Simon Bridges. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
National Party leader Simon Bridges stopped in Wairarapa on Saturday on his ‘Connecting with Communities’ nationwide tour. He spoke with Times-Age reporter Beckie Wilson.
Beckie Wilson: What do you think Wairarapa benefits from in this year’s Budget?
Simon Bridges: I think, in my view, there is nothing in it for Wairarapa. The government talked a big game but haven’t met the expectations that were set. People are saying health and education are the ‘big winners’ but in terms of the money, it’s the same as we have seen in the last year or two.
I suppose you’d say the winners of the Budget were Winston [Peters] who got about $4b, and a bunch of kind of pretty sloppy, flabby untargeted programmes – like free fees for students that got a lot of money, the winter energy payment too.
The reason there was nothing in it for Wairarapa was because business confidence is declining around New Zealand. And there was no plan for an approach that would reinject confidence back into this region.
BW: What do you think of a regional fuel tax. Greater Wellington Regional Council is keen to get it through, but chair Chris Laidlaw said he would push for Wairarapa to be exempted.
SB: I have absolutely no doubt that a regional fuel tax is a bad idea for Wairarapa. All it will mean is more tax for fewer transport solutions.
BW: Wairarapa has a big social housing issue, what could National have done about that?
SB: It’s a sad irony. Probably few people believe it, but it is true that our social and public housing programme was delivering several hundred more houses over the next four years than what has appeared in the Budget.
Labour . . . has really underdelivered. We would have delivered more.
BW: What are your thoughts on the Manawatu Gorge alternative option as past Transport Minister?
SB: I think if that’s what the so-called experts say is optimal, I can go along with that.
My basic issue is the time frame. When I was Minister of Transport, I had them on a tight leash in terms of time frame and it seems to me that has slipped out by many years now.
BW: What do you make of the Provincial Growth Fund?
SB: I think it’s probably better called a ‘Political Slush Fund’. I think it’s Shane Jones dishing out money to his mates and to make regional New Zealand grateful.
Shane Jones is effectively using his ‘slush fund’ as compensation for all this other stuff, but as I say, it won’t be enough – it won’t cut it.
BW: The Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease was detected while National was in government. What do you think of the current response process?
SB: Very simply, it’s not in anyone’s interests to get into the blame game and make it political. We should try put it above that and get on with solutions. If possible eradication. But if not, then move onto creating the best mitigation and containment strategies.
The government needs to provide certainty around the compensating processes and just communicate constantly.