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Joyce acknowledges possibility of a loss in Northland

Peters says he could still back RMA reform, if it's "reasonable" | Joyce distances himself from Young Nats' anti-Winston campaign on Facebook; promises broadband pork.

Sat, 21 Mar 2015

A week from the Northland byelection, Steven Joyce has acknowledged the possibility National could lose.

Asked by The Nation's Patrick Gower, "You could lose it if you don’t turn out those votes, couldn’t you?" Mr Joyce replied, "There’s no doubt about that."

Three polls have shown Winston Peter neck-and-neck with National in the traditionally blue-ribbon seat.

If Mr Peters does take the seat, it will take National from 59 seats in today's 120-seat Parliament to 59 seats in an expanded 121-seat Parliament (assuming Mr Peters resigns his place on NZ First's list, allowing an extra list MP to come into the House for the party).

The immediate complication for National would be its promised Resource Management Act reform, already opposed by UnitedFuture's Peter Dunne.

Today, Mr Joyce said RMA reforms “won’t go through” if Mr Peters wins Northland.

However, the NZ First leader offered an olive branch, saying “If they’re reasonable, yes, they will get our backing.”
Mr Joyce said Mr Peters is “not a reliable partner on RMA reform” but promised National will talk to him about the legislation if he wins the by-election.
The National campaign strategist also distanced the party from a Young Nats Facebook attack ad on Winston Peters, which mocks the NZ First leader's age. "It's not something I would do at all” he said, adding he “might have a chat” to them about it.
He guarantees Northland will get all big three promises – on bridges, broadband and Puhoi road – even if Winston Peters wins Northland.

In terms of broadband, Mr Joyce said Northland will be at the front of the queue. NBR Technology Editor Chris Keall says that statement is curious given by the terms of MBIE's recent Registration of Interest, all councils have an equal shot at the government's extra $360 million in new, contestible broadband infrastructure spending.

READ ALSO: Osborne denies he's too scared to debate to Peters in person


RAW DATA: The Nation transcript: Patrick Gower interviews Steven Joyce

Watch the interview here

Patrick Gower: Minister—
Steven Joyce: Morning.
Good morning. It is a neck-and-neck campaign, and it is getting desperate. This is the latest – an attack ad on Facebook last night from the Young Nats, attacking Winston Peters for his age and time in Parliament. Is this good enough?
Well, it’s the Young Nats, and with the greatest respect, they’ve always been a bit of a distance from the rest of the party, the same as Young Labour—
But you know that the president of the Young Nats is working on your campaign in Dargaville full-time right now, so is this good enough or is this just showing how desperate you are that you’re having to diss Winston Peters on Facebook?
Well, actually, it is again—I’m never going to take responsibility for everything the Young Nats do, because that’s a very dangerous occupation. They go back 40 or 50 years of being rebels and doing things a bit differently. It’s not something that I would do at all, but they’ve gone and done it. But they certainly don’t ask for permission by anybody in terms of the way they approach. They do their own thing.
So will you go back to the Young Nats and their president, and a lot of them are on your campaign right now, and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to stop this. We look desperate’?
I might have a chat with them once I have a chance to look through it, Paddy, yes.
Yeah, and this desperation started with the bridges, of course. $69 million—
Yeah, it’s not—
Up to $69 million worth of taxpayers’ money for 10 bridges.
Yeah, it’s not desperation.
Why are those bridges needed now when they weren’t needed six months ago?
Oh, no, they have been needed for a while.
Well, why are you giving them to Northland now?
Just give us a chance. Because we’ve been working on this programme. You know, we’ve got the Regional Land Transport Programme. Our view is that we’re going to end up doing these over the next, I think, six to nine years anyway. We had a close look at it and said, ‘If this is our plan, then let’s get on and put it.’ I mean, the whole point of elections is that you lay out your plans. And if you actually look at the difference between National and Winston on this stuff, he’s laid out a heck of a lot more. Now, people know that he probably can’t do the things that he’s laying out, but we can, so we do a lot less, but it is an important part of developing the north is the roading system.
So these bridges have nothing to do with Winston Peters about to take out this election? It has nothing to do with stopping Winston Peters?
It’s definitely to do with the by-election campaign, because we’ve laid them out for the by-election campaign, but they were things we were going to do anyway.
Why can’t you just say it – that you’ve gone with the bridges, you’ve gone with the $69 million of taxpayers’ money to help beat Winston? What is so hard about saying that?
Because it’s not as simple as that, Paddy. You’re trying to frame it a certain way, and good on you for giving it a shot, but, actually, we lay out our plans in elections and in by-elections as well. National’s invested very significant sums of money in Northland roads. If you look at the roading between—
No, but let’s go through the plan.
Give me a shot.
I’m going to go through the plan. I’m going to go through the plan. The $69 million worth of bridges – if Winston Peters wins, will Northland still get those?
Yeah, that’s right. The promise has been very clear.
Okay, the extension from Puhoi to Warkworth, starting at that early point, late next year, if Winston Peters wins, will Northland still get that?
Well, actually—
Will Northland still get that if Winston wins?
Yes, it will—
One more thing. I want to cover one more thing.
No, give me a second.
Just let me cover—
Let me just have one crack at this, because I do need to describe the plan, and you were a bit naughty on the news the other night, because what you didn’t say and you were told that that project was brought forward to 2016-17 at the election last year – 21st of September— sorry, the 12th of September last year. And, actually, you went out on TV this week and said, ‘This is outrageous. They’re bringing this thing forward two to three years.’ Actually, on that you were wrong.
No, I just said you’re bringing it forward to the earliest possible start date—
We announced that at the General Election last year, Paddy.
And will it still happen if Winston Peters wins?
Yeah, absolutely.
And will Northland stay at the front of the queue for broadband if Winston Peters wins?
It will, indeed.
So this is the flaw in your plan, isn’t it? Because it’s a two-for-one – Northland gets the promises, but they can have Winston Peters as well.
No, I don’t think that’s right. I think because—
Northland gets the promises and can have Winston Peters.
Paddy, you’re making it as if it — you’re making it into a much more trivial thing than it is.
It’s not trivial.
I think it’s very important, actually.
It’s hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of taxpayers’ money.
Give me a minute and I’ll explain it. So, the situation is this – we all know that Northland has struggled not for, sort of, five years or 10 years but for 30-odd, 40-odd years. And there’s got to be a strong plan to deal with that, and there’s a range of things that we’re doing – accelerating the Ngapuhi settlement; accelerating broadband, as you’ve mentioned; making sure we get the roading system, because Northland is a spread-out area with 150,000 people. So these things are really important. And when you are going to an election campaign, you lay out the next steps in your plan. And, actually, it was really interesting in the week that we laid out the roading bridges and the broadband. On the one hand, we were accused by some people of—
Bribes. Of bribes.
Yeah, and then at the other end when we did the broadband on the Thursday, they said, ‘Oh, you’re reheating an old thing. You’re just doing something which isn’t new.’
Yeah, but the overall thing is the same there of both of them, isn’t it? You’re being accused of desperation.
But it’s not desperation. You lay out your plans. That’s the nature of an election campaign. Look, this is a very serious election, right? It’s very serious for people in Northland.
And if you’ve got such good plans, why then has a 9300 majority turned into a neck-and-neck race? What’s gone wrong up there?
Well, let’s talk about that, because actually, it is very tight, and what I would say to you is that you just do the maths very quickly. There’s basically only two people that can win it, right? Labour, I don’t know how many times they’ve thrown Willow-Jean under Winston’s bus. I think it’s three or four times times now, and I see Andrew Little’s going up there today to do it again. But so there’s basically two candidates. Last time, our candidate got just over 50% of the electorate votes. And the others went a whole bunch of different ways. This time, it’s much, much tighter because, actually, it’s all coalescing. The Opposition votes are all coalescing around Winston.
You know these numbers. You know if you add together Labour, Greens and New Zealand First, there’s still a 3000-vote majority to National, so you’ve still lost that.
Hang on. On paper, but so then the challenge is that we actually have to get in there and work hard to win it, and that means actually – and I agree with; it’s tough – we have to turn out our voters to vote for us.
You could lose it if you don’t turn out those votes, couldn’t you?
There’s no doubt about that. We’ve got a week to go, and all by-elections are winnable and losable, and so the challenge now is to underline the seriousness of this by-election, not just for Northland, which is very important, but also for the Government as a whole, for the strength and stability of New Zealand Government. And we had the example yesterday with the international convention centre bill came out with Tracey Martin. Suddenly everybody was running around and saying, “Ooh gosh, have we got the votes here?” And we did check, and we do have the votes. But it just goes to show how tight the Parliament is, and you know that.
That’s  right. The other issue is the Resource Management Act. That could fail, could it, that’s what’s you’re telling people? If Winston Peters gets in, that might not go through?
Yeah. Well, actually, it won’t go through. In terms of the—
It won’t go through if Winston Peters wins this seat?
Well, in terms of the format we proposed prior to the last election, we weren’t able to do it because we had, I think, 59 votes, ACT had one, and we were short 61, and Peter Dunne and the Maori Party weren’t going to vote for it. Now, if we lose the by-election this coming weekend, in a week’s time, then we’re back with virtually exactly the same numbers, and it will be exactly the same point. So whatever we do would not be able to be what we’re seeking to do to help the development of regions like Northland. And that’s really important, because if you take Northland – what’s the challenge in Northland? The challenge in Northland is more investment. And that actually means allowing people to do more things at its most basic levels, so the RMA reform is crucially important.
Here’s something—
It’s something that we have to talk about at this by-election.
Because we’ve spoken to Winston Peters – and it’s on next – and he said he’s prepared to work with you on the RMA, he’s prepared to help you get it through.
Yeah. Yeah. I’m sure he is. I’m sure he says that.
Yeah. But you’re scaring people.
No, no, that’s not true.
But if he wins, will you go and talk to him about the Resource Management Act?
Of course we will.
But if he—
Nah, but hang on.
If he wins, you could work with him?
Paddy, hang on. We’ve been talking to him about Resource Management reform for ages. And you know Winston and I know Winston, and Winston will grin the crocodile grin, and he’ll go, ‘Oh, no, we’ll talk to them. Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.’ But, actually, he’s not a reliable partner on RMA reform. There’s no doubt about that. Now, he might maybe have an epiphany one day. Well, that’ll be fantastic, but right now he’s had two bills come out in the last few days – one against the international convention centre, one against free trade with the Trans-Pacific trade deal. And all these things are helpful to Northland, and his party votes against them. So we come down to the push for this weekend, and in the next week, we will be saying to people this is a very serious decision. It’s not just about who you vote for; it’s what you vote for. New Zealand’s done well because we’ve had a strong and stable government which is growing our economy, including in Northland. There’s more to do, but it’s actually done well, so we need to keep doing it.
Good luck up there. Thank you very much for your time, Minister.

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Joyce acknowledges possibility of a loss in Northland