Rural health body shelved
Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand will be put into ‘‘hibernation’’ by its board after the government rejected a request for core funding.
The board came to the decision after it held an emergency meeting on Friday.
RHAANZ requested $600,000 in funding to help keep the organisation afloat, but after a ‘‘robust’’ discussion with Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor, chief executive Michelle Thompson was unable to confirm if the money would come through. The RHAANZ would fulfil its contractual obligations up until June 1 and Thompson said her role would be disestablished at the end of this week . ‘‘It’s very, very disappointing.’’ Putting the RHAANZ into a dormant state meant it remained a legal entity and could re-establish itself if the funding was found, Thompson said.
Thompson said the funding shortfall was bitterly disappointing for an organisation committed to the health and well being of rural people.
‘‘We think our financial predicament is really symbolic of the general underfunding of rural health services and we’re now in an extremely difficult situation – our future hangs in the balance.’’
RHAANZ acts as an umbrella organisation for rural health in New Zealand.
It is a registered charity and according to its annual report, membership levies and government funding are its main sources of cash and resources.
The government funding it received came from grants for specific projects that RHAANZ had tendered, such as mental health.
Thompson said the decision appeared to be at odds with the election promises of Labour and New Zealand First.
‘‘They campaigned really hard to address equity of access of health services for rural people.’’
Thompson said they had good relationships with parties on both sides of the political divide.
Before last year’s election, Thompson said they had verbal support from National that the funding would be approved if they were still in government.
After the change of government, they waited a few months to let the new government bed in before putting the funding proposal forward.
‘‘Damien O’Connor said he was supportive, he did want to carry on conversations with us and look at ways of helping us with our sustainability but it wouldn’t happen overnight and there was no guarantee of the timeframe.‘‘
Thompson said she was told that while the RHAANZ was important, the government had other, higher priorities to fund first.
Federated Farmers president and RHAANZ executive member Katie Milne said the decision was disappointing.
‘‘It’s pretty frustrating. This is something that was focused on rural New Zealanders and their health and it needed that base funding to help it survive because they are doing everything on a shoestring and voluntarily and that’s never sustainable.’’