NZ First pumps PGF millions into Maori projects in Northland – then accuses Bridges of politicking at Waitangi

No-one  should have been astonished to learn from a Newsroom headline that  Political sparks fly at Waitangi as PM promises ‘more mahi’

The report began by noting

There was a sharper, election-year edge to proceedings at this year’s Waitangi pōwhiri. Simon Bridges and Winston Peters clashed, while Jacinda Ardern made the case for why Māori should have patience with her Government

The report observed that National leader Simon Bridges’ speech seemed to be addressed not to those on the paepae, but for the New Zealanders who would be following events at Waitangi from home.

After a glancing reference to National’s record on Treaty of Waitangi settlements, Whānau Ora and partnership schools, he moved swiftly to attacking Ardern as he referenced her speech at Waitangi last year.

“She said there would be less poverty, she said that she would reduce inequality between Māori and Pākehā, sadly the Government has failed to deliver on these promises.”

The “one thing that the North needs for economic transformation”, said Bridges, was a four-lane highway connecting the region to Auckland – the type of project he argued the current Government could not be trusted to deliver.

“As we stand here, nice talk, nice words, announcements, sausage sizzle…they’re nice, they’re good, there’s nothing wrong with them, but what the north and New Zealand actually needs is leadership that gets things done.”

According to the Newsroom account, Green Party co-leader James Shaw followed Bridges by seizing the moral high ground and declaiming:  

“I don’t want to debase this place or this occasion with petty partisan politics. We have plenty of time for that this year, oodles of time – starting next week.”

Yet Shaw’s speech included a plug for the Greens as a party which wanted to go “further and faster” than the Government had managed so far.

But Point of Order was more fascinated in New Zealand First leader Winston Peters’ reaction.

Even Peters, who could politicise the opening of an envelope, decided to take umbrage, with Shane Jones giving up some of his speaking time so his leader could put the boot in.

“If we can come to this place after 180 years and trample all over the recognition of the significance of what it means, the past and the future, for politics then we’re in trouble, and I say to all of you, ‘What am I doing, I’m making sure you don’t get away with it’.”

 The New Zealand Herald similarly reported that Bridges had immediately copped flak from Peters, who criticised him for “politicising” Waitangi and “trampling all over the significance of the event”.

“As Elvis would say: if you’re looking for trouble, you’ve come to the right place,” Peters said.

Peters was disparaging of Bridges’ highway plans.

“The plan you were talking about … was going to take 68 years to reach Whangarei; do you fancy your chances of being able to live to see it?”

Peters claimed that he would be able to deliver the road faster.

The Newsroom report noted that  –

Bridges suggested – not unreasonably – that the criticism from the coalition parties seemed cynical: “Every speech contained politics, and they have every Waitangi I’ve been to.”

He should further have pointed out what the government had done on the eve of  Waitangi Day.

We refer to Jacinda Ardern being  joined by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Defence Minister Ron Mark, and other high-profile MPs gathering at Waitangi for the opening a museum dedicated to Maori who served in the armed forces. 

Te Rau Aroha, a new museum at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, acknowledges the duty and sacrifice of Māori.  

The museum was paid for by the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), which provided $14.6 million to the Waitangi National Trust to construct the premises.

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones, a dab hand at pumping PGF money into the Northland region as Regional Economic Development Minister, highlighted how establishing the museum was part of Labour’s coalition agreement with New Zealand First.

“The Government committed two years ago as part of the Coalition agreement to build a nationally significant museum to honour all Māori who served in the armed forces since 1840 in times of conflict,” Jones said. 

Have Maori troops been ignored at the Army National Museum in Waiouru?

And let’s not forget that a day or two earlier government leaders were in Kaikohe to announce …

  • A plan to exempt non-productive Maori land from council rates and allow councils to wipe off rates arrears;
  • And provide these landowners with some rates relief while they are in the transition phase of making their whenua more productive.
  • PGF funding of about $30 million for 30 initiatives around the country aimed at creating new economic opportunities on Maori -owned land. More than $6 million of this will benefit seven Whenua Māori initiatives in the Northland region.

The timing was sublime, as the government prepared to account to Maori about its achievements for them.

Northland, of course, is Jones home patch.

It is Peters’ home patch, too.

But we wouldn’t dare suggest those  announcements had anything to do with trying to curry favour politically with Maori or Northlanders. Would we?


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