Matthew Hooton on Northland’s bridges too far

Matthew Hooton looks behind the decision on the Northland bridges.

It is not in Mr Bridges’ political DNA to stick his fingers into the taxpayers’ pockets to snatch $69 million to bribe voters during a by-election. Nor does his experience outplaying Mr Peters in Tauranga suggest it would be a good idea.

Make no mistake: this was another Steven Joyce special, after polls indicated a likely defeat on March 28, prompting the economic development czar to take leave of his ministerial responsibilities and personal control of National’s Northland campaign.

Of Mr Joyce’s 10 new bridges, seven were not even mentioned by the Northland Regional Council in its recent Regional Land Transport Plan 2015-2021. No cost-benefit analysis in favour of the pro­jects has been released because none has been carried out. The announcement of the expenditure of $69 million of public funds was not even made by a minister but by National’s by-election candi­date, Mark Osborne, most recently a mid-level bureaucrat at the Far North District Council.

Northland is turning into a debacle. Steve Joyce’s brains trust fingerprints are all over this…in Mt Albert they tried to blame someone else, but the same people are leading the charge again.

The bridges-for-Northland scheme is classic Mr Joyce because it takes no account of anything beyond the next news cycle. Even if, as the prime minister claimed untruthful­ly this week, this was just a routine announcement brought forward a few weeks in the interests of transparency, it sends a destructive message to the polis that this is how things now roll under John Key.

Politicians choosing for elec­toral purposes where new schools, hospitals, roads, dams, bridges, convention centres or other infra­structure will be built – and by whom – is at the heart of what led New Zealand to near economic col­lapse in 1984. It leads to the steady misallocation of resources and the inevitable corruption of both the public and private spheres. If the state is to take money for public purposes, it must at least be allo­cated on some transparent formula rather than on political whim.

There is real anger building inside National, on the back bench, and also int he membership. Northland is the catalyst…the frustrations of the cult of personality are coming home to roost.

Voters do not like being treated as fools and that is what Mr Joyce has done. Moreover, National’s campaign maestro has shown Mr Peters the whites of Mr Key’s eyes, injecting a shot of adrenaline into the old rogue’s campaign.

Most significantly, Northland voters have been given a classic example of the power of Mr Peters taking an interest in the region of his birth and Ngati Wai tribe. Just putting his name on the bal­lot paper has already opened the taxpayers’ wallet to the tune of $69 million, and the government has now confirmed the 10 bridges will go ahead even if voters don’t back Mr Osborne. What could Mr Peters do were he actually the MP?

Mr Joyce’s botulinum-grade arrogance is so infecting the rest of the government that it is dif­ficult to see how Mr Key can win a fourth term with Act, UnitedFu­ture and the Maori Party alone. Where it not for Kim Dotcom’s “Moment of Truth,” Mr Key would not have achieved that even last September.

If National loses or just scrapes in then people are going to be looking very closely at Steve Joyce and his band of campaigners. The members in Northland are already asking those questions.




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  • caochladh

    I hope national and Key consolidate their position so that they can run a National candidate in Ohariu and rid us of that sanctimonious twit once and for all.

  • Wallace Westland

    Joyce does not have the mood of the public and as an unelected list politician he never has.
    He badly misjudge it with the Sky City debacle and once more has leapt into the fray eyes wide closed.

    This is not good news from Hooten. I had every reason to believe those bridges were on the Land Transport Plan. This is exactly the behaviour Key was referencing in his election night speech and yet again we are seeing it. 3rd term Government arrogance.

    What grinds my gears is the smarmy toad Dunne Nothing and Peters have once more potentially been handed the opportunity to hold us all to ransom again.

    One hopes the National voters of Northland can see past this sort of stupidity and vote in the best interests of the country instead of voting a woman from Invercargill into the trough but they could hardly be blamed for throwing a protest vote out at this juncture either could they?

    • Lord_Montrose

      The “woman from Invercargill” may not want to be an MP right now. There are plenty more on the list from all over NZ.

      • Wallace Westland

        The simple fact is that if Winston is elected under the stupidity of MMP it is highly likely an additional MP that no one has ever heard of will enter Parliament and get to sup at the trough instituted by less than 30% of registered NZ voters….twice!

  • sandalwood789

    I’ve never liked Joyce and (contrary to most people) I don’t see him as a particularly good MP. Wallace Westland puts it very well – Joyce doesn’t have the mood of the public.

    Given his poor judgement with the “airport gate” nonsense (and now the unfolding mess in Northland) I wonder how many more gaffes it will take for him to be demoted. That goes for Hekia Parata too.

    Get your act together, Key. If the Northland mess doesn’t wake you up then nothing will.

    • Bobb

      What “airport gate” nonsense? I know about Brownlie’s brain fart but not about Joyce.

  • Sailor Sam

    Assuming Winston wins Northland,then I see the writing on the wall for John Key.
    Steven Joyce will have also cooked his goose, which leaves a certain backbencher in a very good position.

  • Ross15

    Hooten got it wrong with the election and I hope he has it just as wrong this time.
    All I can see is a lot of egos going into over drive with this by election.

  • Sailor Sam

    But how do we know if it is poor “maori” on the TTT “maori’ roll that are being polled and come to meetings
    They cannot vote in this election.
    So march 28 will be interesting, I expect Hone to start claiming that a lot of “maori” could not vote, he will demand a recount!

  • willtin

    ” What could Mr Peters do were he actually the MP? ”
    Maybe, Cough up $158,000 to the taxpayers, you owe , whos’ tit you continue to suck from.

  • Just saying

    It’s interesting to note the flavour of some of the comments, and this article being anti Nats in some shape or form. If anyone thinks a Labour/Greens/NZF option is better for the country, wait to see the outcry then. Nat is offering something to sway the vote, it’s politics and sure better than Winnie in his big blue bus being the wrinkled old blow hard he is well known for with little substance (probably why Little is backing him as well)

    • Sailor Sam

      I am not anti National, just do not rate John Key as a leader.
      John Key is a wheeler and dealer, just like Steven Joyce.
      They are not leaders.
      I would never vote for Labour, have voted Green in the past, but now that their “green”.outer cover is slowly wearing off, their original red is coming through again.
      As for NZFirst, if they are the answer, we are asking the wrong question.
      I would vote National again, if it came up with a real leader, that leader is not now in cabinet, but sits on te back bench.