National Party leader Simon Bridges has slapped down a potential alliance with the Greens and derided the growing number of people on unemployment benefit. Bridges shared his views at a public meeting chaired by National MP for Hunua Andrew Bayly, which was held at Maraetai Bowling Club recently.
The leader of the opposition held forum with the 120 locals who braved a wet and wintery east Auckland night.
Bridges started by re-inforcing party policy on business growth and confidence, the proposed establishment of a national cancer agency, the government’s neglect of dairy farmers, red tape in the construction and building industries (which he took almost a libertarian stance of suggesting “less government”), and the downward trend in international student arrivals.
After hearing from local figures in the education and business sectors, the floor was opened to questions. Bridges took a pro stance on immigration when quizzed, but emphasised putting New Zealanders first when it came to employment opportunities. He conceded unemployment figures were at their lowest (3.9 percent down from 4.2 percent in March) but tempered that by stating “there are now 15,500 more people on the dole “owing to a net migration rate of 58,400 people as of February this year”.
He also said he was a big believer that those who “can work, should work”. The local hot-button topic of a new high school was raised and awakened the floor. Residents bemoaned their current predicament of having to send their children to high school in Papakura, due to its low decile status. The presence of a couple of detractors kept the debate lively.
When asked if his party would ever consider forming an alliance with the Green party, Bridge’s comically suggested National were not a party interested in promoting “trendy, woke, cool causes” and referred to the Green’s “watermelon status” being “green on the outside, and red on the inside”.
Bridges emphasised National’s core ethos of investing in infrastructure and education by stating he wanted New Zealand children “to be the best in the world” and passed on the new school inquiry to Bayly who could not give a start date for the proposed, but unconfirmed project.
The questioning ended with clarification sought on repair and replacement of Siberia Hill’s notoriously dangerous road seal and passing lane.
Bill Cashmore, deputy mayor of Auckland, and Franklin ward representative offered assurance that the project was “top of the list” which was met by general scepticism by the crowd, with one humorous quip of “you said that last year” coming from the backbenches.