Northland's mayors are throwing their weight into a new joint campaign to bring more multi-million dollar infrastructure into the region.
Far North mayor John Carter, Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai and Kaipara mayor Jason Smith are, in a first, collectively ramping up their political power in a new public campaign - Kia Kaha Northland - to call for five huge infrastructure projects to come north.
The mayors jointly helm three Northland district councils with millions of local government infrastructure assets between them. But they are calling for other major infrastructure investment into the region for the benefit of New Zealand's economy as a whole.
Government is New Zealand's major infrastructure investor. Other investors include industry and tangata whenua.
"A unique set of economic and political circumstances have put all five projects within reach. The combination of all five projects is greater than the sum of the parts," Carter, Mai and Smith said in a joint statement.
"It would be a disaster for Northland to let this opportunity be lost," they said.
An initial video will appear on around 300,000 Facebook and other social media accounts today to alert Northlanders and other New Zealanders to the Kia Kaha Northland campaign.
"We need all Northlanders to support Kia Kaha Northland by liking it or following it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or by emailing, calling or writing to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and our local electorate and list MPs," the Mayors said.
The mayors are jointly ramping up political pressure for five in some cases new, in other cases hugely expanded, infrastructure projects into Northland:
• The $249 million dry dock in Whangārei – to service ships from around New Zealand and Australia currently travelling overseas for this work to be done.
• The new multi-million dollar Royal New Zealand Navy base in Whangārei - to replace the current Devonport Naval Base in Auckland.
• The multi-million dollar Northport, Whangārei expansion – to take international container and car imports currently instead entering the country through Auckland's port.
• A multi-million dollar double-tracked West-Auckland to Whangārei rail line, complete with a spur from that main line to link with Port Marsden.
"We seek a win-win-win for Northland, Auckland and the rest of New Zealand," the mayors said.
Their calls capitalise on momentum created this week as the Government announced almost one billion dollars of infrastructure spend across Northland into roads, rail, schools, water storage, tangata whenua assets, a hospital, niche climate-change-suitable horticultural production and an innovative groundbreaking Kaipara Harbour Wharves regeneration project.
"(Last) week's (Central Government funding) announcements are the start of Northland reaching its full potential to create wealth for the people of Te Tai Tokerau and all New Zealanders," the mayors said.
The Government's spending was historic investment, the start of a decade-long economic transformation for Northland to make an ever-greater contribution to New Zealand's economy.
"We are very grateful to the Prime Minister (Jacinda Ardern) and Deputy Prime Minister (Winston Peters) for their leadership on behalf of the people of Northland," the mayors said.
But there was more work to be done.
"Too often, Wellington has behaved as if New Zealand ends somewhere just north of Albany with Northland missing out on the infrastructure necessary for Te Tai Tokerau to reach its full potential."
This meant Northland-generated extra welfare and other costs had been borne by taxpayers nationally. This was due to parts of the region continuing to lag behind the rest of New Zealand on key economic and social indicators.
The mayors' beefed up calls come with them each making a point of saying their new campaign would not be funded with local district ratepayers' funds.
In its 2019 budget Government said New Zealand had been warned by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) about the negative impact persistent infrastructure underinvestment had on the country's economy and productivity.
Infrastructure is the fixed, long-lived structures - including transport, water, energy, social assets along with digital infrastructure such as broadband and mobile networks - that supports Northlanders' daily lives and regional production. It provides things like clean drinking water, transport networks and reliable electricity.
There is growing focus around New Zealand on how the money paid in taxes by people living locally (but collected for spending nationally) and rates paid by those people (collected for spending locally) are used to fund multi-billion dollar local infrastructure.
This has typically been paid for locally but also offers significant benefit to central government that has not contributed financially to its cost.
The Mayors are launching Kia Kaha Northland as private individuals but the campaign will belong to all those who like it on Facebook or became otherwise involved. The initial video and Facebook advertising launch is being funded by private donations with further fundraising to occur in the weeks ahead.
Donations can be made to 12-3126-0259126-00. Donations to this account will be used entirely for the purchase of additional social media advertising and not used for any administrative overhead.
Check the campaign out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KiaKahaNorthland/