Peters slams Labour for 'abandoning the regions'

NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ
NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has delivered his most stinging blow to date against his coalition partners, accusing Labour of abandoning the regions.

"Provincial voters have had confirmed for them today that the Labour Party is abandoning them to their fate," Peters said.

His comments come after Labour this afternoon announced it would be discontinuing the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) – the crown jewel of NZ First's coalition agreement with Labour.

Instead, it plans to roll out a $200 million Regional Strategic Partnership Fund if it is re-elected.

It's similar to the PGF, but with a much smaller price tag.

Peters was less than impressed with Labour's policy saying: "It's a gross mutation of what has been a flagship success during New Zealand First's term in Government".

He called Labour's mooted fund a "straight cop-out" and a "sad commentary on Labour's priorities when they are by themselves".

NZ First policy was for the Government to spend at least another $3 billion on extending the PGF during the next term.

But speaking to reporters in Wairarapa today, Ardern poured cold water over that idea.

"The PGF was only ever designed to be a $3 billion project over three years," she said.

Peters said there was a sense of irony in Labour's announcement.

"Labour politicians, from the top down, can't get into the camera shots quick enough at every PGF announcement."

He said they were happy to cut the PGF ribbons and accept the applause – "now they would rather cut their ties with provincial voters".

"Voters from Kaitaia to the Bluff know that investments through the PGF during the last three years showed that the Government, for the first time in a long time, were with them.

"Now they know that one party in that Coalition Government, Labour, had no real commitment towards them."

He went on to speculate that the remaining $2.8 billion – which presumably would have gone towards the new PGF – would be used to fulfil the party's "Auckland Light Rail dream".

"One of their signature mega-failures, alongside KiwiBuild," Peters said.

Ardern did not wish to comment on Peters' response when speaking to media this afternoon – saying only this was a matter for NZ First.

This is not the first time Peters has turned on his coalition partners.

Earlier this week, he referred to them as "the other side" in a speech in which he was highly critical of KiwiBuild among other Labour policies.

He has spoken at length about how NZ First MPs have been a handbrake on the some of the "silly ideas" that Labour and the Greens have attempted to push through cabinet.

By contrast, Ardern has barely spoken about NZ First unless she has been questioned on something specific.

And even then, her replies more often than not tend to be: "That is a matter for New Zealand First".

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