3 Jan 2018

Road tripping with the former Minister of Transport

From Summer Times, 11:05 am on 3 January 2018

As a wannabe musician from way back, National's shadow leader of the house Simon Bridges knows what makes a road trip great. "I suppose I sound like a walking cliche, but it is the people, isn't it?"

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Simon Bridges, shadow leader of the house and opposition spokesman for Economic and Regional Development, and Immigration Photo: NZ GOVERNMENT

"There's no question it's also about the place, about the music, it's about all those things, probably. About the wine, to be honest, as well ... after hours."

"There's something about good loud solid music when you're driving that – obviously you wouldn't do anything that breaks the law – but just keeps you focused and on time." 

He tells Summer Times' Megan Whelan one journey down the West Coast with his wife Natalie particularly stands out.

"We did that early on in our marriage, and it was a fantastic trip ... I'm pretty sure we went from the top to the bottom and actually ended up with some family down in Otago." 

On the road again

Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast.

Simon picked the West Coast as his most memorable road trip Photo: 123RF

Now the shadow leader of the house and opposition spokesman for Economic and Regional Development, and Immigration, Simon spent most of 2017 responsible for New Zealand transport and is still passionate about it. 

He hopes the new government will continue on the track he set the country on. 

"I hope... I think they will, but I hope the current government will continue on that course. 

"The danger there I think is that they will abandon, downscale some things, they will then have this hiatus, this period where there's really nothing happening ... I make no real criticisms today, but you know – the RMA, the planning culture in New Zealand – things take a really big time from whoa to go."

Reducing the road toll isn't an easy fix – but it's not just the government's responsibility, Simon says.

"I would go easy somewhat on the government, I don't think this is just a government issue. 

"It's the cars, the technology in them. I think actually New Zealanders have a bit of a role to play in that, when you're choosing a car think about safety because that really does make a big big difference. 

"It's a wider societal thing. If you look at the crashes they are far too often happening as a result of – let's be blunt about this – really dumb things. Not wearing seatbelts, driving on a road trip where you just haven't had enough sleep ... driving fast, yep, drinking, drugs and those things."

Simon believes transport policy will mostly stay the same, as the new government and old are not so different in this respect.

"I wouldn't say there's this massive rift between us. They would emphasise the public transport and the rail perhaps more than we do but I think fundamentally we're sort of on the same page."

The House of Rock

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Photo: Supplied

It turns out there's more than just policy in common. 

"David Shearer was a struggling guitarist deep in his soul, Gerry Brownlee is a crooner from way back.

"I think what is true is we in government don't do a lot of this, we get bogged down in day-to-day issues on this sort of conveyor belt.

"But I think we might see a bit of karaoke coming back, it was there in the '90s and 2000s, so who knows? 

"Rumour has it there are some karaoke machines in a variety of former ministers' offices, so I think they could get cracked out over the next three years. We have a bit more time to reflect on our hands." 

Simon is a former drummer, but hasn't had a kit for years. 

"I still dream of in my garage having one. What happens actually ... is I go into the Rockshop around this time every year, my Christmas present to myself, but my problem is I don't want a $1,000 kit, I want a $15,000 kit. And then in the cold light of day when I think that through I wouldn't get the value out of it." 

Too busy thinking about my baby

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Photo: 123RF

Summer for his family will be different this year, Simon says, with the arrival of a new baby girl.

That means instead of visiting his wife Natalie's family in the UK, they'll be staying local around Tauranga. 

With Parliament kicking into gear in the new year, he won't need to take parental leave, either. 

"I suppose Members of Parliament are in a very privileged position of not, sort of, needing to do that. 

"We're in a funny sort of position in that we're not – my sort of sense – we're not actually employees, we're elected, so that is different. 

"I've talked with the whip and I've got the time I need, but if I was an employee I might not necessarily." 

Simon's playlist:

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Photo: wikipedia

  • 'Whole Lotta Love' by Led Zeppelin: "Natalie is from the UK, her parents are over there ... we did a big South Island road trip with them ... funnily enough, I don't know if I chose Led Zep CDs at the time because I thought it would annoy them but her old man is very into old-school rock and so on and we had it up loud and it brings back really good memories." 
  • 'More Than This' by Roxy Music: "Just 'cause Roxy Music, I really like Bryan Ferry ... It's a great feel-good song 'More Than This', it's a feeling. You can imagine if you're out there in the Mackenzie Basin or something, in the open country, you've got this going, it doesn't get much better than that."  
  • 'Here Comes the Sun' by Nina Simone: "She's just got so many classics ... I like her story, I watched her biopics recently and she had a really colourful, full, sometimes angry and tempestuous life, so she's a real favourite at the moment."
  • 'Englishman in New York' by Sting: "I don't know if he's cool or not these days, he probably isn't, but I'm a wannabe musician from way back ... I'm not good at many things but I was a good drummer, and I just deeply admire Sting. I think he's an excellent musician."
  • 'Softly Whispering I Love You' by Paul Young: "I just really like this song ... I can see myself on an extended road trip and having this on, enjoying it while I drive along the highway."

Check out the full Summer Times road trip playlist: