Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Shearer to make big push for rural vote

David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell
David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Labour leader David Shearer is setting out on another attempt to woo provincial and rural New Zealand by claiming the regions are losing out to their big-city counterparts.

Mr Shearer will speak in Nelson today where he is expected to accuse National of neglecting the well-being of provincial New Zealand and stripping regional road funding to pay for projects such as Auckland's motorways, National's "roads of significance".

Labour will also issue a series of statements setting out a range of bad news stories for each province since National came into Government in 2008 - including companies where there were big job losses, dodgy roads and the numbers from each region who had gone to Australia.

Borrowing from Mao Zedong's theory that if you win the countryside, the cities will follow, the envy politics strategy is Mr Shearer's latest attempt to win back provincial New Zealand where Labour was punished in the last two elections.

Labour has only two provincial electorate seats - Palmerston North and West-Coast Tasman - and secured only 22 per cent of the provincial and rural vote in the North Island last year - well below its national result of 27 per cent.

His speech is expected to be short on policy detail, but Mr Shearer is expected to pledge to make the regions a priority, including ensuring local roads are in good repair and investing in local businesses and education rather than expecting people to move to the main centres for education or training.

He is expected to argue that people in the regions are losing their jobs, have fewer educational chances and are being forced to Australia to get good wages - one of the attacks Labour has increasingly made on National since National's pledge before 2008 to reduce the income gap with Australia and slow the brain drain.

But National rejects this argument, saying the population in almost all regions was increasing, other than in Canterbury.

When he was elected Labour's leader in December, Mr Shearer said trying to get higher support in the regions was one of his main priorities and said he would travel round marae, pubs and clubs in an effort to do so.

Other Labour MPs have also been told to be more active in the regions.

REGIONAL LOSSES

Northland
* Unemployment up from 7.1 per cent to 8.7 per cent since 2008
* 2293 people moved to Australia over past year

Waikato
* Unemployment up from 4.4 per cent to 8.6 per cent since 2008
* 4810 people moved to Australia
* Job losses include 140 jobs at SCA Hygiene and 54 from Inland Revenue

Bay of Plenty
* Unemployment up from 4.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent since 2008
* 4024 people moved to Australia over past year
* Job losses include 40 at Goodman Fielder, 38 from NZ Dairy Processing, and 38 at Inland Revenue

- NZ Herald

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