Rural proofing

The Rural Communities portfolio recognises the importance of our rural communities and the unique challenges that they face. We've developed guidance to help policy makers address these challenges by 'rural proofing' 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 to enable them to be vibrant, resilient and sustainable.  

The aim of the Rural Communities work programme is for 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.

Why 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

Rural proofing means to consider the challenges faced by the rural sector when designing and implementing Government policy.

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 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

  • Seek good connection of rural people and businesses to each other and to the world – roads, transport, telecommunications, electricity supply, postal and broadcasting services.
  • Recognise that some rural people don't have cell phone coverage, a reliable internet connection or access to public transport.

Access to services

  • Provide workable and accessible services to people in rural areas – emergency, health, education, disability support, water supply, public transport and social services.
  • Recognise that some rural people live over an hour by road from the nearest police station, fire station, medical centre, secondary school, hospital or service town.
  • Recognise that some of the lowest socioeconomic areas are rural, and that sections of the rural community face significant disadvantage. This needs a tailored approach.

Ease and cost of compliance

  • Consider issues, benefits and costs of complying with government regulations in rural areas.
  • Recognise that a lack of competition in rural areas and isolation from services can increase the cost of complying with regulatory requirements.

How to rural proof your policy

Follow our rural proofing guide when developing your policy, which takes you through the following 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

To help you complete step 3, use our list of rural organisation websites.

Who to contact

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

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