Rural scores big win in Pae Ora legislation

Rural groups are celebrating the inclusion of rural communities as a priority group in a late change to the Pae Ora legislation.

Health Minister Andrew Little introduced a last-minute Supplementary Orders Paper to the Committee stage of the reading of the Pae Ora Healthy Futures Bill yesterday at Parliament.

Both the National Party and Act Party had already put forward SOPs for consideration at the Committee stage seeking inclusion of Rural Communities as a priority population, and the late submission by Minister Little shows that there is true pan-Party support for Rural Communities.

When rural health was not prioritised in the draft legislation, rural health groups came together under the collective banner of Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network to campaign for the inclusion of rural communities as an identified population in the Pae Ora legislation alongside Māori, Pacific People and the Disabled.

Many in this group had submitted individually to the original Health and Disability Review led by Heather Simpson, where health outcomes for rural communities were found to be lagging those of urban counterparts.

Chair of Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network Dr Fiona Bolden is thrilled with this positive news for rural health and rural communities.

She says, “We are so pleased that the health of rural communities will now be prioritised in the legislation.”

“This inclusion will mean that rural health will have its own strategy developed, health outcome data tracked, and government agencies held accountable for those outcomes.”

“Rural communities, many with high percentages of Māori, can now have some surety that they will be visible and front of mind among Government Agencies when these health reforms are implemented come 1 July,” she says.

Minister Little’s proposed changes to the Bill to include rural communities as a priority population with an associated rural health strategy were passed by majority in the House.

This, and other changes will now be drafted into a final version of the Bill for a third reading in Parliament soon.

Hauora Taiwhenua Chief Executive Dr Grant Davidson says, “This is a real victory for those living in rural communities who have been struggling with poor access to health professionals and specialist services for decades.”

“By combining the voices of those community users of health services, with all the voices of health providers, that voice has been loud, consistent, and heard!”

“We really look forward to working with the Minister and the new agencies of Health NZ and the Māori Health Authority to plan ways to make a difference to health outcomes in our communities.”

“Rural people are known for being innovative and taking a #8 wire approach to solving problems, including how they access the health care they need.”

“Hauora Taiwhenua is looking forward to working together to ensure rural communities no longer feel that the health services they need are being held together by #8 wire”.

Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network will officially launch at the Grand Hall in Parliament on Tuesday 28 June.

Rural health representatives from across New Zealand will gather and celebrate this launch.

Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare will speak on behalf of the government to welcome this strong voice that represents and advocates for healthy, vibrant rural communities.