Simon Bridges accuses PM of 'bad error of judgement' over Ihumātao

12:53 pm on 31 July 2019

National Party leader Simon Bridges says the Prime Minister has set a poor precedent by getting involved in the Ihumātao dispute.

Simon Bridges.

Simon Bridges said he had not given much thought to going to Ihumātao, but it was not a priority. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

On Friday before leaving for a week-long trip to Tokelau, Jacinda Ardern announced a halt on building at the site being occupied by protesters until an agreement was reached.

Government ministers are are holding are a hui this week with all the parties involved at Ihumātao.

But Mr Bridges said they should not have got involved.

"The prime minister has made a bad error of judgement, she has set a very poor precedent, and ultimately what she is saying and by what the government is saying by what they've done stepping into this, is that the government is not serious about building more houses.

"She shouldn't have got involved, this is a matter that has now been through court, as I understand it, multiple times, has treaty settlements in relation to it."

Mr Bridges said he had not given much thought to going to Ihumātao, but it was not a priority.

He said he was not a cultural philistine and understood the issues of culture and history that were at play.

"But you've got a situation where the local iwi and Fletchers have worked through those matters, sensitively, they are preserving important parts and they've got to get on and build 480 houses."

The government has paused the situation which has set the precedent that they will intervene as a government where there have been treaty settlements and court cases which have resolved the situation, Mr Bridges said.

Yesterday Mr Bridges accused the prime minister of failing in her duties by being in Tokelau instead of leading a government response to the Ihumātao land dispute calling her a part-time prime minister.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson leapt to Ms Ardern's defence, accusing the leader of the Opposition of descending into dirty politics - focusing on the personal, rather than on policy.

But Mr Bridges said that his criticism there is a part-time government is fair.

"I'm making ultimately a wider point right, and it's not just about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern despite what Grant Robertson may say, it is a lack of competence and focus on things that matter to New Zealanders."

Mr Bridges said the government was not focusing on what most New Zealanders want.

"They want an economy that's going well, that provides them with jobs, that allows them to buy a house and to go on a holiday, and to get the services like cancer drugs and so on that they need, to build some houses which doesn't seem to be happening at the moment, you know this is what I'm getting at and I think it's a fair criticism of both the prime minister and the government in general."

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