Northland result: Maori Party wants to leverage its new power

National's support partner quick off the blocks with new demands | Peters says he'll "force" more regional investment.

The Maori Party says homelessness in the regions is an issue, and is vowing to use its new power in the House to tackle it.

The support of the party is more critical to the government from today, with National's majority in the House reduced in the wake of Winston Peters winning the Northland seat off National's Mark Osborne yesterday.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox told TV One’s Q+A programme this morning efforts to secure funds for emergency and state funding will be at the forefront of negotiations the party will have with the Government.

"We've seen now $500,000 put into emergency housing that wasn't there before for Tamaki Makaurau - we'd like to see that extended to the regions”, she said. “Regions who've never had an issue with homelessness before, do now, and they need immediate support and immediate relief while we work on the housing network."   

Ms Fox said the party would also like to see an increase in benefits.

But she stopped short of saying the party would be able to demand gains, saying instead it was all about "negotiating".

Mr Peters' victory means National drops from 60 to 59 seats in the 121 seat Parliament, while NZ First will add a list MP, taking it from 11 to 12.

National will do longer be able to pass legislation with only the support of UnitedFuture's Peter Dunne or ACT's David Seymour, and Mr Dunne has already said he opposes the government's plans to reform the RMA.

Peters: I'll force more regional investment
Meanwhile, although he will remain on the opposition benches, Mr Peters has been quick to outline his post-byelection agenda.

Mr Peters told Q+A he will force the government to look beyond Auckland to address the needs of people in the regions by “investing in what works”.

He named forestry, fishing and farming as three regional industries that required more government attention.

“You’ve got farmers here — one in four, and perhaps one in three, shortly – who will be heading off to see the bank manager, paying not the lowest interest rates in 50 years, but in comparative terms, the highest. Their offshore competitors are paying 1% or less, and they’re being hammered with low returns, and they’re being hammered with high interest rates. And it’s all for the overseas foreign banks, and the government won't do a thing about it.”

Mr Peters said Northland had sent the government a message as they were unhappy about being ignored.

The NZ First leader was, however, short on detail on how he would push his plans through.

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RAW DATA: Q+A transcript: WINSTON PETERS interviewed by CORIN DANN

CORIN          Good morning, Mr Peters. Congratulations. What do you put this win down to?

WINSTON     We asked the people here to send them a message, and they have, and this is not a message they can ignore. The reality is that up here, like other parts of the country, they’re in a two-tier economy. They’re in the second tier and at the very bottom. And yet if you look at the productive export wealth, they’re in the top half of electorates around New Zealand, and they’re not getting a fair go, and they knew it.

CORIN          So you’ve sent the message to National, but how do you now deliver on the promises of a port upgrade, the rail upgrade. You are not in power. How do you get them those things?

WINSTON     Look, we went through that question time after time in a very extensive campaign over the last four weeks. They know full well that the port here is a jewel in the crown of Northland’s infrastructure, which is undeveloped and unused and badly manipulated against their interests. In short, you’ve got a port with maritime excellence in terms of the depth of the water, with thousands of hectares of flat land behind it, and yet unlike every other port around the world, it doesn’t have a railway line to it. How can KiwiRail possibly explain that?

CORIN          With respect, Mr Peters, how do you make something concrete happen now?

WINSTON     Well, my point to you is that you’ve had KiwiRail running down the main line from Auckland to Whangarei and never bothered to build an extension which has already been planned for and the land had already been assigned to go to this extension to Marsden Point, and yet there is no railway line. How do you explain that? What I intend to do is make sure those in power and KiwiRail in particular do what they should have done a long, long time ago.

CORIN          Peter Dunne last night put out a statement, though, and he says that you are as irrelevant as ever.

WINSTON     It’s sad that you have to put Peter Dunne and the glove puppets from the ACT and the Maori Party into the equation. This is ridiculous. I do not want to spend my next two and a half years in politics trying to explain away things to people like the ACT Party, the Maori Party or the United Future Party and nor should you. There has been a seismic shift, as I promised you, up here in the north, and it’s not going to go away with questions like that and silly comments from Mr Dunne. Let me tell you one thing, though. Everybody knew up here that we weren’t going to allow the ACT and United Future or any other party - my party included - to start playing silly games with the New Zealand people. This is for real, and me and my colleagues will make sure that they don’t try to renegotiate the arrangement with the National Party after all. They are creatures and creations of the National Party. And let’s not have these silly questions any more. This has been a huge change in New Zealand politics, and we intend to give the Northland people the response and the answers that they have asked for.

CORIN          Yes, you have sent a message for them, but it has not changed the balance of power, really, has it? Peter Dunne and the Maori Party are the ones who have become more powerful.

WINSTON     You are utterly wrong. You are entirely wrong. No, they have been muted by this result. Utterly muted, because we were never going to allow this devastating result in Northland to be misused by those that don’t deserve to ever have any say in the matter in the future. Make no bones about it. Politics is a business that we know something about, and we are going to act responsibly, and the National Party now knows now they must listen.

CORIN          Firstly, have you had a call from the Prime Minister? Do you expect one?

WINSTON     I knew that he wouldn’t be seen for dust and small pebbles on Friday night. As I predicted, he wasn’t here. He was here the whole campaign.  In many ways, this was a campaign between the Prime Minister, who was on all the hoardings, and New Zealand First in terms of myself. And they lost badly here.

CORIN          The point is, Mr Peters, can you work with National now? One way you could get tangible gains for Northland, surely, is to negotiate, perhaps, on the Resource Management Act deal, give them some support which they need. You might be able to walk away with something.

WINSTON     (CHUCKLES) With the greatest of respect, thank you for the advice. Thank you for the counsel.

CORIN          You’re welcome.

WINSTON     The National Party know full well that up here a massive number of National Party people switched votes because they have had it up to their eyeballs with being neglected and forgotten. Now, surely the National Party advisors are around the boardroom this morning, saying, ‘Look, you guys, you cannot go on doing this to provincial New Zealand, to the Gisbornes, the Hawke’s Bays, the South Island and places like Southland, where they are huge export earners, yet down at the bottom of the economic equation. We want a rebalancing of New Zealand politics so that those who create the wealth offshore for family New Zealand get a fair go for their families back here.

CORIN          OK, how could National government do that? Is it just simply throwing more money at the regions? Is that what they have to do?

WINSTON     Do you think I’d have ever won the seat if Holyoake was prime minister? Or for that matter, Marshall, or, before that, Holland? No, back then when I was a boy up here, they were creating a lifestyle beyond my parents’ wildest dreams. Now, we had a vision back then. It’s not a matter of recreating something; it’s a matter of reliving the dream that once New Zealanders used to have when the government of the day had a fairer sense of nationhood and was fair to everybody, regardless of their background.

CORIN          Yes, but is that just about subsidising industries in the region? You can’t make people go and live in regions that are declining in population. I mean, I want to know what are some actual things you can do?

WINSTON     I wished, I really wished, you were on the part of the campaign, because, frankly, what do you think Sky City is? Massive subsidisation of an overseas outfit. What do you think, for example, South Canterbury Financial’s about? The biggest social welfare beneficiaries in the country – $800 million just like that. They’re throwing money around like an eight-armed octopus—

CORIN          So should they throw that money at the regions as well, then?

WINSTON     It’s not a matter of throwing the money at the regions; it’s a matter of investing in what we know works. Because if we don’t-- take the farmers up here. Very shortly, within about two or three weeks – probably sooner rather than later – there is going to be a devastating announcement from Fonterra about the per kilogram price again. Now, look, you guys surely understand that this is the lifeblood of places like Northland.

CORIN          Yeah, but are you seriously saying this government doesn’t provide big subsidies to farming? It provides hundreds of millions of dollars through the primary growth fund to farmers.

WINSTON     Well, look, with the greatest respect, you’re talking drivel now.

CORIN          Well, I think that’s a fact, actually, Mr Peters.

WINSTON     Well, who’s doing your research down there?

CORIN          No, I’ll take credit for that.

WINSTON     I will tell you what the facts are here. You’ve got farmers here — one in four, and perhaps one in three, shortly – who will be heading off to see the bank manager, paying not the lowest interest rates in 50 years, but in comparative terms, the highest. Their offshore competitors are paying 1% or less, and they’re being hammered with low returns, and they’re being hammered with high interest rates. And it’s all for the overseas foreign banks, and the government won't do a thing about it.

CORIN          So you’re saying we should help farmers to grow our regions? That’s one of the things we need to do?

WINSTON     Well, farmers, forestry, fishing. Everything up here is asset rich, excepting they don’t have a government that gives a hoot about them. What you’ve got is Auckland sucking all the money out, and every sort of concern is being answered down in Auckland, but up here, nothing. Now, look, don’t defy what you’ve just seen. These people went out, and they went out in their thousands, and they changed the history of politics, and I don’t want to see people sitting in their comfortable lives, albeit paid for by the taxpayer, defying what these people have just said. There’s a message that has been sent, and they’re going to have to listen in government and pay attention and not neglect them any longer. Look, we’ve got hospitals in Rawene where I saw people fundraising, trying to get their hospital going. They don’t do that in Auckland, do they? It’s not fair.

CORIN          Just a final question, Mr Peters. Just a final question of logistics. You will presumably have to resign as a list MP so that your next list MP can come through – Ria Bond. Is that the current intention – that she would come through on the list?

WINSTON     Again, I said that we put all our effort into focusing on winning this battle, because had we not won, these sort of questions are irrelevant. The board will turn its mind to that now that the first question has been answered.

CORIN          So when will you make a decision on that list seat you’re saying hasn’t been decided?

WINSTON     Well, the board will meet possibly next week or the week after, because the final recount is not in until about two weeks’ time, and we’ve got plenty of time to make a decision on something that was dependent upon us winning this battle yesterday in Northland.

CORIN          Winston Peters, New Zealand First leader and soon to be MP for Northland, thank you very much for your time this morning.

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