISSUES: Margaret Webster of Turakina and Kathy Reardon of Marton listen to Labour's Agriculture spokesman Damian O'Connor and Deborah Russell who is standing in the Rangitikei electorate for Labour, discussing rural issues especially those facing women.
Labour's Agriculture spokesman Damian O'Connor discussing rural issues especially those facing women, with a group
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ
LISTEN UP: Labour's Agriculture spokesman Damian O'Connor discussing rural issues especially those facing women, with a group of rural women in Bulls.

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Rural women are concerned about water quality, but believe a lot of the degradation comes from cities and towns.

Six Women in Farming members quizzed Labour's spokesman for primary industries Damien O'Connor and Labour candidate for Rangitikei, Deborah Russell, in Bulls.

And the rural women aired their own views.

Beaconsfield farmer Liz Brook said most urban people had their heads in the sand over their town or city's sewage disposal, and most farmers were "incredibly responsible".

She said the battle over water quality had been going on for years between town and country.

Turakina farmer Margaret Webster said people were becoming less knowledgeable about farming and the role it played in the New Zealand economy.

"Many people in Auckland have never seen a cow. They talk about it, but they don't know about it."

Bulls resident Roz White said she was against shutting down rural schools.

"If a financial model only was applied, they might not be viable. But look on it as a rural centre and the benefits of maintaining those are really important."

She said closures meant people lost a focal centre, damaged communities, and children had to go a long way to school.

O'Connor reassured the group who were concerned about the Green Party having sway over a future government.

"It will be a Labour-led Government, but the Greens have some good policies."

But more mad ones that were way out to the Left, said Webster.

O'Connor said he thought migrants coming to New Zealand should first spend five years in regional areas.

He said it would be better than going straight to Auckland and putting pressure on the infrastructure there.

He said most immigrants were keen to come to New Zealand, "busting a gut to come", and would accept spending time in a region was a pre-requisite.

"It's a personal view, and our regional development policy would mean there were jobs for them. We would back industry so there were jobs. There would have to be."

O'Connor said: "The Government has spent $700 million on PGP (Primary Growth Partnership). What are the positive outcomes? We think it could have been better spent on outcomes such as meat industry reform and water reform."

He told the Women in Farming group the best rural policies had always come from Labour, such as the legislation establishing Fonterra, the development of the Kiwifruit Marketing Board and removing farm subsidies. He said he had met with rural women's groups and they were concerned about rural services, such as education, healthcare, the elderly and housing.

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- Manawatu Standard

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