Caroline Batley – Leadership Scholar

Caroline Batley is passionate about New Zealand’s rural towns and communities and is keen to find out what assistance is available to them and how they can be best supported in the future.

That led to a decision to take some time out from her law and finance career to explore how she could contribute further, and to expand her own skills to develop good public policy and improved outcomes.

As a 2022 AGMARDT Leadership Scholar, Caroline is working towards completing her Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree through Victoria University of Wellington.

In April she also completed the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme. Her Kellogg research report, published in March 2022, examines the decline of rural services and outlines what being ‘rural’ entails in a New Zealand context when only 13 percent of NZ residents now live rurally. It includes a series of recommendations she believes can be made to central government regarding priorities for rural communities.

“I was born on a sheep and beef farm out of Taihape, and descend from several generations of farmers on both sides of the family” says Caroline, who now lives in Cambridge.

“The importance of giving back to your community has been instilled in me from a young age. My grandparents Railene and Barrie Mabin established Taniwha Daffodils, outside Waipukurau. Taniwha donates thousands each year to Plunket and regional charities.

“From their example, I have volunteered in a number of organisations since university, and intend to keep volunteering, probably until I’m in the retirement home.

“While driving through rural towns I have steadily seen more ‘for lease’ signs going up. I became interested in understanding if the outcomes for the people who use these towns had changed, and if they were being supported to access appropriate private and government services.

“I also wanted to understand how banking exiting rural New Zealand has affected people who may not have cellphone reception or high-quality internet connectivity on farms, and how they can use e-commerce and access services in the way urban people do.”

After leaving Wanganui Collegiate, Caroline studied law and commerce at the University of Otago where she was active in student politics as vice president of the student association.

She joined a leading Auckland law firm in the commercial and property team before moving into the banking sector. She is now active in central politics as an electorate chair.

“I am interested in developing public policy for rural communities; either in organisations on a voluntary basis or in my future career. I want to develop good public policy and improve outcomes for New Zealanders. At this stage I am particularly looking at solutions for people outside of the three main centres of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.”

Having made the decision to undertake her Masters, Caroline was determined to pack as much as possible into her time out of the workforce. She has also undertaken the Institute of Directors (IoD) company directors course in January and is due to sit her chartered exams for IoD in July.

Caroline is using her AGMARDT scholarship to help fund her MPP, with her studies due to finish in November. Her Masters will focus on ways to ensure rural communities are supported with efficient policy resource.

“It is a wonderful course and following COVID I can now do it all remotely from Cambridge,” she says. “There are a lot of international students on my course and that expands the knowledge in the room. I’m also grateful to have the support of Professor Arthur Grimes for my research project, who is an experienced economist and lecturer.

“The AGMARDT scholarship has been incredibly helpful. It allowed me to focus on finishing my Masters in addition to looking after my children, before I begin another commercial role.”

Caroline’s Kellogg report includes recommendations around healthcare, employment, education and policing for rural communities. It also includes a range of suggestions, including expansion of rural community hubs and banking hubs, building the capacity of rural support hubs, removal of additional postal costs for rural addresses and establishing a ‘one stop’ website for rural communities, charities, authorities and project holders to collaborate and support rural communities.

Since May she has already been interviewed by Jamie Mackay on The Country, has given a talk to a Rotary organisation, and intends to present her report and policy suggestions at the Waikato Rural Women NZ Conference in July.