Allison is a digital reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times

NZ First celebrates 23rd birthday in Tauranga

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Winston Peters speaks at the New Zraland Frist 23rd birthday celebrations in Tauranga. Photo/Andrew Warner
Winston Peters speaks at the New Zraland Frist 23rd birthday celebrations in Tauranga. Photo/Andrew Warner

The New Zealand First party celebrated its 23rd birthday in Tauranga over the weekend, with a visit from leader Winston Peters.

At a lunch held at Omanu Bowling Club Mr Peters, along with deputy leader Ron Mark and Rotorua-based MP Fletcher Tabuteau, visited for a quick celebration.

Mr Peters spoke to the crowd of about 50, saying NZ First was as important to New Zealand as it was 23 years ago.

He said the party had survived "the constant onslaught" from political opponents.

Mr Peters then went on to speak on a number of issues including issues in Auckland, the threats facing industries like dairy and forestry, international education, tourism, and of course, immigration.

Speaking to the Bay of Plenty Times before his speech Mr Peters said the party's gladdest days were yet to come.

"There's an army of people coming to our cause now.

"We have a whole social and economic mess developing in NZ and the causes of it, we as a party, have warned against for a long time."

Despite the crowd at the event being noticeably elderly, Mr Peters said they were attracting younger New Zealanders because they had realised "they haven't got a hope of owning a home in their own country".

During his speech Mr Peters took a couple of swipes at the government and other political parties.

"They have all been part of the growing problem. They have all haughtily and arrogantly dismissed New Zealand First."

He also said he and others were sick of Prime Minister John Key's spin when it came to immigration.

"Mr Key refuses to accept open door immigration has placed enormous pressure not just on Auckland, but on the entire country.

"All over New Zealand hospital emergency departments are overloaded; schools are struggling, housing is in crisis, wages are depressed and migrants are being used as cheap labour," Mr Peters said to the crowd.

A brief trip down memory lane
1993: New Zealand First was started by founding members and Winston Peters, the MP for Tauranga and former Minister of Maori Affairs after he left the National Party.
Mr Peters resigned from Parliament and Tauranga voters re-elected him in a special by-election as an independent.
In its first year of existence New Zealand First fought the last First Past the Post general election in 1993 and the won the Tauranga seat.
1996: With the introduction of the MMP electoral system, New Zealand First won more than 13 per cent of the vote, gaining 17 seats, including all five Maori seats. New Zealand First went into a coalition with National.
1996-1998: Mr Peters served as deputy prime minister.
1998: Prime Minister Jenny Shipley sacked Mr Peters from Cabinet after an ongoing dispute about the sale of the government's stake in Wellington International Airport. The coalition was broken.
1999: New Zealand First gained 4.3 per cent of the vote, but Peters held his electorate seat of Tauranga by 63 votes.
2002: New Zealand First won back 10 per cent of the vote and brought 13 MPs into Parliament.
2005: New Zealand First took only 5.72 per cent of the vote, a considerable loss from 2002. Mr Peters narrowly lost his previously safe constituency seat of Tauranga by 730 votes to National's Bob Clarkson. Mr Peters was Minister for Foreign Affairs (outside Cabinet).
2008: New Zealand First became embroiled in a dispute over party donations. Mr Peters did not regain the Tauranga sat and the party had not met the 5 per cent threshold.
2011: New Zealand First came back into parliament with 6.5 per cent of the vote and eight list MPs.
2014: New Zealand First Party has 12 members of Parliament - 11 elected from the party list and one representing a general electorate.
-Source: NZ First

- Bay of Plenty Times

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