Health and safety rules took an immediate hit at an MPs' public feedback meeting in Masterton yesterday - with visitors having to enter the Frank Cody Lounge through a side door because of earthquake risk.

Meeting topics also traversed health, district promotion, technology and climate change.

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott is joining fellow rural MPs Ian McKelvie (Rangitikei), Stuart Smith (Kaikoura) and Todd Barclay (Clutha-Southland) in a Provincial Priorities roadshow - with meetings yesterday in Masterton, Pahiatua and Dannevirke.

The Masterton meeting was held in the Frank Cody Lounge of Masterton Town Hall, with entrance gained through a side door on Chapel St. The hall auditorium and foyer have been closed since Wednesday after failing an engineering earthquake safety report.


Earthquake proofingAfter introductions, the first person to speak from the floor was retired Masterton businessman Chris Horrocks - who used the entrance situation to bemoan "bureaucracy" including health and safety requirements.

Andrew Wright then took up the theme and shared his experience of owning a building in Masterton.

"I wanted to sell it and had to spend 20 grand (including an engineer's report). Then the wretched council wanted the engineer's report peer reviewed. You've got highly paid people in jobs where they're too scared to make decisions."

Andrew Verheul, who was a witness to the Christchurch earthquake, said regulations might have gone a bit overboard but "I'd rather go a bit overboard than have 300 people die next time".

HospitalsMr Verheul then asked about the Wairarapa hospital, which he said could have "two more wards" to do a wider range of operations such as stents "so people don't have to have that stress to go to another hospital".

Mr Verheul said Wellington and Hutt hospitals were overloaded and the health system could "diversify into the countryside".

Mr Scott said "the more specialised the operation, the more likely it is going to go to the main centres ... so Wairarapa is doing more of hips and knees and less of brain surgery".

Mr Scott said every extra ward would need three surgeons, "one on holiday, one on the night shift, and one on the day shift", and 10 to 12 nurses.

"At the moment our hospital is bigger than it needs to be, and that's good. You're seeing specialist staff moving to Wellington and that will continue to be the case."

Jobs, mobility, transportLabour needs and population mobility were also discussed, with talk of encouraging people and businesses to move to the provinces - with the South Island MPs saying it was difficult to persuade North Islanders to move south even though the housing and jobs were there.

Mr Horrocks praised "a proactive mayor here [Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson] who took a team of people to sell the region [in Auckland]".

He wondered why Aucklanders didn't take the initiative to follow work and housing opportunities south.

Another person spoke about the access to Wairarapa by air.

Mr Scott said this was a private concern. "If there's a buck in it, they'll do it; if not, why should the taxpayer fund it? There is an ongoing dialogue. Someone's got to underwrite it. It could be the ratepayer. It won't be the taxpayer."

Irrigation and waterwaysNelson Rangi, board chairman of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, defended the prospect of irrigation for the region, saying it was not just about dairy but also opened up other land uses including cropping and seed production, and allowed for water storage against drought.

Mr Rangi asked for government support to plant the edges of waterways with native plants and grasses to deal with agricultural run-off.

Mr McKelvie said Horizons Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council runs a scheme for his area, which attracts $5 million of government funding.

Climate changeEllen Martin asked why the political parties couldn't form a cross-party agreement to tackle climate change.

Mr Smith said parties disagreed on what steps needed to be taken, and that the National Party position was different to the Green Party.

"We've got to be careful about wearing an economic hair shirt to make ourselves feel better."