• Video: New Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and deliver for Wairoa, says Mayor

Video: New Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and deliver for Wairoa, says Mayor

The new coalition Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and deliver for communities like Wairoa, says the town’s mayor.

In an interview with Hawke’s Bay App, Craig Little said it was a “huge achievement” for National, ACT and New Zealand to “get to where they’ve got to”.

“I think they've all talked a pretty big game. Now they've just got to put their money where their mouth is and show us what they can do. And we need it here in Wairoa, so I'll be really, really looking forward to the three wise men delivering before Christmas.”

Since his community was devastated by Cyclone Gabrielle in February, Little has called for government help to rebuild Wairoa, a task he says is desperately needed.

Little says he is pleased to see that NZ First’s Shane Jones is Regional Development Minister in charge of a Regional Infrastructure Fund. This reprises the role that Jones held in the Labour coalition government from 2017-2020 where he was responsible for the Provincial Growth Fund.

“We're quite excited about that. Number one, Shane knows us well here in Wairoa, he knows rural areas well. And they don't call him the prince of the provinces for nothing, so he's been across it all.”

“There's got some big things to happen here, we've got fix up. First of all, we've got people out of homes or roads that are broken, but we've also got to encourage businesses to grow and enable that to happen by better connectivity. And I believe that that will happen.”

However, Little admits that Wairoa has “a big mountain ahead of us”.

“We've got 50 million for roading, which is good, but that's really just not a lot at all. We've got probably about $190 million worth of roading to get us back to where we were, to fix up all the dropouts and obviously everything, bridges, you name it.”

“We've got a lot of money ahead of us, but then we need probably another 50 to 100 million dollras to get the roads better and resilient for the next 50 years.”

Another issue of concern for the Mayor is housing, which has been badly affected by the Cyclone..

“Out of the 133 homes in Wairoa, only three families have moved back in, so we're looking for six to 9 million to get the uninsured and the underinsured to get them back in as well. So we've got a long way to go.”

Asked why the Government should focus on his town, when many others were in similar situations around the country.

“Well one, we're the most isolated. We're the most damaged per capita and our poverty is probably higher than other towns and communities.”

“A lot of these people could hardly afford to put food on their table, let alone pay for insurance and things like that. So we need it, probably. The need is, I think, I believe it's a lot greater.”

In an interview with Hawke’s Bay App, Central Hawke’s Bay Mayor Alex Walker said the fundamental issue is that the system of local government in New Zealand is broken. Little agrees with this.

“The biggest fundamental issue is the way we rate and the way we get funded, or the lack of it.”

“We've got to keep going to the government cap in hand, trying to beg for money. And if you look at the history over the years, we've flatlined our rate increases, where the government's increases have always gone up on a trajectory.”

“A lot of work's got to be done, but make it so we actually get funded better than we do. And Three Waters is a fine example of that, they tried to rethink, reinvent the wheel when the fact of the matter is, more funding.”

Little says that some of the ideas out of the Future for Local Government report were “really good”.

“For a start, government buildings, government land, everything need to start paying rates, and all the schools and that, 'cause that's a big part which the government should be able to fund. For us, we just need to sit down more.”

Little was sceptical about whether the new government would do anything with the Future for Local Government report.

“They'll probably have a look at it, but generally when another government put it together, it probably doesn't make them that excited about it. I just think they should take out the top five things out of it and have a look.”

Asked what his approach would be regarding the new Government, Little said he has already been making contact with te politicians he knows in National and New Zealand First.

“Shane Jones, we really want him to come back. He will be invited to the opening of the CBD revitalisation because he could see what it was and what it would do for Wairoa. So hopefully he's here.”

Little says he also has a good relationship with Prime Minister Christopher Luxton.

“Let's hope that that can really pay off moving forward. But they've got the rest of the country they've got to deal with too, but they've got a massive job ahead of them, and I hope we can really be part of that.”

The new National MP for Napier, which includes Wairoa in its electorate, is Katie Nimon.

She told Hawke’s Bay App this week that Wairoa was an important part of her electorate.

“I've just come back from Wairoa. I'm there almost every week. None of what I did during the campaign was hollow promises. It's most important to me that Wairoa is looked after. I've already invited [Emergency Management] Minister Mitchell to an event in Wairoa in a couple of weeks’ time, and he's looking into his ability to be there.”

“I have a fantastic relationship with Wairoa and so their voice is being heard loud and clear by me, and then my voice is loud to the ministers.”

“I've already had multiple conversations about Wairoa.”

 Watch the accompanying video to see the full interview with Craig Little