Conservatives' Aubrey criticises province neglect

The Conservative Party candidate for Waitaki says the Government is poorly serving New Zealand's provinces.

Farmer Donald Aubrey, of Ben McLeod Station, said provincial road networks were being poorly maintained and access to good quality broadband was a serious problem in rural areas.

"Provincial New Zealand has been neglected by the National Government and we can see evidence of that in Waitaki."

Aubrey said he hoped to provide "sound advice from provincial New Zealand". He believed provincial councils were struggling to maintain rural roads and that the Government's broadband infrastructure priorities were incorrectly directed towards cities.

"They should have addressed issues where there is market failure," he said.

Aubrey pointed to lobbying he had conducted with former Federated Farmers chief executive Conor English as evidence of his effectiveness. "We put sufficient pressure on Steven Joyce so that funding for the Rural Broadband Initiative increased from $48 million to $300m."

He expected incumbent MP Jacqui Dean to be highly placed on the National Party list and hoped voters would vote strategically. "Waitaki would be better off with two MPs."

Aubrey had earlier refused to comment on his candidacy, which had been announced early on the party website. It was only after party chief executive Christine Rankin admitted "it's a bit silly of us to deny it", that he agreed to speak.

Rankin insisted the early announcement was "not a mistake" but Aubrey said he had hoped to generate public interest by withholding the information until after he had attended the party's conference in Auckland this weekend.

The Timaru Herald