Net woes on list of rural niggles

By John Maslin

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Roading and insufficient broadband coverage are two of the main gripes emerging from a survey of Whanganui's rural residents.

These are among the key findings from the latest poll of 1500 rural households in the area which asked questions about Whanganui District Council's rural community board.

Survey forms were sent out on March 15 and closed a month later. Of the 1500 forms posted out, 241 complete surveys were returned.

Findings from the survey hope to identify areas of concern among rural residents and ultimately help the council improve the way it communicates with the rural sector.

While two-thirds of the respondents said they were aware of the rural community board, less than 60 per cent were aware the board had a representative on the district council.

Only a third were aware of what rural subdivision their property was in while less than a quarter of those surveyed knew who their board representative was.

The residents said speed on rural roads, roading and verge maintenance, the quality of rural roads and problems at some intersections were concerns for them. Other common issues raised included increases to rural rates, pest control and the lack of coverage and the speed of broadband.

Some of the respondents had concerns with erosion, subdivisions and illegal rubbish dumping.

How the council kept in touch with rural folk still relies on tried and true methods such as the telephone and the daily newspaper. Some said they would use email but were hampered by limited broadband coverage. For the same reasons Facebook was least desired means of communication.

Local community meetings appealed to at least half of those who responded. Other options suggested were relying on the board representatives, rural mail, newsletters and the newspaper. About half of the respondents said they were aware the board members wrote articles for the rural section of the Wanganui Chronicle and the majority (91 per cent) had read them.

And in the wake of the June storm which affected many rural residents, most comments focused on the need for communication and co-ordination of services to rural areas. But locals also acknowledge how well last year's storm aftermath was managed.

The next step is for the survey to be considered by the rural community board.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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