Beads and blankets?

What is that noise I hear? Is it Simon Bridges growing a spine? I almost cannot believe what I am reading here. In response to government funding of $100 million for Maori landowners, announced over the weekend as a sweetener for the Waitangi Day celebrations, Bridges has compared the gesture to ‘beads and blankets’.

Simon can get away with this, of course. He is Maori himself. quote.

National Party leader Simon Bridges has likened Government funding for Northland and for M?ori landowners announced on the weekend to “beads and blankets”.

On Sunday the Government announced its Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) would invest up to $100m to unlock the economic potential of M?ori land.

It also announced that the PGF would spend $20.4m in the Kaipara district, with a further $6.8m from the National Land Transport Fund, on transport infrastructure, food and horticulture. end quote.

This is, of course, all part of the longest and most expensive election campaign in New Zealand’s history, aimed at buying an electoral seat for Shane Jones in the Far North. It is pork barrel politics at its absolute finest. quote.

On The AM Show on Monday, Bridges said the $100m on M?ori land was “a complete waste of money”.
“Basically the Government is making exactly the same mistake they’ve made on KiwiBuild, and for the same reasons. They think if they throw cash at something, for the politics of it, that gets them somewhere. It doesn’t.

“Just as with KiwiBuild you need RMA reform, here what you need for the complexity of the multiple landowners, ain’t cash, it’s legal reform. We’ve got the law to do that, the Te Ture Whenua M?ori land law reform bill, that’s what’s required to unlock this.

“Otherwise you are, I think, just doing something for a small group and not dealing with the overall New Zealand-wide issue there.”
Under a National-led government, the money now in the PGF, and more, would go into infrastructure.
“Shane Jones is wasting his time up in Northland. He’s given $30 million to Kaipara, that’s nice. But what is required is serious infrastructure plans, like the four-lane highways that they’ve cancelled.” end quote.

I do just have to say this. National had the apparent will and the political capital to reform the RMA after 2008, but they never did it. When, in their last term, reform became urgent, they were unable to get their support partners to approve it, so just tinkered around the edges. Now they say they will reform the RMA, but I have to point out that this should have been done 10 years ago, when they had the support.

Other than that, though, I agree with Bridges on this one, and I’m heartened to see him come out and say this so directly. quote.

“The problem for the people of the north, is what they need is a highway to open up their economic activity. If you don’t do that, throwing the sort of the beads and the blankets around, it ain’t going to make any difference.”

  stuff end quote.

Good one, Simon. You are saying what many of us only dare to think. Splashing money around is not going to solve the problem. Only a proper planned approach combined with legislative reform is going to make a difference here. This should have been the first thing done with Kiwibuild too, which is now a failure. This will be a failure too. Economic prosperity is what is needed in the Far North. Pork barrel politics will never deliver it.