RuralFest 2024


Tuesday 7th May was our annual RuralFest, where 35 representatives from our rural communities came together for a hui with rural politicians at the Beehive.

The event is an important one on our calendar as it allows Rural Caucus MPs to present their plans for supporting rural communities facing significant health and wellbeing challenges, as well as a chance for our members to voice our concerns within the landscape of rural health.

Rural Primary Industries contribute 81.9% of New Zealand’s trade exports and 10.5% of GDP, yet despite this substantial economic contribution, rural areas suffer from poorer health outcomes across almost all metrics.

The 35 attendees at RuralFest included Primary Care professionals, Rural Hospital colleagues, community organisations such as Rural Women and Rural Support Trust, and rural industry representatives like Federated Farmers.

Put forward were five calls to action for the Coalition Government:

  • Fund pay parity for all rural health practitioners; this may mean that we are able to retain those we train and keep on the older workforce until some of the gaps are filled.
  • Fund rural general practices and rural health providers to the level which recognises the change in our workload and the particular challenges for rural communities
  • Rapidly commit to urgent and emergency solutions for rural communities, especially in those areas where they are no longer accessible.
  • Move ahead with establishing the National School of Rural Health to help coordinate rural placements and ensure that practices are adequately funded to provide teaching time and that students are disadvantaged by going rurally to train.
  • Develop evidence-based outcome measurements for rural health within the sector, using them to check the implementation of the Rural Health strategy and to correct the balance where the outcomes are not being met.

We heard from Minister Doocey (Assoc Min Health – Rural, Min Mental Health) and Minister Patterson (Minister for Rural Communities) that they viewed the health of rural communities through an investment lens that recognised the relationship of rural health with a healthy New Zealand economy. They assured us that the implementation plans from the Rural Health Strategy would have clear actions, milestones and measurable outcomes, but these are yet to be defined. We were pleased to hear a commitment from Minister Doocey that he is “keen to work with Hauora Taiwhenua to progress the sector-driven Joint Centre of Rural Health to bring that to a reality.” It was encouraging that Minister Doocey is prepared to work with us on this concept.

In the afternoon, members of parliament from the opposition joined us, with Hon Dr Ayesha Verrall wanting to understand why considerable new investment into the health budget made during their two terms in Government didn’t achieve the impact they expected. They also talked about the complexity of pay parity, with the Government being asked to address this for workers they don’t employ. They were committed to developing interprofessional learning opportunities that reach across the country but would not support the Waikato Medical School proposal until the business case has been completed and comprehensively assessed. Hon Damien O’Connor offered some advice on our advocacy, echoing the strength of being a multi-sector, well-connected rural voice and advocating for consistency, clear messaging, “talking it up”, and not letting it go.

Addressing the broader social determinants of health requires a united, cross-ministry, cross-party approach, similar to the collaboration seen among rural representatives at RuralFest. The call for action is clear: the government must move beyond inaction and provide the necessary support to ensure the health and wellbeing of rural communities, reflecting their vital contribution to New Zealand’s economy and society.


Display of mobile diagnostic and treatment services for rural communities on display at Parliament




On Monday 6th of May, Wellington witnessed a remarkable display as Rural Health took to parliament to showcase the essence of its services, sharing the realities faced within. Organised by the Mobile Health Group, the event showcased a variety of organisations dedicated to providing essential health services to rural and remote areas. Each presented its offerings from the very vehicles used to deliver these crucial services.

Showcasing their services were: Mobile Health Group, Ka Ora Telecare, Stroke Foundation of NZ, Turanga Health, Peke Waihanga, BreastScreen Northland, Robert Bartley Foundation, Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa, Waitaha Primary Health, Bee Healthy Regional Dental Service, Mercy Radiology.

From services such as Turanga Health, a Gisborne-based organisation that takes their van around a wide section of the area offering Cardiac assessments, vaccinations and more, often working well into the evening so people can visit after work, to the Mobile Surgical Bus operated by Mobile Health Group, which offers low-risk elective surgery in support to those living a distance from the local base hospital – all came together to showcase some of the innovative happenings in some sections of health.

A recent addition to the Mobile Health group’s suite of services is a PET-CT scanner developed in partnership with Mercy Radiology in Auckland. This innovation promises easier and faster access to advanced scans for people in remote areas, enhancing early diagnosis and treatment. The display was a great initiative that created interest with Members of Parliament, other staff and the general public who popped up the hill to engage with each of the displays. Overall, it was a great way to showcase some of the innovative happenings in some sections of health.