13 Nov 2014

Air NZ pullout big blow - rural GP

3:23 pm on 13 November 2014

The country's national advocate for rural general practice says Air New Zealand's decision to pull out of three provincial centres will make it even harder to encourage doctors to live and work in rural New Zealand.

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Photo: RNZ

The airline announced on Tuesday that it was axing all services in and out of Kaitaia, Westport and Whakatane.

The chairman of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network, Jo Scott-Jones, said the news came as a huge disappointment.

"A sense of despair, really. We have really a lot of difficulty getting people to live and work in rural areas and part of the thing that helps us to encourage health professionals to live and work in rural areas is the connections with the rest of the country.

"Places like Kaitaia, Westport, Whakatane - they need that connection to the rest of the country. Adding an extra hour-and-a-half, two-hour journey to the nearest airport is a significant blow to our recruitment and needs."

Dr Scott-Jones, who is based in Opotiki, said the Government must continue to support rural New Zealand.

"One of the things that we want to see is a rural-proofing of policy and rural-proofing of any of these sorts of changes. People think about the unintended consequences for rural communities when we introduce a change like this and that's certainly something that we would strongly advocate for.

"We do have a rural-proofing tool that the Ministry for Primary Industries has, but it doesn't seem to be applied very frequently at a government level," he said.

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