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Plan is to stay the biggest party

In a couple of years he was going to ask them to vote for him as Prime Minister, National Party leader Simon Bridges said yesterday.

Roads, rail, justice, education, health and who National would have for coalition partners were all subjects aired in a “connecting with communities” roadshow meeting in Gisborne yesterday.

One person asked how National intended to get into power.

“What coalition party do you have?”

Mr Bridges said the good news was that National did have 44.5 percent of the vote and in all the years Helen Clark was prime minister, Labour never scraped above 40 percent.

These were interesting political times.

“I would be brave to predict. Anything can happen. We plan to stay the biggest party. Hopefully, NZ First voters will see the error of their ways and come back to us.

“We will keep that bigness and, yes, we do need mates. I am confident I will be the leader of the biggest party in

Government and we will have options in 2020.

A right-wing Christian activist asked if National would represent him.

“I am a member of the Assembly of God Church in Christchurch . . . I am socially conservative but the National Party is a broad spectrum party and I am not going to change that,” Mr Bridges responded.

“I am a Christian but that is not what drives me. I have three children and I want them to have a strong vibrant country.”

National was economy-focused. Business confidence was at the lowest it had been in a long time, he said.

A comment by one woman who said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had a child and was not married was met with support from some of the audience.

“What sort of example does that set for us. It is embarrassing.”

Mr Bridges said he had no issue with the PM’s marital status. “It is a modern diverse world. There are all sorts of different families. I wish the three of them the best.”

Another question about the justice system and why offenders never got the maximum penalty was answered by the former crown prosecutor.

The three strikes system was working, he said. There had been only four people who had reached the third strike.

He would like to see tougher sentencing for recidivist drink-drivers.

Alain Jorian said he was dying of lung cancer and had to spend $9000 every three weeks to get Keytruda, a drug that was helping him stay alive. It was only funded for melanoma.

Mr Bridges said health was a number one issue in New Zealand. National had put more funding every year into health and it was never enough. Labour were putting less money into health.

“I can’t fathom it . . . we would have a strong economy . . . we would invest a lot more into health.”

Mr Bridges said climate change was a serious long-term issue and there needed to be an enduring framework that both the left and right could agree to.

National would not sign up to big extreme policies that would add costs. He might lose a few votes but lots of people thought rail was really exciting and cool, until it happened and then no one used it.

“For logging there is never going to be a rail that goes into each forest, so to get the logs to the line they have to go on something that starts withy a ‘t’ and ends with ‘ruck’. They are not going to double handle.”

A woman became upset at his lack of support for rail and stormed out of the meeting.

The roads to forestry were bankrupting the Gisborne council, another said.

“We can’t afford to be a carbon sink town.”

Mr Bridges said there was under-investment in roads.

Simon Bridges and Tom Keogh. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell
HEARING THE FEARS OF NEIGHBOURS: Gisborne mother Elyse McGregor had some firm words for National Party leader Simon Bridges and East Coast MP Anne Tolley about the proposed new Corrections half way house in Abbott Street, at a public meeting here yesterday. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell