A shut down is threatened by the country’s rural health umbrella group if the government does not come to the party with funding next week.

As rural health practitioners gather from around the country, for the National Rural Health Conference, the members of the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) today decided to cease operating if the government does not provide core funding support.

In a statement RHAANZ chief executive Michelle Thompson said it made its first funding bid in November to the Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and the Minister of Health David Clark and “due to unfortunate delays on their behalf” it was still waiting on an answer.

She said herself and alliance chair Dr Martin London were due to meet O’Connor next week to discuss the government’s funding offer but meanwhile the alliance’s financial situation was “now precarious”.

The advocacy alliance says its main objective is to bring a ‘united voice’ across rural sector organisations to develop solutions and influence policy affecting the health and wellbeing of rural communities. Its members range from Federated Farmers and St Johns to the New Zealand Rural Hospital Network and the Rural General Practice Network.

Health Minister Dr David Clark said as he understood the Minister for Rural Communities Damien O’Connor was to meet with the Rural Health Alliance next Thursday it was premature for him or O’Connor to comment publicly at this stage.

“RHAANZ has a vital function in bringing a cross-sector rural health, rural industry and rural community voice to both enunciate rural health issues and to identify and resource solutions,” said Thompson.

“For the organisation to disappear from the scene, at a time when rural health itself is as precarious as ever, would be a terrible loss of goodwill, synergy and expertise.

She said there were more than 600,000 people living in rural New Zealand which was easily equivalent to the country’s second largest city.  She added that the agri-food sector fed the country and generated – directly or indirectly – one in every five dollars in the economy.

“Yet it does not feel like we get anywhere near this level of resourcing or attention,” said Thompson.

“The endless gnawing away at services for rural communities has to stop. Rural Kiwis have lost their hospitals and schools. We are facing under-funded health services, emergency services, midwives and airports.”

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