Winston Peters: Another week, another crisis

Winston Peters
Winston Peters

Hardly a week goes by when we don't hear about the disastrous consequences of the government's tight-fisted attitude, especially to the regions.

Councils all over the country are grappling with major problems over roading and general infrastructure. Hospitals are stressed out to the maximum, many schools are in a desperate plight. Here in Northland we have heard promises from National ad nauseam.

And nothing happens.

Read more: Winston Peters: Housing crisis hitting Far North hard

The latest crisis, which has been termed unprecedented, concerns regional airports.

Northland is in the firing line again. Whangarei, Kerikeri and Kaitaia are among 12 airports identified by the NZ Airports Association as being at serious risk of closure because they don't have enough money to keep going.

The association has appealed to the government to help out, and has given a list of recommendations, one of the best of which is that the government establishes a regional communities fund to underwrite air services, similar to the NZAid scheme that finances links to the Cook Islands and Niue.

"The problem is the National government is caught up in ideology. It's straight out of Darwinism - survival of the fittest ..."

If the government agreed to this recommendation, it would be a massive shift. At the moment councils are having to pay for huge infrastructure demands from tourism, they have to maintain roads that are taking a hammering from log trucks and milk tankers, and in some instances they are having to pay for their local airports as well.

This can't go on. It is unsustainable for councils, especially those with small ratepayer bases. That is why the recommendation makes sense.

The problem is the National government is caught up in ideology. It's straight out of Darwinism - survival of the fittest - which says "operate successfully commercially, or go under". Such ideology takes no social responsibility.

The National government is so obsessed with 'business knows best' neoliberalism and Darwinism that they have let New Zealand get out of step with other developed countries.

In the United States, the government provides a subsidy of $US261 million to keep 163 rural airports open. A similar scheme operates in Europe, through a Public Service Obligation (PSO) scheme. In Australia central government and state governments invest in regional airports.

These countries recognise the importance of keeping these airports operational.

They know small airports cannot generate enough income, and larger airlines looking for big profits are not interested in them. These more enlightened governments recognise that, for the good of the local communities, both socially and economically, central government must provide adequate funding.

It's about time the National government woke up to their responsibilities. They are not there to pander to big business and foreign interests alone - they must govern for the greater good of the country, and that includes regions such as Northland, which have had a gutsful of being excluded and fobbed off with promises.

- Northland Age

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