Peter Dunne writes:
MMP is a system ready-made for effective local representation, and it is hard to understand why so many electorate MPs often overlook that. There are exceptions – but they are few and far between. Those who come readily to mind are Damian O’Connor and his staunch advocacy for the West Coast, regardless of his party’s position on an issue, and Nick Smith and Nikki Kaye who are always seen to be working assiduously in their electorates. For most of the rest, however, the electorate seat they hold is but the vehicle that gives them a seat in Parliament.
Every now and then, an issue arises which is critical to a particular electorate or group of electorates, and cries out for effective advocacy by the local MP. NZTA’s recent decisions to effectively can the proposed Petone to Grenada link road and delay almost indefinitely the development of the Melling Interchange are two such examples. Both affect the Hutt Valley and northern Wellington electorates, particularly, and the Wellington region generally.
The Petone to Grenada link road (effectively linking the Hutt Valley directly to State Highway One north of Wellington) has been on the books for over a decade, and has always rated highly in terms of the cost benefit analysis. While there have been issues regarding the constantly shifting designated route of the road and its likely impact on affected property owners, and some of the engineering issues arising from some of NZTA’s earlier indicative designs for the road, none of these were insoluble, and progress was being made towards the development of what most people regarded as a necessary road link. Lives had already been disrupted with properties already purchased and people compensated, but now it seems all that counts for nothing, as it is back to square one.
The Melling Interchange idea has been around for almost as long, and is seen as a necessary solution to a significant and unsafe bottleneck on State Highway Two. Even NZTA agrees that the Interchange is worthwhile, but it is now saying it will be at least ten years before any funding can be set aside for it.
Both decisions have come as a major surprise to people in the Wellington region, but what is perhaps more surprising is the complete silence of the region’s Labour MPs and Labour aligned Mayor of Wellington on the issue. The Mayor of Lower Hutt and the local National MPs, and even the Speaker of the House from whom one would normally a measure of impartiality, have weighed in opposing these decisions, but to date, they have been lone voices. Yet, if ever there was an occasion where local MPs, regardless of party, could come together to advocate for their region and its infrastructural interests, this is it.
Wellington is constantly concerned about its future focus and development, always with a rival’s eye to its competitive sister of the North, the rapidly growing power-house of Auckland. The concern is understandable, although Wellington will never compete effectively with a properly governed and organised Auckland nearly five times its size. But for it to have any sort of worthwhile future, Wellington needs effective leaders and representatives, committed to getting the best sustainable, social and physical infrastructure for the region. For Wellington now, all politics has to be local, across the five cities comprising the region, the six electorate MPs, and the list MPs living in the area, with everyone equally committed to pushing the region’s future.
So, the local Labour MPs need to take Sir John’s advice to heart, and put the needs and wishes of their local constituents front and centre of their considerations, rather than just continue their focus on being loyal, unquestioning servants of their party.
The local Labour MPs and Councillors are not serving Wellington well. Basically every significant road improvement planned has been cancelled or delayed indefinitely.
And to make matters worse the Labour/Green dominated Regional Council has crippled the previously reliable public transport system.