Rural White Paper moves up a gear (02/02/10)
02 February 2010
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has outlined the progress made in developing the north’s first Rural White Paper.
The White Paper which seeks to set out a long-term strategic vision for the development of rural areas throughout the north, was given the go ahead by the Executive in July 2009.
Speaking after a meeting with rural stakeholders, held in Hillsborough, the Minister paid tribute to the participants for their hard work over the past months: “The Executive agreed last year that I should lead on the development of a Rural White Paper and now that the first phase of that work is complete. I am very grateful for the input of the stakeholders who have worked so hard to produce a set of excellent reports outlining the challenges facing rural dwellers and making recommendations on how to address them.
“The focus of the White Paper work now shifts to government, and my Department will continue to work with other Departments to identify specific actions that can be taken to address the challenges identified. There are several areas in which I am confident progress can be made – improving access to services and information, on issues like planning, transport, health and housing, in supporting rural businesses and farm families, and in ensuring rural dwellers have access to quality education and training.”
The Minister continued: “One of the most important strands of the work relates to addressing the issues facing rural people, and in particular the need to support the most vulnerable. This work is urgent and, through my Department’s anti poverty and social inclusion work, we have already started tackling some of the issues. Rural transport, rural childcare and rural fuel poverty are issues already being tackled and it is important that we continue to take action whilst the White Paper is being developed. For my part, I will continue to bring forward these types of initiatives, to roll out our Rural Development Programme, and to champion rural issues within the Executive.”
The Minister concluded by explaining the significance of the Rural White Paper. “The Rural White Paper will be a comprehensive, cross-cutting, and lasting rural strategy for the north. Through it, the Executive has the opportunity to recognise the significant social, economic and environmental contribution made by our rural communities; to identify the challenges and opportunities facing those communities; and most importantly, to see what actions need to be taken right across government to address these challenges and realise the opportunities. I want to make sure the focus is on action and I will be working hard with my Ministerial colleagues to ensure we have a White Paper which is ambitious, meaningful and lasting.”
The Minister explained that drafting of the Rural White Paper and action plan will continue from now until the summer, with public consultation on the document planned for
Notes to editors:
1. The Executive approved the development of the Rural White Paper in July 2009.
2. The stakeholder work was carried out in five thematic groups – Rural Vision, Rural Places, Rural People, Rural Service and Rural Governance.
3. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press office on 028 9052 4619. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 7154 and your call will be returned.