28 Feb 2015

Peters to stand in Northland by-election

9:15 am on 28 February 2015

New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, is urging Northland voters to elect him their next MP so they can have a stronger voice in Parliament.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters giving his opening speech for 2015.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters giving his opening speech for 2015. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Peters has announced he will contest the Northland by-election, which was prompted by the resignation of National MP Mike Sabin late last month.

He said people in the electorate had a good reason to vote for him because he would be a strong advocate for the electorate.

Mr Peters accused National of ignoring provincial New Zealand.

"They'll have a voice loud and clear in this Parliament that their concerns, their issues in health and education, above all in the primary production and small towns' demise, will be re-addressed with sound policies. We're going to take it to the Government and this will be a signal message that they can't go on ignoring provincial, regional New Zealand like they do."

Mr Peters said he would be the underdog but believed he could win the seat.

"It's going to be hard. We've got to make a lot of sacrifices. A lot of people will make sacrifices. It won't be easy. We start as the underdog. We're confident from our communications thus far that there is a huge surge for change."

Mr Peters said he understood the plight of Northlanders and he was prepared to put it all on the line to prove it.

"If you think of all the other things that have gone on around this country and where taxes are being spent and look at Northland which should be a jewel in this country - it's just been forgotten and so have the people."

At last year's general election New Zealand First won 4546 party votes in Northland despite not standing a candidate, lagging behind both Labour on 5913 and National on 17,412.

Mr Peters said he had made no approach to Labour about doing a deal in the seat and Labour's leader Andrew Little said the party would not consider withdrawing its candidate Willow-Jean Prime.

"No we're not thinking about it. She's got a campaign underway. We're supporting her. She knows the issues. She's well known up there. She's a Far North District councillor and we're backing her," Mr Little said.

The senior Government Minister, Steven Joyce, said National was not worried by Mr Peters standing in the seat.

"Here we go again actually. Do you know he stood in Northland for the first time in 1975 so 40 years ago he stood in Northland Maori so he's finally going back again ... At the end of the day I think it's like Winston's greatest hits tour. It's like sort of, you know, John Rowles or Tom Jones going around one more time," Mr Joyce said.

Andrew Little, like Winston Peters, said National had taken Northland for granted.

"People are annoyed. They're annoyed they've had an MP who has clearly let them down. He hasn't been around for very long and he's now gone. They feel that the issues up there haven't been addressed. This is not a time to be taking anything for granted. I think you know there looks like there will be strong contenders in this election so it's anyone's guess," Mr Little said.

But Steven Joyce said Northland was starting to do well under National's economic policies.

"For Northland we've seen seven-and-a-half thousand more jobs in the region in the last year alone. It's had ... one of the fastest economic growths of any region in the last year. So yes it's had its challenges but it's on a path now which we think is pretty positive."

While New Zealand First, ACT and Labour have all named their candidates the National Party will select its candidate for the seat tomorrow.

The Greens and the Maori Party are not contesting the by-election, which will be held on 28 March.

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