“What is your opinion on state homes being converted to P Labs?” one local asked Leader of Opposition Simon Bridges on his visit to east Auckland.
“What is the criterion for people who have converted their homes to P Labs being given new accommodation in state housing after they have ripped their house down? How do you feel about the present government going soft on crime? The view amongst some is that gangs are friendly motorcycle clubs. What are your thoughts on the coalition government wanting to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent?”
Here at the invitation of Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross, it was Mr Bridges’ fourth public meeting of the day.
Meeting hundreds of people and facing a barrage of questions can be exhausting but the MP for Tauranga has his training wheels on for leading the country as Prime Minister in 2020.
Reaching out to locals, he was in Howick last Friday for a SuperBlues – the National Party’s Advisory Group for Senior Citizens – meeting which was packed to the capacity.
From meth contaminated homes to pressing housing issues, education, infrastructure, healthcare, the demise of the Maori Party, he answered a volley of questions.
“I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom but when an economy is moving backwards, it is a big concern,” he said.
“As a country, we all worked hard over nine years to reverse the 35,000 per year brain drain to Australia. We’ve seen wages growing at twice the rate of inflation since 2008, and 240,000 jobs added in the last two years.”
Talking of the time he went up against New Zealand First leader Winston Peter in 2008 and won, he said: “Young New Zealanders were leaving for Australia. And at the end of our time in Government, 70,000 wanted to come back and most of them were Aussies and New Zealanders.
“They saw the opportunity for a bright future here. Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson look like they are on a mission to throw that progress away.
“We don’t want to go back to plane-loads of Kiwis moving to Australia and our young families becoming economic refugees once again.
“They need to halt the fuel taxes and get their tax working group to focus on reducing the tax burden on Kiwis rather than increasing it. We want to make sure our children inherit a healthy economy.”
Sharing a personal nugget he said: “I met my wife when we were studying at Oxford and the first time she told her parents about me she said she was going out with a nice Japanese guy.”
The National Party leader later spoke to the Times<ITALICS> about meeting dignitaries and world leaders like Barrack Obama, Tony Blair, Prince William and Prince Harry and taking a page out of their books. Talking about the former US President he said “he was very warm and real”.
“I liked his speech, he spoke a lot about his children and his desire for them to be good caring adults,” said the politician of Maori and European heritage who grew up in West Auckland.
On a more light-hearted note he added: “I find that all the foreign dignitaries I have met have one thing in common. They are all very tall, lean and more angular than you think.
“We in New Zealand don’t make very tall politicians, do we,” he laughed.