SPEECH: A Fair Go For The Coast

Campaign for the Regions Tour
Paroa Hotel,
Main South Road,
Greymouth
5.30pm, 6 July, 2017

The courage and fortitude for which the West Coast is known are qualities that are being called upon again.

 

Once upon a time the West Coast was known far and wide for coal mines, the thousands of workers associated with them, and for top rugby league players. Times have changed. Just as you don’t see Kiwi rugby league internationals turning out in club matches in Greymouth, so too the end has come, after 150 years, for underground mining on the West Coast.

END OF ERA

Solid Energy’s plan to flood and seal the Spring Creek underground mine is the end of an era for some extractive industries for the West Coast. Few coalminers are left. The coal mining industry gave wealth to New Zealand.

Its history is, however, punctuated with tragedy. From Brunner, to Dobson, to Strongman and most recently to Pike River – the scars remain of mining disasters and dozens of lives being lost.

The scars, as we all know, have not healed from Pike River. They are still raw and they will never heal, at least not until we are given some answers from the government.

All New Zealanders, and this includes supporters of the National Party, are deeply disappointed by the government and its handling of the Pike River tragedy.

SHIFTY ENGLISH

We endured the evasiveness and smiling rebuttals from the previous Prime Minister. We are now enduring shiftiness and lack of up front honesty from the latest Prime Minister.

He has been dodgy over Pike River; as he has been dodgy over the Barclay debacle with hush money, hiding behind a line that he did not have ministerial responsibility.

Where is the openness and the transparency? Where is the leadership that we expect to have from a Prime Minister of this country? All we get are cover-ups.

PIKE RIVER – OUR COMMITMENT

Coasters are known for calling a spade a spade. That makes the shiftiness and lack of guts from the government more difficult to swallow.

Today New Zealand First reconfirms its commitment that we will use our political influence to make a re-entry of the Pike River mine a reality. We are here to repeat what we have committed ourselves to do in the past. We want the families and the people of the West Coast to be given a fair go.

RETURNING WEALTH TO THE WEST COAST

Your courage and adaptability are being called on again as you change to meet the challenges. Some extractive industries may be dying here. The sad thing is the wealth taken from the West Coast was never reciprocated by policies from Wellington ensuring that wealth flowed back to you.

ROYALTIES FROM REGIONS

New Zealand First’s policies are against this gouging of the regions going on.

Under our Royalties for the Regions policy, no less than 25 percent of any royalties collected by the government from water, mining or petroleum in the region would be returned to the region.

As an example, the government collects over $400 million in royalties. Under our scheme over $100 million, year on year, would remain in the regions for investment.

It is demonstrably wrong that companies like Coca Cola, Suntory Holdings, Oravida, Fiji Water – can take our water for a pitiful token fee while they make millions of dollars from it. National says no-one owns the water – so foreign companies can come in and take it. That’s wrong and we will fix it.

TOURISM GST

One of the hopes for the West Coast is tourism. But again with all those tens of thousands flowing through here – you are still not getting your fair share.

Total international tourism expenditure on the West Coast in the year to May 2016, was substantial amount - $206.6 million. The estimated GST the government collected on this expenditure was $29.5 million.

For the whole country, the government took $1.5b in GST from international visitors in the year to March 2016, and $950m the year before. Yet little has gone to local councils that desperately need money for toilets, sewerage schemes and local road improvements to cope with tourist numbers.

To make sure you get the benefits you deserve, NZ First will return GST paid by international tourists on the West Coast to the West Coast.

For tourism infrastructure, roads and to stimulate job training and opportunities. And we will work to have decent paying jobs because our small to medium enterprises taxation policies will enable employers to do just that. Not like the job advertisement that was advertised in one of your papers here for a tri-lingual tertiary educated supervisor to work six days a week at a motel for just $16.10. That’s the New Zealand John Key and Bill English have created. It has to end.

HEALTH

The morale of the West Coast has taken some severe blows. New Zealand First sympathises with you in the high levels of suicide you have.

The West Coast needs more staff and more hospital beds. Recently the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust presented a petition at Parliament requesting an independent nationwide inquiry into mental health services. New Zealand First supports this call.

Mental health services must be funded adequately and made a priority by the government. This applies to all health services for the people of the West Coast.

ANCESTORS ON THE COAST

I would like to share with you tonight the very strong connection to the Coast of one of our NZ First MPs. He’s here from his base in Tauranga but his family goes back eight generations when one of his ancestors jumped off a whaling ship on the Coast.

Clayton Mitchell’s grandfather, Bob Mitchell, was head of the Miners’ Union and present on the day of the Strongman mining disaster in 1967 when 19 men lost their lives. The union played a major part in the recovery which saw 17 of the 19 bodies recovered. And on his mother’s side, the Robinson family, owned the Blackball Hotel.

Conclusion

Yes the West Coast is known for its courage. A reminder of this came this year when former Greymouth Star printer Dave McKenzie travelled to Boston to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his famous Boston marathon victory.

A brother of McKenzie’s had been killed in the Strongman disaster shortly before his famous win. Unheralded, unknown McKenzie went from Dunollie to Boston and beat the best marathon runners in the world in the most competitive marathon outside the Olympic Games. That epitomised the West Coast spirit.

It is still alive. But you need central government to play its part. That has not happened on the West Coast for a long time. Your wealth has been be extracted to line pockets of people elsewhere.

You have been treated poorly by central government. We are on this nationwide Campaign for the Regions Tour to make it clear to all of the regions, including the West Coast, that our policies and politics are on your side. Have no doubt that that is a fact.