4 Feb 2019

$20m spend no consolation for ignoring Northland expressway - Goldsmith

9:11 am on 4 February 2019

The opposition cannot understand why the government is throwing cash at local roads in Northland while refusing to build the national highways it says Kiwis need to get there.

PM and partner Clarke Gayford check on baby Neve alongside members of Otematea Marae at Kaipara.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford check on baby Neve alongside members of Otematea Marae at Kaipara. Photo: RNZ / Jo Moir

To get to Kaipara the prime minister and Shane Jones travelled on gravel roads to Otematea Marae yesterday to announce to locals they would be the latest to get a slice of the Provincial Growth Fund.

The cavalry arrived in Kaipara in the form of self-professed champion of the regions Mr Jones and his bucket of poutea.

Kaipara hasn't had a cash injection for roads since the days of former deputy prime minister Jim Anderton in the late 1990s, but Mr Jones denied the timing was connected to any sort of sweetener ahead of Waitangi.

National's transport spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said he could not make sense of it.

"Well, the primary reaction is around the roading which is very confused for overall government policy. On the one hand it's another $20 million for some local roads in Kaipara but they continue to not build the substantial road that needs to be done in Northland.''

Paul Goldsmith

Paul Goldsmith Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr Goldsmith said the government had turned its back on the key road Northland needs - an expressway from Wellsford to Whangārei.

While Kaipara is being showered with more than $20m, Mr Jones was also spreading goodwill to Māori landowners who he says have been left in the lurch by commercial banks for decades.

"There are no other New Zealanders who have land tenure in quite the way in which Māori do. Small blocks of uneconomic land with thousands of owners and a total disinterest from the banking system because of the risks involved.''

The Provincial Growth Fund is stumping up $100m of contestable cash to, in Mr Jones's words, "help unlock the economic potential of whenua Māori".

Mr Jones said iwi and hapu were hampered when trying to fund projects on their land because the ownership structure made it unattractive to conventional banks.

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones answering media questions

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones answering media questions Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

He told Morning Report the government fund would give them an alternative.

"The land owners often can't pay their way in respect of rates to the local government, the land lies either covered in blackberry and puha... or tobacco weed.

"We're confident we've got a process, we've now allocated some money and there's a lot of shovel-ready projects."

He said the reason banks would not touch it was not necessarily because of a weakness with the economic proposition but a failing in the ownership structure of the land.

"This land is land that is a vestige of colonialism, it's a system that was set up in 1867 and progressively governments have tried to modernise the way in which Māori ownership rights and land are handled."

He said he doesn't hide away from the fact that 1.2 million hectares of land is owned under an outdated Māori land court system.

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The Rātana band takes a break from playing outside Otematea marae at Kaipara. Photo: RNZ / Jo Moir

A hapū trustee of the Otematea Marae, Reno Skipper, said the money would give whānau a reason to return home.

"As a marae we are encouraging people to come back home but if they don't have the means and aren't getting support from the banks and that to use it because of it being Māori land. So what this fund encourages us to do is call on our people to say this is a path they can use and come back home,'' he said.

The visit to the marae, which holds a long Labour history, was the first where Jacinda Ardern's daughter Neve was part of the pōwhiri.

The prime minister said it was fitting for Neve, given the first marae Ms Ardern visited after announcing she was hapū was Rātana, which has strong ties to Otematea - it is the last resting place of the Labour MP Paraire Paikea, a giant of the Rātana movement, which Labour has long been affiliated with.

Several offers were made yesterday for Ms Ardern and her partner, Clarke Gayford, to use the church then and there for a wedding.

Ms Ardern quipped during her speech in the whare that her partner seemed to be missing every time talk of a wedding came up.

The prime minister is in the North for the next three days and later this morning more government funding will be announced near Kaikohe, targeting young Māori and getting them into work.

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