Shane Jones rubbishes Maori Party's 'choo-choo' IwiRail moment

Shane Jones: "Nine weeks out from the election, they've had a 'choo-choo' moment."

Shane Jones: "Nine weeks out from the election, they've had a 'choo-choo' moment."

NZ First Whangarei candidate Shane Jones has rubbished the Maori Party's new IwiRail policy and told them to "stick to Kapa Haka".

Jones, a former Labour cabinet minister who many see as the heir to NZ First leader Winston Peters' throne, fired off the volley of criticisms a day after the policy was announced.

The Maori Party's IwiRail policy proposes a public-private-partnership between the Government, Iwi, and local businesses to take over mothballed rail lines in the regions and relaunch them. Initially the policy would focus on the Gisborne region before taking the model elsewhere if it was successful.

Jones said the policy was badly planned and almost a decade late.

READ MORE: IwiRail: Maori Party want mothballed tracks reopened in regional NZ

"The Maori Party has had nine years to influence railway policy. When the Dunedin workshop closed they said absolutely nothing. When the foreign trains came into the country, displacing scores and scores of workers, they were mute, when all of our railway lines in the North were closed," Jones said.

Promotional material for the new policy.

Promotional material for the new policy.

"But now, nine weeks out from the election, they've had a 'choo-choo' moment. It lacks credibility."

Jones said the Maori Party had "some form" on cultural matters but should stick out of "serious industrial issues."

"They need to leave well enough alone and go back to Kapa Haka. The Maori Party is really the Kapa Haka party of the National Party."

"For nine years their wagon has been hitched to the bulging National Party locomotive."

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NZ First have a long-held commitment to bringing back mothballed rail lines to the region - but at this stage lack any specifics about how much that will cost.

"They're political magpies, they are nicking our ideas," Jones said.

The Maori Party say IwiRail would cost an initial $350m then an ongoing $100m per year - a small portion of the $5.2b transport budget.

Much like potential coalition partners Labour, Jones said any rail development should be funded by the Government, not a public-private-partnership.

"The notion that iwi are going to pour millions into fixing railway lines is farcical," Jones said.

"These are key public assets and they need public funds to reflect their public function."

The Maori Party have been contacted for comment.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox described the outburst as "typical NZ First".

"They don't want to see Maori conceding. And it's a bit rich given they are out there telling people they want regional rejuvenation," Fox said.

"Shane Jones wants to get back in to the fray and I guess this is his way back in."

She said IwiRail had a solid business case and was based on three years of research - which is why it was a policy now, not at the last election.

"I'm not concerned about what Shane Jones has to say." 

She said the Government was "interested" in the policy. Transport Minister Simon Bridges' office did not respond to requests for comment.

Like all other Maori Party policy, it would not be a bottom-line in coalition talks.

 - Stuff

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