The Herald asked the three leading candidates in the Northland byelection a series of questions

What is the first thing you would do as Northland's new MP?

Willow-Jean Prime - Labour:

Well, Kelvin [Davis] told me it won't be a sleep-in. The first thing I would do is take that list of promises we've received and which we will hopefully continue to receive until the 28th of March and ensure it was implemented, along with my long list of requests from the community.

Mark Osborne - National: Keep canvassing my fellow colleagues in caucus and Cabinet for further opportunities to develop the North's potential. It's immense and we need to carry on and open up the North to get the real benefits across the region.

Winston Peters - NZ First: Make sure that the promises the National Party and Government is tossing round like an eight-armed octopus were delivered on with as great a speed as they promised. You can be certain a victory for us in this campaign would bring that about. We are negativing the statement that you can't do anything from Opposition. It has had a devastating effect in this campaign and Northlanders love the effect of it all.


Will you stand in Northland again in 2017?

Mark Osborne:

Absolutely. [Q: If you don't win?] We'd have to cross that bridge if we encountered it but I'm doing everything I can to get elected. We expect ... to be elected. So I'm looking forward to that.

Winston Peters: We face every election and make those decisions when we come to them. It's a decision we would make nearing the 2017 election, but the reality is do I want to have a period to deliver for Northland from a parliamentary seat as their representative? Yes, I would. I'm the only candidate who will be an MP regardless of what they vote on the 28th. [Q: What if you lose?] We are not going into this campaign to lose.

Willow-Jean Prime: Yes.

What is your stance on the $1.75 billion Puhoi to Wellsford Highway?

Willow-Jean Prime:

The first stage [to Warkworth] is already committed. Beyond that I still have a question mark and want to see the business case for it, but my real issue is what about the rest of the state highway network and other rural roads? What about rail, and the link to the port? Bringing the motorway that far doesn't actually address a lot of our issues further north. It's a start, but what about the rest?

Mark Osborne: It is one of the most vital pieces of infrastructure that Northland needs to open its economic potential to our closest significant market, Auckland. Our proximity to Auckland is a real natural advantage we have.

Winston Peters: Any expansion of better road services would be welcomed by the North, but it doesn't even get out of the Auckland City area. The second thing is there is a huge demand up here for services in the further north part of the electorate. So nobody opposes a good idea, but why doesn't the good idea go the whole way? This is 2015, it should go at least into the Bay of Islands and the centre of Northland, reaching places like Kaikohe. After all these decades, it's not a question of one or the other, it should be both.


What is your stance on deep sea oil exploration and extraction off Northland's coastline?

Mark Osborne:

We are in the exploration phase and we need to determine what may or may not be there, and then the mechanisms by which it may or may not be extracted. We need to ensure the environmental impacts are managed and then make a decision on a case-by-case basis as to whether to proceed.

Winston Peters: I don't have any problem finding out what we've got there. That is not a threat to the environment. But before we make any decision on extraction, I want to know what is in it for my country and what's in it for royalties for the region. In short, I want those two questions answered before we go to any other decision based on sustainability and environmental protection. The royalties are a pittance in some cases. I want that collected for my country and I want the province to get a far better share. It's called Royalties for the Regions, which I announced a year ago.

Willow-Jean Prime: The issue is around extraction. I'm not convinced at this stage that it's in our best interests in Northland. The community is really divided, the current regulatory framework is not strong enough for environmental protection and when they talk about the jobs it will create, our people don't have the skills for the jobs. So will it be Northlanders who get the jobs and benefits from that, or will it simply attract other people from overseas or outside our region? There's also a question mark around benefits to the region in terms of royalties. Any decision has to involve the community.

The Finance Minister has given you $200 million for the electorate. How would you spend it?

Winston Peters:

For a start, $200 million is not going to even scratch at the surface of what's delaying economic and social development in the north. But if you looked at the big picture, you'd have to ensure you put a significant amount toward the rapid expansion of wealth creation up here and at the same time ensure with education, health and housing, you attended to the long outstanding needs of the North. This should be a tourism mecca, but despite Government's claims of helping out, the North has got nothing out of that. This should be where Northland gets a shot and they gain nothing.

Willow-Jean Prime: There's the roading network - and I'm so pleased to see all these promises that the byelection has brought us. There are also sewerage and water schemes which used to be more subsidised by the Government than now. Another core piece of infrastructure that needs more investment is broadband and mobile coverage. In Dargaville, the cable is right next to them but they can't hook in. Only the schools can. What's that about? It makes it so difficult to do business from the North and it's a lifestyle thing we like to have too, to connect us to the rest of the world at the same speeds everyone else has got. I can't even use Skype in my home [near Moerewa].

Mark Osborne: Economic development and infrastructure in terms of roading. We released the policy on the 10 bridges and that's a good start but we need to carry on to ensure all of the North is totally opened up, all of the routes are secure and safe in all weathers. Another area I'd like to invest in is the extension of ultra-fast broadband. Whangarei is really fortunate to have UFB, we really need that up North as well.