Stuart Smith
MP for Kaikoura
Spokesperson for Climate Change, EQC and Viticulture

A week they say is a long time in politics and so it was with the appointment of Christopher Luxon as the new leader of the National Party last Thursday. The role of Leader of the Opposition is a hard job at the best of times, but add in a pandemic and lockdowns to the picture and it is even more so. However, our new leader comes in at time when the public is becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Labour Government’s failure to deliver and the straight-talking common sense approach of both Christopher Luxon and deputy leader Nicola Willis has been greeted with almost relief across the Country.

Deliveries. Cartoon credit SonovaMin. The BFD.

Timing in politics is an essential element to success, albeit that the circumstances are usually out of the control of the participants, “however cometh the moment cometh the man” and woman in this case. To be successful requires the talent and wit to prosecute the case and our leadership team has an abundance of both. I’ve always believed that good leaders do not seek to lead, but instead are called to lead, and both Christopher and Nicola have been asked by our Caucus to do a job and I have every confidence that they will get stuck in, and it will be a National-led Government in 2023. I look forward to working with them and working in my new portfolio of Energy and Resources.

This week I visited the flood-ravaged Marlborough Sounds with the Marlborough Mayor John Leggett, Sounds Ward Councillors, Marlborough Roads and NZTA for public meetings in Waitaria Bay and Portage to discuss restoring the flood-damaged Kenepuru Road. The morning meeting in Waitaria Bay was very well attended and the frustrations about the lack of a reliable connection were quite evident. However the biggest concern is the lack of heavy transport access for farmers and the honey business who are unable to get heavy trucks in and out by road.

The afternoon meeting at The Portage was also well attended with similar issues raised. The good news is that NZTA will fund 95% of the first $20 million of the repairs, and re-evaluate their contribution to reinstatement at that point. The question for the community is what level of service will the road be able to maintain in the future, or to put it another way, will heavy trucks be able to use the road in the future? If not it will have a significant impact on existing businesses and it may require investment in infrastructure to enhance barge services.

The community are well aware of just how fragile the Kenepuru Road is and that another significant rain event such as the one that occurred in July could happen again. The Marlborough Sounds is a beautiful place to live and while the road has its challenges there are alternatives, and it is an opportune time to work through the costs and benefits of alternatives with all parties who wish to contribute.

MP for Kaikoura. Viticulture, EQC.