Speech: Whangarei Office Opening
New Zealand First Parliamentary Office, 83 Bank Street, Whangarei
Monday 4 February 2013, 4pm
It is a pleasure to be in Whangarei to open New Zealand First’s northern out-of-parliament office.
And it’s great to see those of you here on opening day.
This part of the country is where I was born and schooled and where I continue to return whenever I can. Which brings to mind what is nothing short of a political travesty.
It’s hard to believe that arguably the most beautiful part of the country is blighted by some of the worst statistics.
Nearly 1800 children in Whangarei – that is 33 per cent of school-aged kids – receive weekly food assistance.
About 8000 people – that’s 10 per cent of the workforce – are unemployed in the Northland region.
And the level of poverty and health is the worst in the country.
We could pepper you with gloomy statistics about Northland but you know better than anyone because you are the ones who must live with some of the harsh realities of everyday life here.
What we want you all to know today is both simple and true. National and its coalition partners have abandoned you. This is not a recent phenomenon as Whangarei and Northland have for decades returned a raft of National MPs.
The question is; what have those MPs returned to you except under performance economically, socially, and political neglect?
Up here we do not even have a railway to the port which in view of the super size shipping of the future demonstrates one of the few possible ports to take such shipping waits unprepared to serve both the province and the nation.
And the railway system is an image of oxidising rusting neglect.
Which begs the question; when will this city and Northland get themselves a real voice or do we always have to hark back to the halcyon days of a man called Ralph Trimmer after which much of the future infrastructural development needed here seems to have gone on hold?
Northland needs a serious step change, up not further down
The opening of this office today is proof that New Zealand First understands that.
That’s why this office is to be staffed by an experienced electorate operator in Esme O’Connell.
The problem with New Zealand today is that the regions have been forgotten. It shows in the Reserve Bank Act written not for the wealth creators but speculators and financial wide boys.
Our dollar is going through the roof, very soon to record levels, all of which will further damage productive provincial New Zealand.
And those involved in owning and working for the export industries of Northland should take off their political blinkers and face a blunt economic and political reality.
For unless these people change their vote nothing is going to improve in Northland much, other than speculative coastal property real estate which has never represented a plan for provincial economic recovery.
One of the problems with provincial New Zealand is that so much of its productive wealth ends up somewhere else, some to our larger cities and far too much going to offshore interests.
So, before we start talking about provincial resources, and mining and minerals let’s first have an old fashioned discussion about who gets what, why, where, how, and when and further why are royalties in New Zealand so low?
New Zealand First understands this. The need to bump up royalties and to more fairly distribute them.
Today we are announcing details of a ‘Royalties for Regions’ scheme which would hugely benefit areas such as Northland.
Our new policy would see 25 per cent of royalties collected by the Government from a region’s natural resources – in Northland’s case that would come from such things as forestry, fishing and mineral exploration – returned specifically to the region.
These royalties would go in to a fund which would be used to fix roads, build health centres, improve water treatment plants, and for many other regional projects to enhance the economic and social quality of life here in Northland.
As I said I am a born and bred Northlander. My political leanings were forged here, as were my beliefs.
Growing up in Northland amongst the large Peters clan was a magical time where life had one certainty. If you worked hard and planned wisely then tomorrow would always be better because back then Parliament was filled with politicians of all persuasions who often despite their lack of education had a superior grasp of basic economics than the collection populating Parliament today.
So I am as outraged as you that the Prime Minister and his cronies have allowed Northland to stagnate and cause so much hurt to good honest Kiwis and their families. This is not new. For Northland has stagnated for the last three decades.
Waitangi Day is just around the corner. It should be a celebration of a united and prosperous New Zealand.
Instead, it will be played out – just up the road – to the backdrop of rising unemployment, a widening gap between the rich and poor, and growing social disharmony and dispute as to who will take the Prime Minister on to the Marae.
If there was ever a time to take a cattle prod to a political event and give some of these politicians a serious jolt of electronic enlightenment, that time is now.
No matter your ethnic or geographic background – European or Maori, Pacific Islander or Asian – we all deserve the same opportunities to prosper.
That’s because we all want the same things – first world jobs, good health care, sound, safe, affordable homes, and a first world education for our young.
Those four things are what people worldwide want.
If Waitangi Day was devoted to how we might do that rather than the perpetual arguments within the family New Zealand we would all be better off.
Those four opportunities are the ones we will work tirelessly to generate and support so that you and your families can enjoy a better life.
This office is part of that process, just as all of you are.
Feel free to come in and talk to us.
Tell us about your concerns over the future of the country.
But also tell us of your dreams and hopes so that they help to create a better country.
And again, thanks so much for your support in turning out today for the opening of this office.
In return, New Zealand First gives you this pledge.
No longer will issues of major importance be discussed in Parliament without them first hearing Northland’s voice.
We will listen to what you have to say and use it to create a New Zealand that benefits all New Zealanders.
That is why this party is called New Zealand First.