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Kerre Woodham: Prime Ministers stark message must be followed with action

Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Feb 2024, 1:51PM
Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Photo / Sylvie Whinray

Kerre Woodham: Prime Ministers stark message must be followed with action

Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Mon, 19 Feb 2024, 1:51PM

The Prime Minister, Christopher Luxon, in his State of the Nation speech over the weekend, spelled it out loud and clear for those who haven't yet got the message. 

New Zealand is in for a world of pain over the next couple of years.

He slammed the dumb and stupid policies of the previous government, and said while he believed New Zealand was the world's best country, and had the world's best people (a little bit of jingoism to sweeten the message), it was in a fragile state as we face a rough economic forecast and a massive infrastructure deficit. 

He also accused the Labour government of leaving National a $200 billion hole in the nation's transport plan. Finance Minister Nicola Willis said this morning on the Mike Hosking Breakfast that the coalition government has already started making the tough decisions.

Auckland Light Rail is the case in point. That was a project which continued to escalate in cost, which Labour continued to fantasise about and which was clearly unaffordable.

So we have canceled that, we've been decisive, we've stopped pouring cash down that particular hole. But look, the other examples are areas where we're just going to have to do things more efficiently. 

Not every road needs a cycle lane clipped onto it. We need to be much more open to using other forms of funding and finance to deliver roads, whether that's time of use charging, whether that's tolls to get some roads built, it's time for a bit of real talk about what it will take to get a country with the modern infrastructure we need.

And that was Finance Minister Nicola Willis talking to Mike Hosking this morning. Labour leader Chris Hipkins shot back, calling National's accusations absolute nonsense and called another allegation in the State of the Nation speech an out and out lie. But then he would wouldn’t he?

Thomas Coghlan from the New Zealand Herald has produced an excellent article unpacking the claims and counterclaims, specifically around the $200 billion transport hole.

He says the truth involves a heavy lathering of hypocrisy on both sides and an answer that doesn't offer a neat binary verdict on either of Chris's truthfulness or otherwise. He does say, though, that before Labour cries foul at this horrendous below- the-belt attack on their fiscal honour, quote unquote, we shouldn't forget that Labour made the exact same attack on National’s allegedly unfunded Roads of National Significance Programme back in 2018. 

They were slammed by then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as unfunded.  So they've been doing it all day ref.

There's obfuscation and finessing of stats and data and what have you , but there is absolutely no doubt, as anyone who has participated in this show knows, that the previous administration made some dumb, dumb decisions. And allowed dumb, dumb decisions to be made by government bodies. 

We've all known this for a very, very long time. We've been ranting about this and accused of being disloyal and Labour haters and women haters because it was Jacinda Ardern who was the Prime Minister. There was none of that. It was just that you and I could see. That there were some really stupid decisions being made.

Good money going after bad with no end in sight of when the money tap would be turned off. And it's you and me who are providing this money. So pardon me if I'm really scrupulous about where that money goes.

I want to know there's going to be a result and for the life of me I could not see one in so many of the projects approved by the previous administration.  I think I said that to Christopher Luxon when he became Prime Minister. We don't want to hear about what the previous government did. It's gone. It happened. It's appalling. We ranted about it at the time it's over but I think he made the point, we're starting a very long way behind the start line.

There's a lot to fix before we can even begin to get projects underway that we passionately believe in and that we passionately support.

So yeah, I think fair and square pointing the digit at the previous administration and saying look at this mess you've left us, it's a time honoured tradition

New administrations do it every single time they come in, and in this case it's a far bigger mess.  It's going to be a tough few years.

There is no doubt about that. We're all going to have to lift our game and tighten our belts. I mean, basically. You know when Christopher Luxon was talking about the nation, he's talking about my bank account.

He's looking at the macro and I'm looking at the micro and it's the same kind of thing. It's going to be a belt tightening couple of years and some of the nice to haves that I'd like to have I won't have. And it's the same for the nation.

But National will bear the brunt of public dissatisfaction if people forget or choose not to know that they are cleaning up a far bigger mess than the previous government has had to. 

Still, on a note of positivity, those of us with long memories know that we have been through tough times before, that other governments have had to come in and pick up an unholy mess and make the most of it, and with the help of the people of New Zealand get the country back on track and they've come out the other side.

We have done it before and we can do it again.

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