Around 160 people turned up at the Warkworth RSA last week to hear the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges.
After speaking briefly about his family and legal background, Mr Bridges said the meeting was really about listening to his audience.
“What you say will be the things we should be focusing on for the next two-and-a-half years,” he said.
Encouraging the audience to ask tough questions, Mr Bridges said it was a public meeting and “anything goes”.
“You can say I’m a bit overweight. You can say I’ve got too much gel in my hair. These are all things Winston says to me most days in Parliament, so you are not going to offend me,” he joked.
Taking the bait, the audience peppered Mr Bridges with questions related to local concerns. On the Auckland Supercity, Mr Bridges said he originally thought it was a good idea as he felt it would create efficiencies.
“The reality is the outcomes have been much more mixed. What is true under Mayor Goff is that you are paying more and getting less,” he said.
Mr Bridges said the solution was not for North Rodney to escape the Supercity, but to make sure it got out of it the money that it invested in it.
On the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax, Mr Bridges said National would be pushing hard for Transport Minister Phil Twyford to abandon it. He said it was unnecessary and hurt the poorest the most.
“If Phil Goff did what he said when he was elected and was getting three to six per cent efficiencies every year, he would raise more than the fuel tax,” he said.
On the congested and dangerous Hill Street intersection, Mr Bridges said he had been lobbied hard by Rodney MP Mark Mitchell on the issue when he was Transport Minister. He said it had been a battle, but he had brought together the New Zealand Transport Agency, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to work together to find a solution, despite their reluctance.
“And a solution will happen, though there may still be fights along the way,” he said.
Mr Bridges reiterated National’s support for the Warkworth to Wellsford Road of National Significance and sympathised with landowners on the indicative route who were in limbo, since the current government had gone cold on the idea.
Mr Bridges said when the road was built, landowners on the indicative route should be offered 150 per cent of the value of their property to vacate their land. This would ultimately save money by avoiding protracted fights over forced land sales.
Mr Bridges said National also supported pumping government money into cleaning up the Mahurangi River to allow it to become navigable again and become a tourist attraction.
“We are not just supportive, we are deeply supportive,” he said.