They've been overlooked too long out here in Dannevirke.
Sandwiched between Hawke's Bay and Manawatū it's easy to feel forgotten as the town struggles with a growing drug problem, inadequate mental health services, gang activity and poor rural connectivity. Then the Government took away funding for much needed roads improvements.
So when it got a chance, the little town that could became the little town that roared.
Or at the very least, spoke with great heart, befitting the Heartland, as it held government MPs to account by asking, "What are you going to do for us?"
Those Members of Parliament were Labour's Kris Faafoi and Kieran McAnulty, in town at a meeting hosted by the Dannevirke Chamber of Commerce as part of a regional tour following the release of the Wellbeing Budget.
McAnulty, the Labour list MP for Wairarapa, said the meetings provided a chance to engage with local communities and talk about the Budget and what it means for them.
"Ultimately what we have realised is that no one benefits in a rich country if people are missing out. There are communities that are being overlooked and I think Tararua, and Dannevirke, have been overlooked for too long. Tararua is on the periphery of both Hawke's Bay and Manawatū in terms of services and therefore feels left out.
"It doesn't matter where a child grows up, it should still have the same advantages as other children."
Faafoi said last year's Budget was a standard Budget but what this year's Wellbeing Budget had tried to do was to look at the longer-term issues and to put more money into the front line of services such as mental health.
"The $1.9 billion investment in mental health, I think, will change the face of mental health."
Fatal gamble: Drunk driver killed his best friend in crash
Chamber of Commerce president Sue Berry started a question and answer session with a query that had been emailed to her regarding the amount of money in the Government's provincial growth fund the region could access.
McAnulty said within the entire Wairarapa electorate there had been very few applications for funds.
"If there is a programme or opportunity here and it fits into the criteria, there is no reason why an application wouldn't be successful. I will do anything I can to guide applicants through the process, that's my role."
Another emailed question concerned the withdrawal of the NZ Transport Agency subsidised funding for urgently required work on Route 52, the Weber to Wimbledon road.
Deputy mayor Allan Benbow said Tararua District Council had spent a lot of money on preparing a business case to support its funding application.
"This is something I am very happy to chase up with NZTA. I am very keen to advocate on behalf of the community over Route 52."
Tararua District Council economic development and communications manager Mark Maxwell said the council had sought answers to the issues of resilience around roads and the planting of suitable trees for certain areas but had not received satisfactory responses.
McAnulty said working through bureaucracy was sometimes even difficult for Members of Parliament.
"However, usually when we ask questions things do happen. It's typical of Tararua to just get on with things. But in this we can help. If it's a simple question we will get an answer. If it's coming from my office I will get an answer quicker than if it came from your office."
Former mayor Roly Ellis said Route 52 was a very sore point.
"Tararua District Council has had to pick up all the expenses for work on this road. It has had to pay for everything."
McAnulty said the very least he would get an answer as to why the funding was withdrawn.
"In this particular instance we need to keep in mind the extra burden Tararua District Council is facing in maintaining the roads that are being used as an alternative to the Manawatū Gorge. I hope that has been taken into consideration by NZTA."
The lack of internet and cellphone connectivity in rural regions was raised.
Faafoi, who is Minister of Communications and Digital Media, said the Government needed to think hard about how it spends money on rural connectivity.
"We need to have serious engagement with communities and about who needs it the most within the communities. We need to decide what to do next, whether we keep doing the same thing or look at doing something different. We have to be very wise over how we spend our money and that's what we are going through now."
Dannevirke Community Board member Terry Hynes raised the issue of mental health and addiction services in Dannevirke.
"For the last three years we have desperately been trying to get mental health and addiction services for rangatahi and tamariki. We have been beating paths to doors but everyone has been very patronising. There are mental health services for adults but there is nothing for kids. The DHB says there is no money in the pot, but now you are saying there is money for mental health."
Faafoi said unfortunately this was a familiar story.
"The authorities have been saying there is no money but now there is a significant amount of money so we need to have some serious conversations about what communities need. There is a significant investment in mental health services, but we don't want it going to bureaucracy, we want it to go to the front line. This is something that is desperately needed all around the country."
Stephen Paewai said the underlying problem in Dannevirke was with drugs.
There was a drug problem in town and a growing gang problem which was fuelling the drug problem.
"What we need are more police."
Faafoi, who is Minister of Customs, said the focus was on stopping drugs coming into the country.
"Stopping drugs coming in is not about having boats out at sea intercepting shipments it's about gathering intelligence. We have Customs staff stationed in Kuala Lumpur and in South America where a lot of meth is coming from. Through this we are seeing a reduction in the amount of meth coming into New Zealand. It is obvious this enforcement is working."
Throughout the meeting an underlying message from Faafoi was that it was important the community use McAnulty to follow through on issues that needed action.
For his part McAnulty said he took great pride in being a rural voice in Parliament and he would continue to advocate for the region.
Earlier in the day last Thursday the MPs had held meetings in Waipawa and Pahiatua.