Peters may be willing to do deal with National on the RMA
With two polls now all but guaranteeing a NZ First victory in the Northland by-election on Saturday Winston Peters is now spelling out how he might do a deal with National over the Resource Management Act.
And what he’s saying will be music to Nationals ears.
He wants limits on and speeding up of the appeals process.
And he wants clearer codification “from Kaitaia to Invercargill”.
“How can a lawyer advise a client when there is so much variation around the country,” he said today.
“I also want a massive e reduction in costs.”
Simplifying the consenting process and achieving consistency in planning standards across the country are key elements of the proposals National is talking about in reforming the RMA.
Mr Peters said what he didn’t want to see was what he has seen abroad which was the absolute devastation of the environment.
“In the end sound environmentalism is sound economics,” he said.
But Mr Peters said he supported United Future MP, Peter Dunne, in his opposition to proposals by National to change two clauses which define the purpose of the legislation by revoking some environmental priorities and “better balancing” the act by including an economic objective as well.
Nevertheless National which is beginning to look embattled in Northland may well see Mr Peters concessions today as at least the beginning of a negotiation with him and Mr Dunne.
The environment itself has hardly surfaced as an issue in the campaign.
The Greens are not standing in the by-election so that has left the Labour candidate, the almost invisible Willow Jean Prime and the tiny Climate Party trying to talk about issues like climate change from the sidelines.
A more typical Northland approach to the environment came from contractor, Ken Rintoul who told Naitonal’s candidate Mark Osbourne that its proposed resource management reforms were designed for Aucklanders so they could build houses
“That’s consumption,” he said..
“We’re the productive people and you’re actually not helping us much at all.”
He said people were too scared to develop their land to increase production because the Northland Regional Council was running round with a rule book and fining people “the moment a cow shits in the wrong place”.
Nevertheless National’s campaign team report strong support from farmers and they say they are confident they will hold the farming vote on Saturday.
But with other National sources saying their own polling now shows Peters 10% ahead of National, the best the party can hope for is that their supporters turn out on Saturday and Mr Peters’ don’t.
The omens are not good.
Early voting numbers had been running well ahead of the General Election last year but yesterday they slowed and the total (9501) is now behind the total at the same time last year. (9478.)
What National does know is that Grey Power have been particularly energetic persuading people to vote early and it has to be assumed those are votes for Peters.
Another indicator came today when Prime Minister John Key went to do a walkabout in Dargaville’s main street. Moments before he arrived, despite publicity, the street was almost completely deserted.
It was a far cry from the near hysteria at shopping malls last election as shoppers scrambled over each other to get selfies with the PM.
So something has changed since last September.
But what’s happening in Northland may be a unique combination of various factors.
It is certainly the revolt of so-called “Zombie towns” against centralisation.
National’s candidate is not well known in the more heavily populated southern part of the electorate and he has nowhere near the charisma of Mr Peters.
He has also ended up running a defensive campaign in which he either explains current Government policies or promises more vaguely to take issues up if he becomes the MP.
One source inside the National camp said they tried to persuade him to take a more independent stance, even criticising the Government if necessary, but he didn’t do it.
It might have helped. In this election the Government is the main opponent.
Winston Peters understands this and he knows the electorate like the back of his hand — and many in the electorate know him.
He grew up here and still has many ties to the area.
And what is clear talking to Peters is that he is taking this campaign very seriously. This time he’s on his own patch.
In a way all this began back in 1975 when he first stood for Parliament for National in the Northern Maori electorate.
Then he was a fresh young lawyer who had already made a name for himself acting for many of his own Ngati Wae iwi in a complicated land case against the Crown which took 16 years to resolve.
Now he wants to play a role in brokering the various tensions that are holding up the Ngapuhi settlement.
“I’m obligated,” he says and goes on to talk about his early introduction to politics handling land claims for his iwi.
Ask him if this is the last step of a long journey and he says “Moses was 40 years in the wilderness and never saw the promised land. It’s 40 years since I first stood and I think I’m going to see it.”
Typical Peters, enigmatic, arrogant and self-deprecating at the same time — and amusing.
Peters will be 70 next month and he knows this is his last big chance. His legacy now beckons and that’s what this election is all about to him.
“I couldn’t not do it,” he says.
And what he clearly wants is for Northland once again to be the prosperous rurally-based economy it was when he grew up.
That’s his implied promise to the electorate.
And what might comfort National is that if he is to achieve it he is going to need the Government on side.
He may well prove to be more accommodating than some his wilder campaign rhetoric has suggested.