When Winston Raymond Peters and NZ First come to decide whom to support into government, perhaps they may profitably reflect on a bit of history made by Winston's dad, Len, at their long-time family seat of Whananaki.

Whananaki's a gorgeous place with a lovely little harbour and estuary not far up the coast from Whangarei. From early on, communities were established on both north and south sides of the inlet.

There could only be one school, however, and it ended up on the north side. That meant the only way for the south-side kids to get to school was by boat, swimming the horse across at low tide, or a long road trip . For a while, the schoolmaster rowed over twice a day ferrying the kids to and fro.

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Naturally the south-siders got a bit fed up. Besides, on rough days the estuary was no place for a little boat. They wanted a bridge. Not a road bridge - it was nearly 400 metres across. Just a footbridge.

They ended up with the longest foot bridge in the southern hemisphere - on manuka piles. Len Peters, Winston's dad, was the driving force behind it.

Len and a mate got a few quid off the local authority and in 1947 built the original bridge themselves with manuka donated by local farmers. The south-side kids now had a bridge to their future. The subsequent outstanding successes of the eleven Peters siblings are testimony to the politics of inclusion. And the bridge is still there.

The net result of the broad political and economic policies of successive Labour and National Governments since 1984 has seen a relatively cohesive and egalitarian nation, with high home ownership rates and general quality-of-life standards among the best in the world, descend to a deeply divided society where even working families have to hit up charity food banks, and with appalling rates of social dysfunction.

Despite a flurry of last-minute fine words and profligate bribes, National's nine year tenure has consolidated this growing divide which ultimately damages and demeans the whole nation.

We now have a split society that desperately need bridging. That is the defining issue for our future.

At the moment, Winston and NZ First have a choice of going into coalition with a party that has grown that divide for nine years, or with a coalition which - if they are to be believed - are committed to bridging this ugly gulf. Only two months ago, at a NZ First convention, Winston described the National government as "Robin Hood in reverse" - robbing the poor to give to the rich. Could he have changed his mind so quickly?

National of course will be buttering Winston up big, especially in the Foreign Affairs and Trade areas. Anything to get him on side - and out of the country! But for Winston Raymond, it's a back to Whananaki issue.

Do you leave the south siders in a dinghy in choppy waters, or do you do what his dad did and build a bridge to their future.

If nothing else, Winston's a hard worker. Even as a knee-high, he helped out in neighbours' milking sheds if they were short-handed. A lot of people stuck on the south side now need helping out for the whole nation's sake.

These days, the Whananaki foreshore is still mainly settled by fairly modest houses or funky baches - apart from a growing number of million-dollar gated and locked up "holiday" homes. The divided community has come to Winston's own turangawaewae. The long-term locals must be feeling nervous . What price now when it's time for their own kids to buy a Whananaki section and build?

If Len was still around, no prizes for guessing his thoughts on Winston's best strategy for helping bridge the gap. After all Winston's time in Parliament, apart from his 'wine box' work and the Gold Card, maybe he can finally make a difference.