Whanganui-based political commentator STEVE BARON writes an open letter to New Zealand's new prime minister.

The Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, FreePost Parliament, Private Bag 18888, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160


Dear Ms Ardern,

On behalf of the people of Whanganui (for whom I have no authority to speak) I would like to congratulate you on becoming Prime Minister of our great nation.

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I know, at the moment, you feel very humbled and privileged to be given this important job.

Unfortunately, I also know that this humbleness soon fades and prime ministers usually become all-knowing and omnificent.

So, before all that happens and before you become too consumed with the machinations of government, which often means losing touch with the people you represent - and before election promises are broken (as they so often are) - I would like to remind you that the people of the regions, especially the people of Whanganui, need you to fulfil your promises. And then some.

Your promises to provide $6 million for the Whanganui velodrome roof project; $3 million to repair the north and south moles at the Whanganui River mouth and extra funding for roading infrastructure are important - but we need more than this if we are to thrive.

We have been ignored by central government for a very long time, but it is actually far worse than that - previous governments (yours included) have sucked the lifeblood out of Whanganui by stripping government jobs en masse, and we have struggled ever since.
While we do not expect you to relocate government departments to Whanganui, surely there are divisions of government departments that could easily locate here?

Call centres come to mind, or perhaps even back-office services.

State housing is also a serious problem here.

Under National, Housing New Zealand has sold off approx 20 per cent of its stock here in Whanganui, which has created a housing shortage for the needy.

Steve Baron
Steve Baron

And the Whanganui District Council has been forced to take responsibility for some of the housing shortage with its longstanding provision of council flats.

But what that means is that the people of Whanganui are being forced to pay twice over for a service that central government is obligated to supply - and our rates are already very high for the size of our population.

And, while I'm at it, how about interest-free loans for important infrastructure works like our new wastewater treatment plant?

Why should we be forced to pay twice - through interest payments - for infrastructure like this?

Do you remember how Savage's Labour government provided interest-free money to build the first state houses? On another note, I would suggest you be a little wary of your mate Winston Peters.

I have had a bit of experience here and found him to be rather unreliable.

When I launched my first book in 2005, about binding referendums, Winston was there to give a speech and proclaim his undying support.

I met one of Winston's MPs later, who assured me New Zealand First would at least put a private member's bill into the ballot to make referendums binding. But I am still waiting.
Winston's words to me were: "You didn't give us enough power to do what we wanted."

Well, he has that power now, and I wonder if he will remember his promise about binding referendums?

Time will tell, but perhaps you would remind him for us.

Oh, and by the way, Jacinda, don't be too discouraged by the fact that Whanganui has a National Party MP, because just about every man and his dog around town is Labour through and through.

Unfortunately for your party, the Representation Commission included a whole lot of towns north of Whanganui that will only ever vote blue, and they seem to outnumber those who live here in Whanganui.

Every now and then, a few of them can be found around town, sneaking in under the cloak of darkness and proclaiming their capitalist dogma ... so don't judge us too harshly on that one!

Yours sincerely,
STEVE BARON