The former head of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev observed more than 50 years ago that "politicians are all the same, they promise to build a bridge even where there is no river."

The observation was even more remarkable when you consider it was made by a man who knew little of democracy and a political promise was never required of him.

But in the lead-up to our election, promises are political currency even if the cheque after the poll has frequently bounced.

More than two years ago National was desperate to hold on to its Northland seat in a by-election until the campaign king Winston Peters declared his hand. Suddenly the electorate became a $69 million priority.


The man with the appropriate name for a Transport Minister, Simon Bridges, came up with a plan to solve a problem that had frustrated the electorate for years, the state of their bridges and he promises to replace 10 of them, even if one was just a ramp between two Kauri trees called Darby and Joan.

National lost the by-election and of course Peters won. So what became of the bridges? Nothing.

Surely it'd be too cynical to draw the conclusion that it was payback for the ungrateful voters who bit the hand that was willing to feed them.

Now, the hand of friendship. Yes, that's what Transport Minister Bridges, who's since added Economic Development to his collection of portfolios, calls it. He's now back building bridges. You'd think he would have learnt the bridge-too-far lesson from Northland.

But this time his friendship's being extended to the West Coast where the bridges felt the weight of the Peters' campaign bus last week. The seat is now in Labour's hands, but the bridge builder's back.

There was a ministerial offensive there yesterday; no fewer than five Cabinet Ministers were planning to be on the ground, making seven money-loaded announcements across the province. Coasters had never experienced that sort of invasion before but fortunately for them the team was down to three because bad weather in Wellington grounded the main cash carriers in Cabinet, Bridges and Steven Joyce.

Still they made their $37 million announcements from the capital, cash for research, tourism and yes bridges. Almost $20 million will be spent replacing one of the last one lane bridges along with another bridge at Stony Creek.

Bridges, the man, insists the timing has nothing to do with the election. These things take time, a lot of planning goes into them, he earnestly explained with his rounded, well-rehearsed vowels.


The regions are finally being noticed. Today it's the Bay of Plenty's turn to experience this Government's long planned largesse.