20 Mar 2015

Joyce acknowledges tight race in Northland

9:38 am on 20 March 2015

Questions and accusations over brand new bridges and dusty old roads have continued to dog the Government in the run up to the Northland by-election.

Winston Peters on the campaign trail in Northland

Winston Peters said standing in an electorate where National had such a huge majority was a huge challenge. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Voters in the Northland electorate head to the polls next Saturday after National's Mike Sabin suddenly resigned citing personal reasons.

National's campaign manager for the by-election Steven Joyce admits the race for the seat is tight.

And he told Radio New Zealand that he always thought Mr Peters would be a tough campaigner, despite Prime Minister John Key earlier saying Mr Peters had no chance of taking the seat.

However, Mr Joyce said it was clear Labour supporters were throwing their support behind Mr Peters, but he remained confident National would take the seat.

Having hammered National over its by-election promise to double-lane 10 Northland bridges, the Labour Party now alleges National MP Shane Reti, who is the MP for Whangarei, has misled a Northland community group.

In a recorded conversation, Dr Reti told the leader of the Pipiwai-Titoki action group Alex Wright he had taken the group's road sealing proposal to Cabinet.

In the House Labour's Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford put that to the Minister of Transport.

"Did Cabinet consider a proposal for sealing roads in the Pipiwai area, as claimed by Dr Shane Reti, and if so, why has no funding for this project been announced?"

Gerry Brownlee, speaking in Parliament

Gerry Brownlee, speaking in Parliament Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Gerry Brownlee answered on Simon Bridges behalf, as he was not in the House.

"I would expect the opposition transport spokesman to know that Cabinet does not make decisions on funding for specific local road projects," he said.

"Up to 60 percent of local road funding does come from Government through the National Land Transport Fund in which a number of roads are included as lobbied for by MPs from all sides of the house."

New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone also put his two cents worth in.

"Can the Minister please confirm if Dr Reke has contracted foot and mouth disease by his use of bullyboy tactics against hard-working Northland dairy famers?"

Speaker of the House David Carter told Mr Paraone his question was out of order.

Despite the grief the National-led government has been copping, its Northland candidate Mark Osborne is still confident he can retain the seat and deliver the goods for Northlanders.

"We've got a strong platform, a strong programme of works, and a strong future for Northland in Government and I can't stress that enough. If I am elected I will be in a government and can actually make change.

"Other candidates won't be in government, they will be on the cross-benches, and they can't actually make change in those positions."

Winston Peters said standing in an electorate where National had such a huge majority was a huge challenge.

But he said his call for Northlanders to send the Government a message had struck a major chord.

"It will stop their neglect. It will be an all-mighty shock to them and they need it and so I'm saying to National Party people 'I know you want to be loyal to the party that you are in, I know something about that myself, but if you are honest with yourself, your party has taken all your submissions over all these years and thrown them straight into the rubbish bin'."

Advanced voting is well underway and the by-election result will be known on 28 March.

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