Plea for Rural Health Alliance funding

The Rural Health Alliance says it will be forced to shut down unless it gets $600,000 in government funding.

Federated Farmers said yesterday that the funding needs to continue as it is an effective voice for rural New Zealanders.

The Rural Health Alliance, which was set up five years ago, represents people in the rural health sector, and finds out tomorrow whether the government has approved its case for funding of $600,000.

"It is essentially a district health board for rural Kiwis," Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says.

"It advocates for the 600,000 New Zealanders living in rural areas - that's one and a half times the population of our second largest urban area, Wellington."

Core funding for the operating, leadership, advocacy and needs identification work of the alliance has for the last five years been met by member organisations, most of them charities and membership-levy groups which are themselves finding money is very tight, Ms Milne said.

The alliance has said that model is no longer sustainable without government support.

It has run a campaign on suicide prevention and mental health among farmers.

"If the alliance is starved of funding and is forced to close, those gaps and shortfalls could snowball, leaving the health and wellbeing of rural residents at significant risk," Ms Milne said.

"Australia and the USA have had rural health umbrella groups for decades, with government funding for their running costs from day one. New Zealand deserves the same."

Chief executive of the alliance, Michelle Thompson, says it had never had government funding before but the alliance presented a funding bid to the Minister of Rural Communities and Minister of Health in November.

Source: 1 NEWS