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Talking Wairarapa with the PM

Jacinda Ardern talking to the press in Martinborough yesterday afternoon. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON

As the Labour party held its annual “away caucus” at Brackenridge in Martinborough over the weekend, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Wairarapa list MP Kieran McAnulty sat down with Times-Age reporter Beckie Wilson to discuss our region’s most pressing concerns.

BECKIE WILSON: The region has long suffered from an under-performing train service. The ramifications on economic development and population growth are huge. Do you see a need for government leadership or increased funding to fix it?

JACINDA ARDERN: What you will definitely see from this government is more focus on regional roads, where we know that under-investment contributes to unsafe roading, and we have lots of examples.
Our local mayors and local people know what those roads are so we want to bring people together to talk about the roads regionally, that’s the first difference in what we need to do with investment.
The second is significant investment in rail infrastructure.
We see that the regions in particular have the ability to benefit from decent rail infrastructure.
It’s not just about commuter rails in our cities, it extends way beyond that.
That’s why even within our Regional Development Fund there is capacity for that . . . because we see the benefits.

BW: Since the Manawatu Gorge Rd closed, Wairarapa is at increased risk of isolation due to our reliance on the Rimutaka Hill Rd and its risk of slips. How much of a priority is a permanent solution to the Manawatu Gorge?

JA:That’s one of the roading projects that we said, ‘Look there is more than enough evidence to demonstrate what needs to be done, we just need to get on with it, and it is causing so much harm in delay’.
From the opposite benches, I noticed there was a lot of back and forth, just discussing yes or no to a permanent solution.
So yes to a permanent solution, we are just working through the finer detail on that.

KIERAN McANULTY: I have just stepped out of meeting with Transport Minister Phil Twyford discussing the four options.
There’s been one delay, but there is a unified preference while clearly outlining if it was three, the communities would be satisfied, and option four everyone benefits too.
It was clear that the choice made needed to benefit everyone.

BW: Wairarapa suffers from a shortage of social housing, made worse by the fact we have no Housing NZ presence here. According to numerous social workers, people are living in terrible conditions, cramped into houses with other with families, in garages, in cars. What is your government doing about this?

JA: That’s one of the broader goals – yes, we have a plan to increase social housing and stock, and involving the state again.
One thing we have to do is partner with council and work together and discuss land availability for these goals.
A lot of the challenges we have in government, we will not be able to do it alone, we do need those partnerships in place.
But I have noticed very receptive responses to us saying to work together.

KMcA: Wairarapa is unique in the sense that there is no social housing, because National sold it out in the late 90s.
We are fortunate that Trust House has taken on those houses and continues to operate as a community housing provider, but there is definitely a shortage.
So Craig Thompson from Trust House and Mayor Lyn Patterson met with housing minister Phil Twyford today to discuss what options are available.
They discussed potential partnerships with government and local government, and utilizing the land that is available and increasing stock for Wairarapa people.

BW: What are your ideas for stimulating economic development in rural areas? Wairarapa farmers are nervous about your government’s policies around water. What is your message to them?

JA: In a way that conversation has changed dramatically since the election, we pitched an idea we thought would cover off two issues we were having as a nation — water quality and water use.
As a result of coalition negotiations, NZ First made it clear that water quality was something they were concerned about, but water levies was not something they wanted to use.
That’s the nature of a coalition, so that’s off the table.
But I still say, it’s important to all New Zealanders and all rural communities because they care about water quality too.
We want to work together on how we can make that happen at a local level.
We reinstated the Minister of Rural Affairs because we were worried that the last government hadn’t paid enough attention.
I grew up in a rural community and I see it as a challenge that I want Labour to rise to, to prove that we are good for rural communities, I believe that we are.
We are mindful of regional neglect, we just have to prove it.
It will all be in the proof, it has to be.

Bw: With Auckland and Wellington house prices driving more and more people to areas like ours where they can still buy a relatively cheap home, pressure is going on schools. Some Wairarapa schools are bringing in zoning for the first time, and classrooms are under increasing pressure. Is there a strategy to look at these issues before they become chronic?

JA: It just proves what a knock-on effect of housing has, that’s why we made it the core part of what we do.
It affects rental prices, it affects housing purchasing prices, it affects where people move to and the knock-on effect of that.
There’s a wave, and I have seen it rippled through from Auckland to the Waikato, and from Wellington up to here in Wairarapa.
That’s why the issue matters so much, it’s not just about whether you can get an affordable home, it affects everything.
That doesn’t help the schools here and now though.
So what we need to do is make sure they are recruiting the teachers that they need, we don’t want classroom sizes to push out.
We then need to make sure they then have the resources and infrastructure they need.
We need to plan for population growth a bit better and make sure schools have what they need.
Zoning may well be something that becomes a reality but if every school is a great school then that matters less to people because they know wherever they are they are in a great school.

BW: Was there a lot of pressure and nerves around what your baby announcement would bring? Do you feel pressure to be an inspiration for Kiwi women, and young Kiwi women in particular?

JA: I wondered what type of feedback I was going to get to it.
When you put something so personal out there you do get a little bit of question mark about how it will be received.
But I think that one of the issues is how much pressure and expectation we all put on ourselves, and our young woman in particular put on themselves.
One thing I hope that they see is that I’m doing my best, I’m open about the fact that I sometimes make mistakes, that I’m doing something that I believe in, and that I’m doing the best job that I can.

BW: Is it frustrating that you had to justify yourself as a woman with a high-profile job having a baby?

JA: I’m not the first to have to justify myself.
There’s something in that fact that women have been raising kids, paid and unpaid, for a very long time.
But the thing is unique that not many people are in leadership in politics, that’s actually the bit that has made it more pronounced.




  1. “BW: Wairarapa suffers from a shortage of social housing, made worse by the fact we have no Housing NZ presence here.”

    My goodness, what planet do you live on Beckie? For such a small town Featherston has a number of Trusthouse houses. And residents hate them. Their residents tend to be more likely to cause crime and involve themselves in other antisocial behaviour.

    I note that the executive of Trusthouse (and our MPs for that matter) choose not to live near these people.

    Also, why is Labour not having their meetings in Featherston? Martinborough is a National supporting town, and it is rich. Can’t they stomach their own support base?

  2. Hi zoning by schools in masterton
    Is not the first time it has happened i refer to 1982-83
    Zoning for schools was introduced

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