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In March 2017, the Productivity Commission released a report recommending a number of changes to the way the Government funds and delivers Tertiary Education in New Zealand. RWNZ asked members for their feedback on the Productivity Commission’s Report, to inform on our submission to the Commission.
It was disappointing to see that the otherwise excellent report of the Productivity Commission largely bypassed the rural sector, as it is a unique sector with its own challenges.
Without these issues being specifically highlighted in the report, it is unlikely they will be directly addressed in any actions taken by government as a result of the report. Not only are the challenges faced by rural people of all ages seeking tertiary education likely to not be improved, their ability to access tertiary education could be reduced due to unforeseen consequences of changes made, albeit with the best intentions, that have not been rural-proofed. It was largely evident from the outset, and in the wording of the Scope, that the rural sector was not identified as a “priority group.” Where the report provided graphical and statistical information, the categories were either gender based, age based or with Māori/Pasifika, and in some cases Asian, identified as unique categories. Again, it has been identified that the rural sector is not being recognised.
Also concerning, is the perception that in general access to affordable, fast, reliable broadband has been assumed to be available to all learners. If so, then those on the wrong side of the “digital divide” will be further disadvantaged. The 527-page report from the Commission focused heavily on the way education is funded and the constraints and barriers resulting from that. The
benefits of access to quality tertiary education and the wide range of courses, included ACE funded courses, which categorised tertiary education, were also well covered in the report.

RWNZ’s submission with respect to the low number of students graduating with degrees in agricultural based subjects and the mismatch with the demand for skilled workers in primary production,
was also commented on in the report. The recommendations generally were ones that should have a positive impact on access to education, although how much, if at all, the rural sector would
benefit is unknown. This information needs to be specially addressed. In conclusion, RWNZ welcomes the report, and believes some very sensible recommendations were made. It is hoped that some of the proposals that are being considered will first be rural proofed so that impact can be measured. RWNZ would be happy to input into this process.

The Productivity Commission report is here: New models of tertiary education – the final report on the Commission’s tertiary education inquiry.


In November 2015, the Government asked the Productivity Commission to examine how well New Zealand’s tertiary education system is set up to respond to, and take advantage of, trends in technology, internationalisation, demographics, tuition costs and demand for skills. We were also asked to identify potential barriers to innovation. 

The Commission’s report and its package of recommendations seek to give providers the scope to innovate in the delivery of tertiary education, and incentives to do so.
Key recommendations include:

  • better quality control and self-accreditation for strong performers;
  • strengthening the role of student demand in allocating funding to providers;
  • making it easier for students to transfer between courses;
  • abolishing University Entrance;
  • better careers education for young people;
  • enabling tertiary institutions to own and control their assets;
  • making it easier for new providers to enter the system; and
  • facilitating more and faster innovation by tertiary education providers.

Rural Women New Zealand published a submission for the Commission to consider in November 2016. Click here to download the Submission

RWNZ have been awarded a Certificate of Achievement at the New Zealander of the Year 2017 Awards. RWNZ were nominated in the Mitre 10 Community of the Year category.

RWNZ's Chief Executive Officer Penelope England and National President Fiona Gower, accepted the certificate on behalf of members on Wednesday 22 February.


New Zealander of the Year Awards 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

RWNZ have been awarded a Certificate of Achievement at the New Zealander of the Year 2017 Awards. RWNZ were nominated in the Mitre 10 Community of the Year category.  Read More

On International (Working) Women’s Day, 8 March 2017, Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) would like to acknowledge the contribution of rural women to New Zealand’s communities and their pivotal role in primary industries and entrepreneurship.

For over 90 years RWNZ has been an integral part of the rural landscape. “RWNZ’s role is to support rural women through our organisation and help them grow. We have members from all walks of life and all industry sectors. Some members have incredible skills and knowledge which helps us innovate and find new ways to connect with the rural community,” says Fiona Gower, National President of RWNZ.

“One of RWNZ’s greatest strengths is the branch network where members can meet others and learn something new. It is important that women can meet-face-to-face, especially if they are living in isolated areas. RWNZ branches host social outings, community events and regular upskilling workshops.”

RWNZ is building partnerships with education organisations in the rural sector to assist members in developing their leadership skills and knowledge. Many members have progressed into leadership roles on local school boards, health committees, and district councils or become commercial company directors.

The RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Awards is a showcase for the success of women operating businesses in rural locations and contributing to their local economy and community. The competition has evolved over the years to promote entrepreneurship and encourage innovation in the use of technology in remote locations. Winners of the awards have included women lifestyle publishers, honey producers, native nursery operators, physiotherapists and adventure-tourism providers.

Wellbeing and access to health services is a feature of RWNZ’s ongoing commitment to ensuring rural women and their families continue to thrive. Recently the focus has been managing the challenges of living in rural locations and dealing with adverse events such as drought, fires, earthquakes and floods.

RWNZ are focused on building up community connections by hosting social activities such as Bingo nights and cricket matches which encourages people to socialise and have fun off-farm. It is also a good opportunity for people to connect with their neighbours and communities and talk about their experiences with others in similar situations.

RWNZ also hold an annual Women Walk the World fundraising event in April. It brings together members and local communities to participate in a walk or social get-together. The proceeds are collected for the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW). RWNZ is a member of ACCW which has a vision of an improved quality of life for women and communities worldwide.

In late April the South Pacific Area Conference for ACWW will be held in New Plymouth, it will bring together rural women from around the Pacific region. Conference proceedings include the Women Walk the World event, business sessions and reports from international representatives. Delegates will hear about the progress of rural women around the world, development of their communities and improved health services, and opportunities for education.

Pictured are Penny Mudford, RWNZ Board Chair with Penelope England, Chief Executive Officer of RWNZ at the Zonta International Women's Day Parliament Breakfast on Wednesday 8 March.

Green Party MP Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence - Victims’ Protection Bill is before Parliament, and RWNZ asks Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse and his fellow MPs to support the Bill.

The Bill seeks to address harms experienced by victims, by focusing on how workplaces can be made a safer and more accommodating place for victims. It would extend leave provisions to include domestic violence leave, as when women leave a violent situation it can be very hard for them to manage court proceedings, counselling, housing and the needs of their children without extra leave.

Work at a regular time and place can make work a target for the abuser, but with employer support through flexible working arrangements, that can be adjusted to support the employee.

“RWNZ believe that the Bill will have an impact on people who are victims of domestic violence and help support them when they need to leave the relationship,” says Fiona Gower, RWNZ National President.

“Rural women often have to travel long distances between home and work and it can be very difficult for them to move away from a violent relationship.

“The services for helping victims of domestic violence are mostly located in urban areas. Enabling rural women to take time off work to access services, is a step toward helping them to move away from a violent home, and setting a plan in place to rebuild their lives.”

RWNZ recently made a submission on the Government’s family violence law changes, in support of adding protection of animals to legislation. Violence to animals is often part of the package of abuse. Comments were also made about the lack of near-neighbours and isolation in general, also a woman’s support is often from friends and family of the perpetrator.

RWNZ have worked closely with the Ministry of Social Development on the campaign: ‘It’s Not OK‘. RWNZ have held several workshops with the Sophie Elliott Foundation spreading the message of how to recognise healthy relationships, and how to assist someone who is not in a healthy relationship.

Click here to read the Domestic Violence - Victims' Protection Bill (New Zealand Parliament website).

RWNZ support the Domestic Violence - Victims' Protection Bill

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Green Party MP Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence - Victims’ Protection Bill is before Parliament, and RWNZ asks Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse and his fellow MPs to support the Bill.  Read More

Read All NewsRecent news

(Pictured above: Minister Damien O'Çonnor meeting with RWNZ Chief Executive Officer Penelope England, National President Fiona Gower, National Chair Penny Mudford and Manager of Government, Public Sector and Academic Relationships Angela McLeod.)


Rural Women New Zealand has released a media release supporting the recent announcement to reintegrate rural proofing into policy development. Please read the media release below. 



Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is pleased to see rural proofing is back on the table and being included in the Government’s policy work.

“Understanding the impact that Government policies, service delivery and business behaviour have on our rural communities is not only vital to the success of the rural economy, it builds and maintains our rural social fabric,” says RWNZ National President, Fiona Gower.

“RWNZ has been calling for rural impact analyses to be carried out in both the public and private sector because decisions have, and are being made that have a detrimental effect on rural communities.

“As a member of the advisory group that supported the development of the Government’s new Rural Proofing Guide for Policy Development and Service Delivery Planning, RWNZ is encouraged by the final document.

“RWNZ will continue to work alongside the Government, its agencies and entities to ensure successful implementation of the Rural Proofing Guide.

“The Government’s new rural proofing policy guidelines will go a long way to alleviating poor policy development and service delivery, and RWNZ is looking forward to seeing better outcomes for rural communities,” says Ms Gower.



For further information, please contact National Office:

[email protected]





Rural Proofing Back On the Table

Thursday, June 14, 2018

 Read More


Rural Women New Zealand would like to congratulate Alison Van Wyk for her appointment as CEO of Access Community Health. 



Alison has a background in nursing and possesses sales, marketing and management experience within the pharmaceutical, medical device and healthcare supply chain markets both within New Zealand and internationally. Instrumental in establishing professional programmes of clinical care and advice in pharmacy and the reclassification of medicines for Green Cross Health, Alison has taken a leadership role in advocacy for pharmacy and government relations within the health industry.

Alison commenced her new role effective 18 June 2018.


Rural Women New Zealand has released a media release following the announcement this morning that the Government are giving a funding boost to help improve child and family wellbeing. 


Read the relevant media here.



The announcement this morning that the Government will be giving family violence services a boost of $76.2 million is a step in the right direction for our women and families, says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

“New Zealand’s rate of violence against women and children is unacceptable – it is great to see the Government increasing support services for women, families, and communities in need," says RWNZ National Chair, Penny Mudford.

The Government also announced that additional funding in 2019/2020 would enable services to expand into areas where there is currently no support.

“Women and children living in rural New Zealand have particular challenges and can be vulnerable to physical and psychological abuse due to their geographic and social isolation.

“For some, living rurally means they are some distance from their families and whānau and do not have the support that the wider family can provide.

“Family violence victims in rural New Zealand do not have the same level of access to psychological and legal support as urban women and children do, due to living rurally.

“RWNZ hope that this boost announced by the Government will be used to empower our rural communities by giving women and children who are victims of violence the help and support they so badly need,” says Ms Mudford.


Rural Women New Zealand have released a media release raising our concerns for how data is being collected in this year's census.

Please read the media release below.


This year’s census is in danger of not providing the data needed to make good decisions, says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

“Whilst we understand and support the excitement of capturing our census data online, our concern is that many people still do not have access to internet while others might not have the capability or capacity to do so,” says National President, Fiona Gower.

“The timing of the delivery of access code letters, which indicate that New Zealanders can opt for paper forms presents challenges for our rural communities, given that delivery of mail is taking longer and might only be delivered three days a week.

“The chances of a rural household without internet or with unreliable internet, receiving census paper forms in time for Tuesday, 6 March is slim, and that is concerning.

“RWNZ is doing everything possible to ensure our networks are aware of the new way of doing the Census although surely more thought should have gone in to how the valuable information about the lives and status of New Zealanders would be collected.

“Maybe this year, there could have been a concerted effort to use both electronic collection and paper collection to ensure integrity of the data,” says Ms Gower.



Please contact the National Office for more information.



National Office

Rural Women New Zealand


[email protected]

04 473 5524



(image source: www.census.govt.nz)

Census Data Collection Integrity Questioned

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand have released a media release raising our concerns for how data is being collected in this year's census.  Read More

Rural Women New Zealand has today released a media release following the announcement that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will move to shut down if it does not receive funding.

Read the announcement here.  




Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) are saddened to see that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will cease operating if it does not receive government funding next week.


“RWNZ supports the work already done by RHAANZ in bringing together various rural groups and rural health providers to develop initiatives for rural communities,” says RWNZ Board Member and Health Portfolio Convenor, Margaret Pittaway.

“Remarkable work has been done to deliver the Rural Health Road Map which sets out a plan and priorities for achieving healthily rural communities.

“Being geographically isolated, often with significant distance to the nearest town or health centre means that rural communities have an immediate need of affordable and reliable access to all health services.

“The Government has committed to rural proofing government policy, and RHAANZ has a vital part to play in this development – without the continuation of RHAANZ, and the work it does, rural communities will go backwards.

“There is no other place where issues impacting the health and wellbeing of rural communities are considered concurrently, and the loss of achievements met and efforts made by RHAANZ will be detrimental for our rural people.

RWNZ urges the Government to recognise the good work that has been done by RHAANZ and to support its continuation," says Mrs Pittaway.




Another setback for health and wellbeing of rural communities.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand has today released a media release following the announcement that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will move to shut down if it does not receive funding. Read More

Rural Women New Zealand has released a media release regarding our involvement to help support communities affected by the M.bovis outbreak. With 38 farms currently infected, and others under movement control, we encourage farmers to contact their local Rural Support Trust and visit MPI’s website for advice and support.


Read more about this here.

Read the media release below.




  Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) has offered their full support to the Government for communities that are affected by the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) outbreak. This announcement was made in a meeting earlier this week with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O’Connor, and Waikato dairy farmers, then reiterated with industry leaders.


“Our rural communities are really hurting in this unprecedented biosecurity outbreak – it is vital they are supported throughout this response, no matter what future plan is decided next week,” says RWNZ National President Fiona Gower.

“From what I saw on Monday and what we are hearing from our members and others in the industry, it is clear that the response to M. bovis is upsetting and we are pleased to have been able to offer our support.

“Since 1925, RWNZ members have been the glue that holds rural communities together and nearly 100 years later we continue by working with Rural Support Trusts, visiting farming families, and offering funding for adverse events.

“The decision to offer our full support comes from recent meetings with industry leaders and the Minister, and from our many years’ experience supporting rural communities.

“We are pleased that RWNZ can continue our tradition of charitable giving and we look forward to working with the Government and industry to ensure rural communities are fully supported through the M. bovis outbreak,” says Ms Gower.