Steamed up over rail

Rodney Times - - FRONT PAGE - By DELWYN DICKEY

THE re­build of Christchurch must come first.

That is the mes­sage from Labour leader Phil Goff as he elab­o­rates on his party’s plans to de­lay the Puhoi to Wells­ford high­way ex­ten­sion.

Mr Goff, who spoke to about 90 peo­ple at a Wark­worth Grey Power meet­ing on Fri­day, says pri­ori­tis­ing can be dif­fi­cult but has to be done.

He isn’t rul­ing out the ex­ten­sion com­pletely but says with a $16.7 bil­lion deficit and Christchurch’s re­build some things ‘‘have to be put on the back burner un­til the coun­try can af­ford them.

In­stead of spend­ing $1.3 bil­lion on the new high­way, per­haps $1m or $2m could be spent to im­prove safety, he says.

An­other thing Mr Goff thinks can wait are the $800m planned for mis­siles on naval frigates.

There is also more need to get peo­ple into rail and pub­lic trans­port, he says.

The north­ern rail­way line to Whangarei must re­main op­er­at­ing, par­tic­u­larly to ease heavy freight use on roads, Mr Goff says.

A steam train ex­cur­sion from Auck­land to Whangarei brought out north­ern rail­way line sup­port­ers a day af­ter his talk.

Green MP David Clen­don was on the train to high­light a pe­ti­tion by a coali­tion of North­land groups aim­ing to raise 10,000 sig­na­tures by Au­gust 31.

Mr Goff is also sym­pa­thetic to the North­ern Ac­tion Group’s at­tempt to have north­ern Rod­ney re­moved from the Auck­land Coun­cil area.

He says Labour feels there has been ‘‘an ab­ro­ga­tion of demo­cratic process’’ and that north­ern Rod­ney has not had a fair hear­ing.

Mr Goff says Labour will lis­ten but will not make a com­mit­ment to sup­port the move.

It will be hard to turn it back now the Auck­land su­percity has been formed, he says.

The pos­si­ble sell­ing of four state-owned elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies – Mighty River Power, Merid­ian, Ge­n­e­sis and Solid En­ergy – and re­duc­ing a ma­jor­ity share­hold­ing in Air New Zealand to pay for debt was dis­missed by Mr Goff as eco­nomic stu­pid­ity.

‘‘Why sell a suc­cess­ful busi­ness? You wouldn’t sell a house to pay off the mort­gage.

‘‘John Key says we will get $5b-$10b by sell­ing the power sta­tions. When the BNZ was sold to the Na­tional Aus­tralia Bank the coun­try got $1.5 bil­lion. The Aus­tralians have made $12.4 bil­lion from it since,’’ he says.

Mr Goff is highly crit­i­cal of Bud­get plans to halve gov­ern­ment con­tri­bu­tions to Ki­wiSaver, say­ing the Key gov­ern­ment had bro­ken an elec­tion prom­ise.

Labour will in­vest more money in train­ing young peo­ple.

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