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Peters Speech: Northland - Crisis of Indifference

Extracts from a speech to a Public Meeting in Kaikohe

15 November 1999

Northland—a Crisis of Indifference

I grew up in Northland. The place wasn’t that rich then, but ever since the Second World War Northland has been on a constant slide downwards.

Northland is poor, but it shouldn’t be.

The climate here is perfect for industry and agriculture, and North-port is at the centre of the province. Two million people are within three hours’ drive. This is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Why is it that the only booming crop in Northland appears to be marijuana?

Why is Northland Poor? It doesn’t have to be.

Northland and Kaikohe have not just been ignored—they have been written off by those in Wellington and those in Auckland as New Zealand’s answer to the Third World.

Northland has constantly and consistently been overlooked and sold out by those who were charged with promoting it.

Northland needs a government which is prepared to take it out of the ‘too-hard’ basket and give it the attention it needs. And do it urgently.

New Zealand First is the only Party which is seriously interested in provincial New Zealand outside of election campaigns, and has the recipe to revive our nation’s social and economic pride.

I read on the front cover of last Tuesday’s Northland Age, that the people of Northland should be celebrating the fact that Northland no longer has the worst unemployment record in New Zealand.

Northland is now only second to worst, behind the Bay of Plenty. Apparently that is something to be proud of.

That is how bad things have got in rural and provincial New Zealand. You are now expected to celebrate when you are not quite at the bottom of the barrel.

Wellington simply does not care that Northland is the most poorly educated part of New Zealand. They just don’t care that Northland has the highest rate of long-term unemployed in the country. They are even complacent to those facts.

Does the fact that Northland has 8.5% unemployment fill you with hope? Apparently you should be popping all that champagne you’ve been saving for the new year early because things are so good here.

It says something when the National Party MP can say in The Northland Age: “It shows that our policies are creating job opportunities…There is every reason to be optimistic.”

What the National Party are saying is that, although the experiment that started in 1984 has trebled unemployment, and has gutted the heartland of New Zealand, don’t worry, it’ll all start to make sense soon. Trust them to give you more of the same.

You have to be tigers for punishment if you buy that line. Again.

Can you imagine the outcry from the other parties if Auckland had an unemployment rate of 8.5%? Or if just under half of Wellington’s children left school with absolutely no qualifications?

But, when the same thing happens in Northland. There is, according to National, “every reason to be optimistic.”

Things get even worse for Maori in Northland.
 15% of Maori are unemployed. That is 1930s depression era stuff.
 Almost 40% of Maori children are from single parent families.
 Less than ½ of 1% of Maori in Northland get a University degree – your chances of getting a degree are greater if you are from Bangladesh than if you are a Northland Maori. So much for the ‘Knowledge Economy’ !
 There have been three outbreaks of Tuberculosis in the Far North in the past two years.

Those are indeed Third-World statistics.

The answer to New Zealand’s and Kaikohe’s problems is Jobs, jobs and jobs.

Is it any wonder that we have increased crime, and community dislocation when vast segments of New Zealand are thrown on the dole heap and forgotten?

The unemployed are the forgotten victims of Rogernomics, Ruthanasia and the unfortunate experiment begun in 1984. They bear mute witness to the devastation of Labour and National’s tired mantra.

When European New Zealanders left Britain last century, they were fleeing the class system. The tragic irony is that in the last 15 years we have created that same class system here in New Zealand—we have created a permanent underclass, and a seemingly permanent aristocracy.

The evidence is stark, and shows a clear and simple message. The longer someone is unemployed, the more likely they are to be involved in crime; domestic violence; community dislocation and suicide.

The statistics show also that 90% of those in prison had been either in prison or unemployed for more than six months before entering prison. It’s no wonder Northland needs to build at least one new prison.

The Government doesn’t seem to care about places like Northland, their strategy is to play emu-politics and deny that there is any problem!

We, in New Zealand First, on the other hand, see that there is a problem with unemployment, particularly unemployment among young, unskilled people. We acknowledged there was a problem, and then tried to find sound, workable solutions.

Said another way, there are currently 226,000 New Zealanders who cannot find work. Those who are capable of finding work, we will help to find work. Those who cannot find work, because they don’t have the skills, we will help to find work by giving them the life-skills to do it.

Even those who don’t want any help finding work, we are going to help find work!

It’s a bit like General Colin Powell in the Gulf War. He was faced with an army of a million troops in Kuwait. His task was clear, he had to get those troops out and free Kuwait.

Remember what Colin Powell said? He said : “With regards to Saddam Hussein’s war machine, our objective is clear: First we’re going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it!”

We are thinking the same thing about unemployment. First we’re going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it.

Obviously we’re not going to kill the unemployed, but we are going to kill unemployment at the roots. We will develop an growth and export led economy, and then create a work-force skilled enough to run it.

Imagine if Jenny Shipley was charged with freeing Kuwait.
 Firstly, she would deny that there was a problem.
 Then she would hire spin doctors to convince us that there is no problem.
 After some ‘market research’ she would admit that perhaps Saddam Hussein is a problem.
 Treasury would say that it is too expensive to free Kuwait.
 Mrs Shipley would hire consultants at $1000 an hour to look into the problem.
 Saddam Hussein would eventually have enough of the cultural sensitivity training recommended and leave Kuwait—after being paid a massive golden handshake to prove there were no bad feelings.

We have gone from being a nation of doers and exporters to a nation of paper money shufflers and importers. And the Government doesn’t seem to care about the consequences.

We are now a Warehouse economy - a country covered with big red
buildings filled with unemployed shoppers looking for bargains.

Northland is a region for exporters, but this country is being run for the sake of importers. New Zealand First is the only party that will return New Zealand to an exporting economy.

The MP for Northland is right when he says that “we have every reason to be optimistic”. Northland can be optimistic that we will turn Northland around.


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