Any port in a storm



If ever there was proof that the “build it and they will come” mantra for developers was a triumph of optimism over reality, Whangarei’s Marsden City development is living proof.

Nestled next to some of the most spectacular beaches and coast, not to mention the deepest port in the country, people have stayed away in droves. Tumble weed from the dunes are the only signs of movement during the day, giving way to the sounds of crickets at night, demonstrating that even when the government has bled this province white, life still, somehow, finds a way. But winter is coming they say and soon even the crickets will be silent.

The election result in Northland and events surrounding it have confirmed that politics up here is largely a rich man’s play thing. Despite this being the poorest electorate in the country, voters’ efforts are so divided that many wonder if change can ever come.

There are those that say that the failure of Northland is part of the plan. After all, every now and then a dead seagull needs to be hung out on display as an example to others. The message could not have been clearer when news of National’s imminent defeat was written on the wall. The response was to announce that the Ghost Bridges wouldn’t be built unless the Electorate embraced its fool-in-waiting.

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Needless to say the threat of further neglect was met not only with howls of derision, but an electoral smackdown that surprised no one except, perhaps, the candidate who’s no doubt been to his doctor asking why all this smoke keeps coming out of his arse.

National has been blowing smoke up the arses of voters here for decades. With many of the poorest voters on the Maori roll, they’ve been used to having an MP in opposition. And while some may point to the good works of Kelvin Davis, there’s no doubt that he’s exactly where the Nats want him. With a choice between him and Hone and his potential list MPs, the Nats fell over themselves to help.

But while their influence might have extended into Te Taitokerau, until a few short weeks ago, the Nats thought they owned the Northland electorate. With a region so clearly divided by the General and Maori rolls, National’s ability to conquer The North was something it foolishly took for granted.

The threatened withdrawal of the Ghost Bridges lost it votes. The imaginary carrot provided no encouragement, nor did its withdrawal. Those in the know, knew it was never going to happen. Aside from the cost, the destruction of two magnificent kauri which flank one narrow bridge’s abutments would never fly. It would be hard for the Nats to look worse up here and even Key’s government quickly realised this, pulling the plug on them, supposedly as a response to the evident groundswell of discontent.

National will blame the damn voters for the evaporation of these ethereal structures. It will blame Winston. It will never reveal that these bridges were just a bluff. A low value token thrown down with bluff and bluster at a rich man’s poker game.

The electorate didn’t bat an eyelid. Key, holding the cards, was too busy trying to keep a straight face and neglected his puppetmaster duties as his chosen one lied and wriggled at the end of his neglected strings. There’s no point in trying to keep a straight face in a poker game if one’s mates in the room are wetting themselves with delight or going white with fear.

While Winston can undoubtedly claim credit for rattling the Nats so badly they resorted to this shameless tactic, he shouldn’t have been so quick to claim that new bridges would be built because of his heroic foray into the North. It is beyond comprehension that he thought these imaginary bridges were real. In doing so, he became part of the con.

His suggestion that Ports of Auckland’s expansion will not go ahead and will be moved to Northport has been said with a straight face. But he might have well have said that Jesus rode across Cook Straight on a Norton. The Rapture of economic recovery simply isn’t coming for the North and we know it.

ACT, polling in double figures up here still has its Theon Grayjoy-like figure in Parliament, resembling a stinky sabot lodged precariously in the wheels of change for the North. With the over-populated Auckland and Tauranga Ports competing to see who can squander as much valuable land as they can, Northport will never be developed without legislation. Before this government does that, David Seymour will change his name to Reek and climate change deniers’ Hell will freeze over.

Celebrating his victory, Winston and his crew embarked on the high seas for a fishing trip. Stepping through the locked gates on to the Marina, they wheeled their coolboxes down to the large white yacht that awaited them. Putting on a kai for the poor wasn’t part of the agenda; after all, they didn’t vote for him.

As they wafted down the coastline, dragging their expensive lures in the hope of snagging a magnificent but endangered Marlin, the people on the shore were little dots. The cries of the one in five hungry school kids could not be heard over the burble of the twin diesels. They’d spent more on bait and fuel than they’d ever recover in food. The killing of fish is a sport for them, not a necessity the way it is for the dozen tiny figures that can be seen dragging a net along the shore for their diner.

No doubt as one of his supporters, pausing between chomps on his crayfish roll, congratulated his leader on grabbing this magnificent opportunity. “You’ve become Warden of the North Winnie!” Looking over his drink at the gathering clouds, his leader sagely replied: “Any port in a storm, brother. Any port in a storm.”


  1. The north will never have much political power unless Maori swallow their tribal pride and enrol on the general roll. A Maori political party is not the answer either as no party can satisfy all the people. Maori have as many political stances as the rest of this country. Join on the general roll and use your collective power.

    • Hey, what if Maori in the north just exercised their own sovereignty instead? And then general rollers swallowed their superiority complex and embraced participation in a system that could work for everyone?

  2. Ouch!
    Great piece. I don’t like Winston but there’s no doubt he kicked National up the rear end. But like the writer, I too am deeply sceptical that Winston’s desire to leave a worthwhile legacy can overcome his cynical opportunism.

    Northland is an economic basket case. Sadly, now that our attention has been diverted by more important matters (you know, reality TV stuff), it will no doubt continue to be the victim of not-so-benign neglect.

  3. “there’s no doubt he kicked National up the rear end.” … Did he?? Really?? Or did the nats take a dive??

    When the smoke and mirrors are put away, just how much has the corporate raiding party been inconvenienced? I’ve said this before, and I repeat. Both the Maori party, and Bouffant Pete have demonstrated their willingness to stand aside for the raiders agenda once they’ve been “mollified” by either minor amendments that have little, or no effect on the raiders ultimate aims, or trinkets thrown to them by the naked emperor….

    The truth is, that they always were amenable to taking a small hit for the sake of creating a false sense of security in the peasantry, and it’s worked a treat!!! The level of petty complaints, and minor whinges that have no real bearing on the really important stuff (the stuff that will be life changing for our children and grandchildren) goes on unabated… Indeed, accelerated….

    a very good article Katy, very good indeed….

  4. This might be fair comment, but the alternative would have been?

    A guy who when asked who was his favorite politician and the answer was ….’ John Key ‘…honestly……I can think of no more cringeworthy answer than that.

    Displays a tacit lack of political history ,..indeed history itself.

    And an embarrassing newbie mentality.

    Nope. Winston it was . And at least can be said….even the Nats supporters turned on Key.

    Thinking strategically , over the long term ….the impact of smashing through the plate armour of Key and wounding Joyce ‘Mr Fixit ‘ and his alter ego is what was desired. It remains for others of the Left to build on this.

    We can support Peters stance on the TTPA and his bill regarding a clause to nullify the effects of corporate pirates suing the NZ govt for a start.

    I’m sure the Greens can utilize this . As can others. was not a perfect result . But it was the start. And to use that phrase as well ‘ any port in a storm’.

    We needed a beach head…we got it. Now’s the time to consolidate that beach head. It remains to be seen if the commitment and desire by other Left party’s really means what they say.

  5. winston peters is a Machiavellian confederate and an inveterate liar . He’s a career politician, and a lawyer, for Gods sake .
    There’s an old game being played out by mark ‘ The Nark ‘ sabin , mark osborne , The Mighty yankee doodle jonky-stien and every old persons racist bigot , liar and egomaniac , winsome winston peters . The brown muldoon .
    As for Northland being the poorest electorate in NZ . Bull shit . Where the fuck do you get that idea from and why would you say that ? Give a dog a bad name etc ? It’s been run into the ground and now founders like a broken winded horse because of a few rich, good ol’ boys running bank scams and swindles with the economy . Now , it’s fucked , but it’s not beyond recovery .
    Can I ask a question or two ?
    Why is Northland not one vast market garden ? It has the land , it has the people , it has the climate and it has a port for ya know ? Export an’ shit ?
    Why is there not huge investment in its agricultural potential when just down the road a truly worthless auckland house on a scant 700 sq m or so sold for $ 1.6 million to be shown as renovator porn to dopes who love to shop for junk at mitre 10 mega or bunnings or any other pimp-tailer selling us out to debt whores AKA banks ?
    I mean ? There are 8 billion people out there who need to eat and we have a small , average city of a million or so selling average real estate for $1.6 mil ‘ ? Does that not make you go Hmmmmm ?
    People ! You’re all bending over with your heads up your arses breathing in the smoke blown up there by the MSM , generations of politicians , bankers , real estate scum , insurance scum , scam maestro’s like lawyers , accountants and various imported ‘experts ‘ in finance and investment aka the otherwise unemployable to come here to convince us that being able to fuck around with debt , and gamble on the stock market, is far more important than growing a spud . Have you ever tried to eat a ten dollar note ? Not that tasty .
    You saw yankee doodle jonky-stien try to hammer in a nail , the wee mite , bless . He’s a useless lazy bastard with luck on his side and a talent for gathering other peoples money into a little pile . That is all he is .
    Northland’s poor because it’s being deliberately held down by the scruff of the neck . The reason for that ? Is it because agriculture can’t be seen to be the engine room of our economy because that’d show up the Great New Zealand Institutionalised Lie ?
    And that lie is ?
    winston peter’s white predecessor knew . muldoon was photographed scurrying from a flight back from Switzerland holding a brief case . I wonder what was in that briefcase ?
    NZ is an agricultural economy . Without that , we’d be fucked . Not even bus loads of Chinese tourists could save us from the dreaded gurgler . Of course , now and then we teeter on the edge of the abyss but all that needs to be done is give the dumb old farmer a few dollars and back they bounce and off we struggle . Repeat as necessary until all them Good Ol Boys are rich as aye ?

    • “Why is Northland not one vast market garden ? It has the land , it has the people , it has the climate and it has a port for ya know ? Export an’ shit ? ”

      How about ‘roads’, ‘land tenure’, distance to training and markets and international airports just for starters? Plus the services to support the various branches of the industry – and a willing work force, plus decent returns on investment. Also water supplies. Reservoirs to even out the glut-drought cycles. Ready sources of compost to offset the underlying sandy soils.

      The comment about people on the shore dragging a net to catch supper. They still can. The seafood is still safe to eat. There’s still firewood and freedom to light a cooking fire. There are far too many places in this country now where those freedoms have gone.

      Kids hungry? Then fix the community that allows it. Food can be shared. Cooking can be shared. Happens on the marae. Let the ways of the marae be abroad.

  6. A few observations here: National lost Northland because of their own arrogance, they never seriously considered they could lose until quite late in the piece and then their pork barrel tactics were obvious to a blind man and made them look like utter plonkers. 2. I’m not a huge fan of Winston either, but as long as dents Team Key I will get some satisfaction from the result. 3. The rich-poor divide of Northland is an interesting one – I reckon that the bridge bribes were designed for the rich yuppies who have million dollar lifestyle homes on isolated back roads and like to drive to work to Auckland without having to give way on a one-lane bridge. Trouble for National was that there weren’t enough rich yuppies around to swing it for them. To put it bluntly National completely stuffed up their campaign and Winston took full advantage of it.

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