National Party leader Simon Bridges had dinner with former US President Barack Obama on Thursday night.

But on Friday it was back to business as Mr Bridges touched down in Whanganui, where he attended a number of events.

The first order of business was a speech at the Clubs NZ conference at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre.

"There are a few views around online about Barack Obama, but personally, I thought he came in with some clearly strong intellect and he's a very charismatic person," Mr Bridges said to a full house.


"The conversation between him and Sam Neill was inspiring."

Mr Bridges talked about a range of issues, including National's need to focus more on the environment, roading, and Shane Jones' recent comments about Air New Zealand.

Mr Jones launched a tirade at Air New Zealand midweek following the airline's abrupt decision to end flights from the Kapiti Coast.

"I think Shane was highlighting an issue. It's not that Shane is actually wrong on the issue of ensuring greater regional air connectivity, what was wrong was the way Shane did it," Mr Bridges said.

"Effectively, to be calling for the board and others in Air New Zealand to resign is a step too far and will have a real effect among business in New Zealand.

"There will be people around the world looking at this and they will say 'Oh well, this undermines business confidence and our desire to invest in New Zealand'.

Simon Bridges speaking at the Clubs NZ national conference at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre. Photo / Stuart Munro.
Simon Bridges speaking at the Clubs NZ national conference at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre. Photo / Stuart Munro.

"Jacinda Ardern has told him off effectively, but he doubled down on that and that again shows some fractures in the coalition between New Zealand First and Labour."

After the half-hour speech at the War Memorial Centre, Mr Bridges was off to Wicksteed Street for the official opening of Whanganui MP Harete Hipango's new office.


It was the first opening he has done as the leader of National, but he said there would be a string of others to follow.

"We've got a great new MP here ... she's doing a fantastic job," Mr Bridges said. "She has officially opened her office and I wanted to be here for that.

"It's also great to take the pulse in Whanganui -- it's a vibrant city, it's got a fantastic arts culture and I'm really proud of some of the work in Whanganui I was involved in as a minister."

In particular Mr Bridges was happy to revisit the cycleways that he opened and said that National would urge government to follow through on projects such as the velodrome.

Perhaps the strongest issue to arise during his day in Whanganui was the slip-prone Parapara road, which he did not know much about.

"I don't know a lot about it, but certainly that is something locals have pushed quite strongly today in meetings -- it's clearly a hot issue.

"I'm going to take a bit of time to look at it and see what the deal is. In general terms I'm supportive of seeing more work done -- good regional roading is vital.

"In relation to roading and the regions, National feels very strongly -- we poured unprecedented money into transport and roading," he said.

"We do worry that this government is going to change the emphasis, effectively sucking money out of the regions into big tram projects, particularly in Auckland.

"It's not that those projects are wrong, but you can't neglect the regions. I'm seeing that in my region of Bay of Plenty and I also worry about that in the lower North Island."