Labour says it will match National's pledge to put $6 million into the Whanganui velodrome roof project if it is in Government after the election.

The promise was made by leader Jacinda Ardern who also reiterated a "firm commitment" to putting $3 million into repairing the north and south moles at the Whanganui River mouth.

Ms Ardern was in Whanganui yesterday and said the money for the moles was vital as part of a port redevelopment which would create job opportunities.

"Key infrastructure in the longer term is reliant on those south and north moles being repaired - the airport included - so we saw it as critical and something we should support council with by funding it," she told the Chronicle.

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Ms Ardern said central government had a role to play in regional development and the fate of regions wasn't subject to global trends or bigger forces.

"It's about priorities. If we had regions that were in decline then I wouldn't be going from town to town hearing example after example of ideas and job opportunities.

"There are those opportunities there, we just haven't had a willing partner."

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was in Whanganui yesterday talking regional development. Photo/ Bevan Conley
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was in Whanganui yesterday talking regional development. Photo/ Bevan Conley

Ms Ardern backed bringing public-sector jobs to regions which she said was do-able.

She pointed to Labour's policy to set up a forestry wing of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment in Rotorua.

Labour also want to compile regional skills lists with councils and local employers.

"To make sure that where there are those needs people are able to come directly to the regions to fill them.

"We have a bit of a blunt instrument where we look at skills gaps across the country, and so if that skills gap doesn't exist in Auckland that has a major impact. But actually that skills gap might exist somewhere else."

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Whanganui Labour candidate Steph Lewis said teachers and doctors were an example of skills Whanganui was short on.

"Between here and Hawera there isn't a fulltime GP," she said.

While Ms Ardern toured Whanganui, further north in her hometown of Morrinsville hundreds of farmers turned out to protest Labour's proposed water tax which they argued would hit rural New Zealand.

Te Tai Hauauru MP Adrian Rurawhe and Whanganui candidate Steph Lewis joined Labour leader Jacinda Ardern on the campaign trail yesterday. Photo/ Bevan Conley
Te Tai Hauauru MP Adrian Rurawhe and Whanganui candidate Steph Lewis joined Labour leader Jacinda Ardern on the campaign trail yesterday. Photo/ Bevan Conley

Ms Ardern said the issue was "not about them and us".

"I would have no problem with being in Morrinsville today.

"I know that our farming community cares deeply about our environment. There is exemplary behaviour from a number of members of our farming community.

"I don't see an urban/rural divide ... I don't. I think it's being stoked up during the election and the fact that we've got a protest in an area that's not actually affected by the water royalty probably demonstrates that."

Jacinda Ardern faces the media in Whanganui. Photo/ Bevan Conley
Jacinda Ardern faces the media in Whanganui. Photo/ Bevan Conley

Locally the race for Whanganui is expected to be close between two first-time candidates, with Ms Lewis up against National's Harete Hipango.

In Te Tai Hauauru, Labour incumbent Adrian Rurawhe is trying to hold off a challenge from Maori Party candidate Howie Tamati.

Ms Ardern said she had confidence in her two candidates.

"Here I have an MP and a candidate who deserve to continue to be and to be the new representative. They're staunch advocates for their communities, deeply embedded in them."