30 Mar 2015

Farming leader hails 'wake-up call' result

7:58 pm on 30 March 2015

A Far North farming and business leader says the weekend by-election result was the best possible result for the Northland region.

Winston Peters talks to media in Russell after sweeping to victory in Northland.

Winston Peters talks to media in Russell after sweeping to victory in Northland. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Farmers of New Zealand president, and a Kaitaia retailer, Ian Walker said New Zealand First leader Winston Peters' win was a wake-up call for the Government and other political parties not to ignore the regions.

He said in Northland's case, it had suffered decades of political and economic neglect.

"I always thought that Northland was so blue that you could put a cabbage on a stick, paint it blue and people would vote for it," he said.

"I think in the last general election, Mike Sabin got through with a large majority primarily because people were frightened of having a left-wing green government, which from Northland's point of view would be worse. And so, Northland voted in droves for the status quo.

"But this by-election has given them the opportunity to actually give the Government a wake-up call. All is not happy in paradise."

Mr Walker said the by-election result also pointed to the need for a party to represent rural and provincial New Zealand.

"If Winston Peters and New Zealand First really want to cement a position in the political environment in New Zealand, there is a real place for a centrist, rural provincial party.

"And if Winston and his team works extremely hard to demonstrate that they can represent provincial New Zealand really well, I think there's a huge political opportunity for them, because neither the centre left or the centre right, I believe, have the capability," he said.

Transport priorities for Northland

Farmer and Northland Regional Council chair Bill Shepherd said the council would be looking to build a good working relationship with Mr Peters, including discussions on transport priorities.

Mr Peters has criticised the council for not giving priority to a rail link to the port at Marsden Point.

Mr Shepherd said upgrading the roading network was a more pressing issue.

"We've done a lot of work with NZTA in pressing them to bring forward the planning for the four-lane highway," he said.

"At the moment we're talking Puhoi to Wellsford. Wellsford's not even on the boundary of Northland, so we're saying that the planning needs to be starting to bring that four-lane highway right through to Whangarei as a starting point."

He added that the council has been lobbying to have Mangakahia Road, the highway through to Kaikohe, to be declared a state highway.

"We could reasonably expect the the quality of that road would be improved and, if it becomes a state highway, that would mean that 100 percent of the cost of operating and maintaining that highway would become a central government cost."

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