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Rural residents say lack of transport forces them to choose between health or home

June Barrett and Jane Renwick are two Āpiti women lobbying for rural residents to get a transport service.

Rural residents say they are being forced to move towns if they want easy access to healthcare.

Two residents believe a rural transport service is the answer to staying in their village and are working with local welfare groups to make one happen.

June Barrett​, 72, is one half of an Āpiti duo who has taken the issue to Neighbourhood Support, Rural Support, St John and Manawatū District councillors.

She said her failing eyesight may force her to move to Feilding, 35 minutes away, because it had a health centre.

“People used to move to Feilding when they got older, it used to be very affordable. I don’t know if I could afford to now.”

St John had a dedicated health shuttle, but it didn’t allow for people to make other stops, such as a supermarket trip, to take advantage of the long journey.

“When I need to go to the health centre I have a friend who drives me into town, but they don't have the best of health either,” she said.

“A lot of people here are sick or elderly, the community looks after their own... but it feels very burdensome.

“No one would move if we didn't have to, we don’t want to lose our community... the RSA, our garden club, book club.”

When Barrett’s neighbour Jane Renwick​ heard about her situation she knew something had to be done.

“The main issue is proving this issue is worth the funding,” Renwick said.

“I went around to all the community committees, tried to get rural health data out of the district health board, but there have been a lot of obstacles.”

Neighbourhood Support Manawatū manager Aly Thompson said it wasn’t a question of how much a transport service would help people, but proving the demand for it existed.

Thompson said that was where Neighbourhood Support and its Manawatū database could help.

Aly Thompson, Neighbourhood Support Manawatū manager, launched a survey so they had data to go to funders with.

“It’s not just about the public health need, but also the need to keep communities and people together... [and] not feel isolated.”

Thompson launched a survey for rural residents’ transport needs in Manawatū, which is open on Neighbourhood Support’s social media and website until October 12.

As soon as it could prove the demand existed and where, the support groups would apply for funding.

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