NZ First is making a clear pitch to rural Kiwi voters and has a $3b war chest to help plead its case so how Simon Bridges’ performs on his tour of regional NZ will be very important, says Jason Walls

By Jason Walls

Simon Bridges is facing one hell of an uphill battle.

Last week, the National leader began what he's describing as a “comprehensive tour of New Zealand.”

Bridges is travelling to 45 locations across the country to talk to everyday Kiwis being affected by the Government’s “unchecked assault on their back-pockets and their livelihoods.”

That’s some strong language from an Opposition leader who is very quickly becoming the master of the soundbite.

Although he will be stopping at many of the major centres across the country, the bulk of his town-hall-style meetings will be in rural areas, such as Gore, Timaru and Hokitika.

Many of the locations are also safe National seats.

In getting out there to bag the Government, Bridges has adopted the popular sporting analogy “the best defence is a good offence.”

It’s still two and a half years until the election, but the battle for New Zealand’s rural vote is well and truly underway.

In what is no doubt its biggest prize for siding with Labour to form the Government, New Zealand First was given a $3 billion check to spend on regional development.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was tasked with spending $1 billion a year on the country’s “neglected” regions, to quote NZ First leader Winston Peters.

In spending the money, the Government gets to kill two birds with one stone.

Not only does Jones – the self-declared “provincial champion” – get to shower regional New Zealand with new roads, hiking tracks, rail lines and cycleways, he gets to criticise the former Government’s track record in the process.

“The provinces have been neglected, downtrodden, and taken for granted for so long,” he told Parliament in late March.

“In relation to the provincial growth fund contributing to the economic narrative, we are actually going to fund infrastructure. I've started to do it in the North, unlike the “10” Bridges,” he said earlier that month, in a dig against the National leader’s failed pledge to build Northland 10 new bridges.

There have been many other occasions where Jones slighted National’s track record in the regions.

$920m more to spend this year alone

We are already five months into the year and so far, the provincial champion has spent just $80 million of his $1 billion budget for 2018.

And that’s just this year – he gets another $1 billion in 2019 and in 2020.

With the wave of new spending, comes a wave of fresh criticism against National and the continuation of the narrative that the former Government left rural communities high and dry.

As Jones shells out millions for new projects across the country, he will be winning votes for his party as well.

It’s a very hard strategy for Bridges to compete against and he has another two and a half years to defend against it.

But getting out to the regions to rally against the Government’s “unchecked assault on their back-pockets and their livelihoods” is a start.

No doubt he will be mobilising his regional MPs to be doing the same in any way they can.

Bridges memo to his party? The best defence is a good offence.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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72 Comments

Early days yet but this leader of the opposition does not appear to have anymore spirit, charisma if you like, than his three Labour counterparts prior to JA ie Gough, Shearer,Little. You don’t get to be a crown prosecutor without some real capacity, but strangely and quite often Mr Bridges seems hesitant, even inarticulate. His problem is still the hangover from the election which produced a popular PM and until if/when that might diminish, its going to be all uphill. If you ask me it shows a lack of political nous to have been the first cab of the rank simply because of those circumstances and if you continue to stay down in the polls you will not last long. Still popularity is fickle, the solidarity of the coalition is yet to be seriously tested and as said it’s early days yet.

Do you mean "broken bridges "... that is all he wil do

He could run naked through queen street and still win the next election with how labour/greens are performing right now

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Not from what I'm hearing. Generally the younger crowd is very happy with the government as they're finally seeing some changes made that may benefit them. But hey, whatever suits your narrative.

How young is this younger crowd? Under 12? I’m in to 20-30 age band and certainly see this government as having failed thus far. Let’s use the business confidence index as a measure of success given that Arden has indicated that it is an area she plans to work on.

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I’m in to 20-30 age band and certainly see this government as having failed thus far

Speak for yourself. I think they're doing a far better job than the blue circus did. I would argue capturing well being as a measure of success casts a far wider net than business confidence.

The problem with subjective measures is that different people will perceive the same outcome differently. I would contend that being in the top 25% of income earners in the world mean that you have a decent level of well being. Being on the dole would already put you into that top 25% basket, ergo almost everyone in NZ already has a decent level of well being.
Business confidence is more objective & is a specific area that our PM has indicated that she would like to work on!

Minimum wage earners are in the top 25% of the world so why bother increasing the minimum wage? Better off sending them on a humanitarian tour of some third world nations to teach them what real poverty is. Bunch of entitled greed scum.

Am I doing it right?

How many pairs of young Nats underwear do you own?

By this, do you mean underwear printed with Young Nats logo (eeeeuuuuuuuuwww), or underwear taken from Young Nats, for some unsavoury purpose like sucking on the gussets in a darkened room? Apostrophes are important.

Indeed they are. Interpretation over to the readers imagination.

Jockeys? Probably not. Boxers maybe, they used to be yuppie trendy articles. How about blue with blue polka dot ensemble and a very tight draw string.

Between 20-35. I am already aware you're an outlier in this age demographic as you've expressed what I perceive as far right views on topics repeatedly in the past. I would have guessed ACT or The Conservative Party would be your natural fit so I'm not surprised by your opinion on this matter.

My guess would be more of self righteousness to the point of totalitarianism. More than a touch of the little red book perhaps.

9 years of cementing in doing nothing is a hell of a log jam to unwind while being hamstrung by voter imposed financial limits at the same time.

Sounds like you want to join him for a fun run..

Apart from making the young accumulate huge debts, they haven't done anything..

Read todays article about our horrendous debt levels accumulated over the last decade

At one time I would have agreed totally on debt, I hate the idea of paying interest. But the reality for me is that not being prepared to take on debt and pay that interest in the last 5 years means my assists have grown bugger all and basically I've been left behind. I can only conclude that I was wrong and should have gone all out with my friendly bank. Debt is good.

Mortgage is not a 5 year event, yes you have been able to pay down a bit of it, but the rest is still with you, now the tide is turning on the low interest rate scenario..

Economics 101 buddy - use other peoples money to invest - sure WHAT IF THIS OR THAT happens but reality over time it's a great way to get rich !

I agree. Regular working people not born with a silver spoon in their mouth like this government's policies regarding fair wages, worker protections, and clean environment. Only the big shot (or those who think they are) large corporation executives would vote National after the last 9 years.

Codswallop, so all 44% that voted National were born with a silver spoon in their mouth or were large corporation executives? You lefties are deluded.

He could run naked through queen street and still win the next election with how labour/greens are performing right now

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I was a National voter until they raised GST. After saying they wouldn't. I was part way through a residential development and that added 2.5% to the cost of everything right there.

To quote from this article: http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/election/2017/09/decision-17-bill-english-...

Since taking the reins in 2008, National has introduced at least 18 new taxes and levies - six of them on petrol. Others include:

raising GST (after promising not to)
a tax on employer KiwiSaver contributions
new student loan and Family Court fees
the bright line capital gains tax on flipping houses
a border clearance levy
including GST on digital purchases
removing tax refunds for kids doing part-time work.

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Good ol' stealth taxes, the tactic of right leaning politics worldwide.

Yes pots and kettles calling each other names. The Lange government introduced GST & raised it, but compensated fairly enough with income tax reductions etc. Then the Clark/Cullen lot (lurking behind Anderton) simply shoved the income tax back up again. After that swore would never vote Labour again. And then National introduced increased GST & the other little fiddles. Like you did not vote for them either this time. The problem is you can bring in capital gains or land or whatever you want to call it, but after that income tax will just be marched right back up again, it’s such an easy target.

What are their policies again?

Hardly any

Exactly.

Bridges tour may only serve to emphasise the NZF narrative described in the article above. Under investment and neglect. Hmmm, Bridges might be better to put his head down for 3mths and draft some legislation and bills. Then go on the campaign trail.

Is he a Trump in permanent election mode, campaigning from Opposition as the natural government? More arrogance...

What about the black ops smear campaign against the PM and domestic other half...? Fake News will back fire in NZ. He'd better be careful, careful with the perception of the National Party itself being behind it in anyway.

I have two theories. 1. It was a Machiavellian effort by disaffected left wing supporters, probably the unionists. 2. It was all true and spread organically. I seriously doubt National had any involvement.

A young Auckland Journalist I know has heard Nats had big hand in rumour.

I'm thinking of copying you Rex Pat and changing up my handle? Any suggestions...?

1. You’re a crack up. You’re essentially telling me a person you know heard a rumour about others being involved in a rumour.

2. I changed mine to reflect my change in status to Redundant Expat i.e Rex Pat. It’s not a change up as such, in fact I’m losing my mojo with this self indulgent lifestyle e.g. what’s the point in Monday if it’s the same as Sunday? I’m sure you can come up with something appropriate

That's what journalists do, talk to people, hear things.

Stay posted for my decision re handle, I know you are good for it.

I will give National party itself the benefit of the doubt, but as for disgruntled supporters............. that is where your culprit/s is/are. Not sure why you left them out of your theories.

Is that why you changed your name? Embarrassment at having been the useful idiot trying to scatter breadcrumbs to lead us to the stupid rumours on other forums?

Trademe is a lot more than rumours. This is an example of the stuff the COL would rather slip under the red carpet that was linked there. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/103554971/winter-energy-pay

Besides, the Jones Boy ..... - he done good.

Is posting on Sundays time and a half?

You have to be jokin... It's the young Nats you ought to be rousing out.

What on earth have the COL done tha has shown to be beneficial for NZ so far???????
Nothing but s flippen lot of hot air that will benefit no one.
23million to get out 29 bodies that won’t happen and why would you want to anyway.

Regional Fuel Tax?

What would you like them to do? And don’t say lower taxes or not raise taxes, what other constructive policy would you like them to adopt?

Abolish the minimum wage. Limit the dole to 6 months in every 12 or 12 months in every 24. Only give benefit payments to parents for the first 2 children, there after the parents would need to show that they had reasonable grounds to believe that they could afford the additional children when they had them. Use the savings to pay down national debt, if you really can not cut taxes.

Congrats on putting forward some ideas.

I have a hard time begrudging people the minimum wage and there is a lack of evidence it costs jobs when economy is at capacity.

Not many on the dole these days and those that are I imagine most are trying very hard to get off.

You won’t save much on those policies. Spending on the dole is really small in the scheme of things. NZ super - now there is an expensive benefit.

This is one of the most intelligent comments I have read. Unfortunately, no one has the cajones to implement any of this. Too risky for any political party, but great for the country.

Why is it intelligent? It’s not original. It doesn’t consider the impact? It’s anti-PC so you might call it brave. But then it’s anomymous and pitched to a forum where 50% of people embrace such thinking.

Couldn't we just shoot all the poor people? That would surely reduce poverty.

Then the middle class becomes the new poor class so we shoot them too!

Unfortunately over 50% of our benefits budget is paid to old folks regardless of need. Comparatively little to the stereotypical "bludgers", in reality, though it gets fair more airplay.

So if they really want to reduce the social welfare budget they're going to have to start cutting things for old folks too, not just the usual palava of cutting provisions and increasing debts of young Kiwis.

That'll never happen because the olds are a more powerful voting demographic!!!

Not just the 'old', also the soon to be old.

Many olds as you disparagingly refer to them have probably paid taxes for 40 or more years so if they are not entitled to a pension then the never worked family of Meth addicts would better be supplied with copious quantities of Meth at taxpayer expense to reduce their benefit burden.

Just for clarification, I was not using the word "olds" in a disparaging way. I call my older relatives this (indeed they call me various names too) as a term of endearment and humour. I treasure my olds! Being old or older is not pejorative term for me.

But to add additional context....I think perhaps the younger generations fear that one day, at the end of their working life, after having spent even longer than 40 years paying taxes (because the pension age will have risen), that because of economic conditions there will not be the same (if any) pension available to them.

Many olds as you disparagingly refer to them

Replied to the wrong post? That wasn't me.

But yes, we all pay taxes and we live in a quid pro quo society. When we're young we benefit from society via subsidised education, dental etc. and when we're old we currently receive a non-needs-based social welfare benefit - as well as subsidised healthcare across one's life.

And in between we contribute our quid and quo.

But it was not always the way that we handed out a universal benefit to all old folks regardless of need. It used to be for those in need, not for those who just thought it would be quite nice too.

Point being, if older folk who are working think they're perfectly well entitled to cut provisions for younger Kiwis just to enjoy a tax cut for themselves, then I guess younger Kiwis are equally entitled to dispute the compulsion to hand over their hard-earned wages to old folks who received more in their youth and want to pass on less in turn.

How many meth addicts are you talking about? You're aware that meth is a scourge across the socio-economic spectrum of our society? Must be quite a number to be stridently against it while over 50% of the welfare budget is handed out regardless of need.

Well, we have done that in the past, we just dress it up as war so it doesn't look so obvious

Oh well at least that is double the one child policy of the big gold star on red. Problem is you cannot stop people doing it. It is mother nature or lust whichever you prefer, either way there is offspring. Has been going on for thousands of years the Romans called them plebs, the English the hoi polloi. So when these let’s say, unfortunates start spilling out onto the streets, what happens? Homeless, beggars,crime. So then we have camps to hide them away, modern day poorhouses in other words. Personally I have just as much suspicion and little sympathy about those that rort the welfare system than any normal person. But the fact is, whether you like it or not, is that society anywhere in the world, as with centuries past, will always have those who cannot or will not take care of themselves. You cannot legislate them away. Unless of course you are of the ilk of 1930s styled dictatorships.

sadr001,

I can only conclude that you are a closet Socialist!! The dole for 6 months? 6 days would be more than enough.Benefit payments when good people-like you-are heavily overtaxed? The top rate could easily be cut in half if all benefits to the 'undeserving poor' were cancelled.
I think they could be put to work making bricks for chimneys,so that their children could then be sent to work as chimney sweeps,as used to happen in the Good Old Victorian times.
i have many more excellent ideas for making NZ Great Again.

How about this - 1. Reduce GST back to 12.5%. 2. Reduce the price of tobacco by 85% ie to approximately the same price paid in Germany. 3. Provide first home buyer grants of 15K (subject to conditions) 4. Secure a free trade deal with Russia. 5. Adjust the “free year of university policy” to make it a student loan rebate upon successful >=B+ completion of your engineering/medicine/science/math degree within a given time frame. 6. Continue with foreign buyer ban and tax reform.

Regional fuel tax comes out of people’s pockets and doesn’t grow the country.
If this COL stopped trying to tax everything they can think of so that the people that contribute zilch to the economy get more, we would be a damned sight better off.
We need to encourage not discourage the nillers to get off their butts, stop breeding and contribute to society!
Keep blurting out crap that they are doing will only encourage more people to do nothing.
Incorrectness I know, but blatant honesty which is what the government should be coming out with rather than this crap about child poverty etc. as that has always been around and is brought on solely by the people who are having the kids and expect others to pay for them!!

well today they have yet again addressed the elephant in the room -- this time David Parker telling us we have too many cows - so after they get rid of Taranaki's oil and Gas - dairy farming is next -

No longer matters what business you are running -- you are running scared of the next announcement - could be banning coffee next - absurd as its sounds - hardly more out there than getting rid of Oil and Gas and attacking our largest national industry and Export business!

Oh dear here we go again. Echoes from the shadows of the last Labour lot. We know! We say! You do! Best get out quick & get your preferred light bulbs and an unregulated hot water cylinder for the shower.

Unfortunately none of those in power have any claim to fame as far as I am aware, of running a successful business.
The unfortunate thing is that there are so many lefties or people who are possibly finding things a bit hard that actually believe that the COL are doing a great job.
They have done absolutely nothing of any benefit to the country yet apart from hot air.
Winston who has been missing in action since the election is not far from taking over running the country!
Even God Wont be able to help us!

To be fair and observing generally, politicians are where they are because they are unable to run successful businesses. Key for example was a glorified wage slave with an opportunity to rort the financial system on behalf of the financial manipulators while lining his own pockets. However a slick tongue and the ability to swallow policy rats is highly desirable.

Not saying your wrong, but what would you do if your were in Govt?

Where do I start?
I certainly wouldn’t be looking at increasing benefits to people who are not contributing to the country.
I would not be hammering people who are providing shelter to people who can’t afford to buy their own shelter.
I would not be making stupid statement without thinking of the consequences.
I would not be talking crap about building 4000 homes for people on 29 hectares as it is impossible to do if they are building for a specific market!!!!
I wouldn’t be promising Better education, better health, reduce child poverty etc as they have not got a clue on how to run a business.
At the end of the day, National did a good job over 3terms that they were governing that will leave this mob for dead.
Watch the budget that comes up next week, you will then see what “The Man” is saying is right.

wow, are you John key or bill english???

Skimming is not working, but it certainly is profitable. Ask any Banker or Finance Spokesman.''Houses Overpriced"???.
Insurances are not working, but they do like their money up front.
Taxing is not working, when it pays for rentals at 2 billion a pop.
Housing is not working, but then why would it....when others can leverage, more than some can borrow., then flip the finger and on to others....A key feature of our glorious Land.
Banking is not working, but profits when you do..save and be damned.
Building is not working, when poor people cannot afford a shack, nor would the councils allow it.
Land Bwanking is not working, but just the cream of the crop.
Public Servants are not working, but part of the problem, delay, obfuscate, join the queue.
Rates are not working, but Local Councils can spend us all into oblivion...oh plus a smidging of interest...though some like a tax loss to claim...it all back.
Infrastructure is not working, but boy do we need a lot...more.
Borrowing is not working, but we are all deeply indebted to the above.
China is broken, so not working, like it should.
Gas is exploding, like fracking not working, what ever shall we do next...Oh I know...water is not working, meter it, by house lot, not Exported...freebies.
New Zealand is not working, in places unmentionable, like Hawaii, it could explode any day.
GST is not working, avoiding the big sums, is so last years taxation policy. $400 bucks...no...30 million dollars....yes.?!

Immigration is not working to plan, but they do not need a House, ..do they.?...Rentals is the way to go.

Houses are so last year....and the previous...invest-a-meant ..phase....

Ask any Politician, why we do not have Houses.......we have investments..get over it...and so do they.

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Oh those poor people making massive tax free gains from providing sub par shelter are getting 'hammered' by having to pay some tax for once. You're always telling us how profitable it is so I guess it won't hurt much.

B-b-b-b-b-but what will happen if you upset the Landlords? W-w-w-w-where will people live if it wasn't for these lords of shelter. We better not make it too hard for them to be charitable, otherwise they'll teach us all a lesson by dismantling their rental properties and stashing the parts down the side of their garage on top of last years Christmas Tree.

You must live in a gated community

Education and Health and Child poverty are not businesses

just proves his below par IQ

So - making things better for older Kiwis who benefited from earlier government involvement in boosting housing supply, perpetuating betterment without taxation, asking workers to disproportionately bear the burden of tax, cutting provisions and increasing debt of young Kiwis, and ...asking young Kiwis to think positively about all that.

I don't really see why younger Kiwis should vote for that. It doesn't make a better future for them at all.

Sounds great, both The Winston Party and National out to woo the regions. The Urbanites have been forcing their silly ideas on us for too long. I am sure Bridges will get some "straightforward" advice in those meetings.

Labour of course absolutely despise rural folk, all that nasty cowshit they are covered in, (they should try mucking out pigs...). As for well paying rural jobs in Mining, that is strictly Verboten.