What makes rural New Zealand different

Two key characteristics of rural New Zealand, that make it different to urban New Zealand, could have an influence on policy outcomes:

  • Low population density - dispersed population and the complexity of the physical environment affects per capita service delivery costs; and
  • Isolation - large distance from private and public services, markets and communication hubs affects access and delivery costs and times, and business connections.

Many rural businesses require the use of large areas of land, contributing to the rural community having a low population density and rural people and businesses being a long distance from services, markets and communication hubs.

High connectivity is important to all New Zealanders and all New Zealand businesses, but is more difficult to achieve in the rural environment.

Building and maintaining an efficient and effective connection infrastructure within and to rural New Zealand is important to enable people to work, live and run businesses in rural New Zealand and participate in the wider society. It often requires quite different approaches to those used in the urban community.

High connectivity is of particular importance to rural businesses that need to build and maintain close links with, and gain and maintain a thorough understanding of, national and international markets. This is particularly important to agricultural, forestry and rural tourism businesses given their high dependence on overseas customers.

The further people and businesses are from urban areas the more likely issues of low population density and isolation will affect the ability of people to live and work in a particular rural area.

Focus of Rural Proofing

Three areas relevant to policy development are especially influenced by population density and isolation:

  • Connection infrastructure: efficiently and effectively connecting rural people and businesses to each other and to the world (including roads, telecommunications, electricity supply, postal and broadcasting services).
  • Access to services: providing workable and accessible services to people in rural areas (including emergency, health, education, disability support, water supply, public transport and social services).
  • Ease and cost of compliance: recognising the practical implications of complying with government requirements in rural areas - considering both the benefits and the costs.


Last Updated: 17 September 2010

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