Northland's National MPs can expect a tougher time hanging on to their seats at the next election, with NZ First leader Winston Peters promising to target the two electorates and stand some "very strong" local candidates against the two incumbents.
Mr Peters was today due to open a new parliamentary office in Whangarei at 83 Bank St, after the party closed its previous parliamentary office in the city in 2008.
Mr Peters told the Northern Advocate the party would be targeting the Whangarei seat of Phil Heatley and Northland seat of Mike Sabin in the 2014 general election.
And while he said there would be two very strong local people to stand as NZ First candidates in the electorates, he would not be drawn on who they would be, or if he himself would do so. Those answers probably won't be known until next year.
"We have been looking at our resources and we are able to open an office in Whangarei this year," he said.
The Northland region has always been a strong supporter of NZ First and, while the party got 7 per cent of the total party vote in the 2001 election - to have eight MPs - it got 10.09 per cent of the party vote in the Northland electorate and 9.59 per cent in Whangarei.
Mr Peters, who was raised in Whananaki, said Northland and Whangarei had been "true blue" National Party strongholds for decades, yet the region was still at the bottom of all the negative statistics such as unemployment, housing and health and education.
"There are a lot of areas where Northland has been allowed to lag behind. I want to focus on giving the people of Northland a much stronger voice in Parliament," he said.
"There are a lot of areas where Northland is not getting its equal share of resources it needs to be of major assistance. For example, when you look at the new generation of container ships, there's only one port in the whole of New Zealand that can take them into the future and that's Marsden Pt.
"They've got the consents to expand the port and the capacity, and more importantly the land, for well into the future, yet there's no rail link out there. That doesn't make sense."
Mr Peters said NZ First would campaign on upgrading the rail line between Northland and Auckland, and getting the rail link to Marsden Pt built as soon as possible.