One of the whinges this week was the 10 bridges promised for Northland not happening. Good. Only four of the bridges are funded in the new Transport Agency's roading plan.

The missing six had Northland MP Winston Peters fuming, saying that National was "bulldusting" in promise made in the run-up to the byelection.

Labour transport spokesman Phil Twyford joined Peters in the scoffing and marked Transport Minister Simon Bridges at four out of 10.

It was all good political stuff, but beneath it all is an important political point. Oh, how we all cringed when these 10 bridges were announced. It was a little more than two weeks out from the byelection. The race was proving tight. Peters was gaining ground fast. Prime Minister John Key had dismissed him as having no chance. Now he was a serious contender. Labour had thrown in the towel. What to do, what to do?


There was panic at campaign HQ. Then a staffer had a lightbulb moment: the bridges. We will build the bridges. You know, the bridges that Northland MPs have been banging on about for years? But what about the cost? To hell with the cost.

No time to prepare. No time for analysis. The policy was cobbled together.

The announcement was made by National candidate Mark Osborne. Previous National MPs had toiled for years pushing for the bridges. They had got nowhere.

Osborne had not even made it to Parliament but such was his power and persuasive force that he had in just days convinced the Government the bridges were needed and needed fast. That's a man with political pull. That's a man to vote for.

Labour Leader Andrew Little cruelly dismissed the promised $69 million spend as "pork barrel" politics.

He was clearly frustrated that he lacked both a barrel and some pork. The opposition don't get to dip their hands into our pay packets and weekly groceries. That's a privilege reserved for the Government. Only the Government can deliver the bridges.

But now there is no sign of them. Of course there is no sign of them. The people of Northland didn't vote Osborne in. It was his policy and the people of Northland voted for Peters instead.

The entire point of "pork barrel" politics is that you give your vote to get your pork. That's the political purpose. Pork barrel politics don't work if pork is delivered irrespective of the result.


Besides, the bridges are a poor use of public money. It would be too much to have both Peters and the waste of money. Northland has Peters and the rest of the country has $69m in pork to scrap over.

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