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Taxing visit for Bridges

Wairarapa-based Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty with National Party leader Simon Bridges at the Golden Shears. PHOTO/PETE NIKOLAISON

Nats may help dams

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With the Labour Party’s capital gains tax proposals set to become an election issue, it was pretty obvious what was going to be on many people’s minds when National’s leader Simon Bridges visited the Martinborough Fair with his family on Saturday.

National has done the numbers and reckons that within the three Wairarapa district council areas there are 19,406 properties greater than 4500m2, making them subject to the capital gains tax proposed by Labour’s working group.

Bridges had plans on Saturday to call into Greytown for a walkabout en route to the Golden Shears in Masterton but that didn’t happen because of the number of people wanting to talk.

“A lot of people were coming up to me and being quite clear about what they thought of the quote ‘bloody capital gains tax’.”

The reaction to the tax proposals must have gladdened the Opposition – but did the election campaign effectively kick off 18 months early when Sir Michael Cullen announced the proposals last week?

“There’s a bit of that,” Bridges said on Saturday. “But I believe we’re opposing the CGT for the right reasons – because it’s wrong and it will be bad for New Zealanders whether you’re talking KiwiSaver, businesses, farms, whatever.

“Many of the lifestyle blocks in Wairarapa are worth less than a house in Wellington. But the houses in Wellington, if they’re family homes, won’t be covered by the tax, while the lifestyle blocks which are also family homes will be.

“When I fight the capital gains tax on lifestyle blocks, I’ll be thinking of around here, because I know there are 187,000 lifestyle blocks in New Zealand and a big wad of them are around here.”

Bridges praised the region as a “truly special part of the country where the town meets the country”.

But he was aware of infrastructure issues and suggested a National government would look favourably on some form of water storage.

Wairarapa Water Ltd, the company behind plans for a $100 million water storage dam has applied for money from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund for a pre-feasibility study, but Bridges said a National government might ease the path.

“[Wairarapa MP] Alastair Scott has raised consistently the issues around water and irrigation. I think New Zealanders are coming around to the view that we’ve got to do decent storage and irrigation, after many fighting these solutions.”

Bridges said the situation with the Waimea River in Tasman, near Nelson, was a good example.

“They’re getting a dam but it was fought over for about 15 to 20 years.

“The same is true here. The lower North Island and Wairarapa is definitely going to need better water and irrigation storage in the future.

“The time is now. If you don’t do it now, when you need it you won’t have it, and you’ll get to it too late.”

But it may not be financial support.

“I’m not quite at a point where I can promise that. But last week we put out an environment discussion document and we proposed in that an urban and rural water infrastructure fund.

“We’re thinking through exactly how it would work, but it would be both for the Aucklands of this world, but clearly also for areas such as Wairarapa where you need that storage and irrigation.”

He said National would be bold on reform to the Resource Management Act.

“Be clear, I’m not saying those who have objections won’t get the opportunity to be heard. I’d like to think that whether you’re for or against this sort of thing, you accept and respect it needs to be a quicker, more certain process.

“However you cut it, we’re going to need this storage just for everyday living in Masterton, Carterton and Martinborough, let alone out in the productive [agriculture] sector.”

And while it’s not yet election year, Bridges says his party is “not taking Wairarapa for granted”.

“We’ve been privileged to hold the seat for quite a long time and we want to make sure we are delivering value, whether in opposition or government . . . You’ll see me again this year.”

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