Rural proofing

The Rural Communities is a Government portfolio that recognises the importance of New Zealand's rural communities and the unique challenges they face. We've developed guidance to help policy makers address these challenges through 'rural proofing' of their policy during development and implementation.

About the programme

The Rural Communities portfolio recognises the importance of our rural communities and the need to focus on the unique challenges they face so that they can be vibrant, resilient and sustainable.  
The Rural Communities work programme aims to help rural people to:

  • have a higher quality of life
  • have access to social and economic opportunities
  • be just as able to reach their potential as urban New Zealanders.

'Rural proofing' aims to achieve this and consider the challenges faced by the rural sector when designing and implementing Government policy.

Benefits of proofing rural communities

Strong and vibrant rural communities support the success of our major export industries and growth in international visitors.

Our rural communities need Government to help provide:

  • essential services
  • lasting infrastructure
  • access to information and communications. 

Rural proofing – assessing the effects on rural areas

A 'rural proofing lens' asks policy makers to look at what they are proposing, and take into account the rural community's:

  • low population density
  • isolation
  • reliance on the primary sector for employment.

Things for policy makers to consider

When developing and consulting on policy, consider the effects of isolation and low population density on:

  • connection of rural communities
  • their access to services
  • how hard it is to comply in rural areas.

Connection infrastructure

This focuses on good connection between rural people, their businesses, and the rest of the world. Infrastructure includes:

  • roads
  • transport
  • telecommunications
  • electricity supply
  • postal services
  • broadcasting services.

Challenges around infrastructure for rural people include not having cell phone coverage, a reliable internet connection, or suitable public transport.

Access to services

Rural proofing might look at providing workable and accessible services to people in rural areas. This includes services for:

    • emergencies
    • health
    • education
    • disability support
    • water supply
    • public transport
    • social services.

Some rural people need to drive for longer than an hour to reach the nearest police station, fire station, medical centre, secondary school, hospital, or service town. Some of the lowest socio-economic areas are also rural, so solutions need to be suitable and effective.

Ease and cost of compliance

This considers the issues, benefits, and costs of complying with government regulations in rural areas. There is a lack of competition in rural areas. Isolation from services can increase the costs of complying with regulatory requirements.

How to rural proof your policy

Follow our rural proofing guide when developing your policy. It takes you through these 7 steps:

  1. Confirm your policy objectives.
  2. Identify benefits and implications for the rural community.
  3. Seek advice from relevant rural contacts and organisations.
  4. Assess the implications.
  5. Consider mitigation measures.
  6. Make adjustments.
  7. Keep parties updated.

Download the rural proofing guide for policy makers [PDF, 960 KB]

Get a detailed view of issues faced by the NZ primary sector [PDF, 2.9 MB]

Sources of advice

This list of rural organisation websites will help you complete step 3.

Industry organisations and tools

Māori organisations and resources

Government organisations and tools

Who to contact

If you have questions about the Rural Communities portfolio or rural proofing, email

Last reviewed: