Simon Bridges election as National’s 12 leader marks an important new chapter for New Zealand’s largest and most successful political party.
Simon comes from humble beginnings as the youngest child of six children of a Baptist minister father and school teacher mother. He grew up in Te Atatu. He was head boy at Rutherford College and went on to complete an arts and law degree at Auckland University and a further law degree at Oxford University in England.
I have huge respect for Simon’s work as a crown prosecutor for seven years in Tauranga on jury trials. The new Government is proposing a weakening of bail and sentencing laws and his real life experiences will ensure victims are not forgotten in these debates.
Simon has a strong track record as a successful Minister of energy and resources, communications, transport, and economic development. He is bright, has business nous but also a strong social conscience. Smart initiatives he lead include the rollout out of ultra-fast broadband, National’s massive home insulation programme covering over 300,000 homes, and financial incentives for electric vehicles.
Simon has proved to be a strong advocate for provincial New Zealand as MP for Tauranga. Nelson is a very similar city. Our regions are dynamic and growing with successful sectors like horticulture, forestry and tourism. We are not depressed cities in the way Winston Peters like to characterise provincial New Zealand. Our issues are managing growth and ensuring we improve the transport, housing, schools and health services to cope.
Simon was a strong supporter and deliverer of infrastructure investment. He was pivotal to National’s commitment for Nelson to get on and build the much needed Southern Link highway. He had the leadership to get major roading projects in Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland built despite noisy opposition. He gets stuff done. This contrasts with Jacinda Ardern’s position of putting Nelson’s traffic problems in the too hard basket and doing nothing.
The new Government is slowing investment in infrastructure and cancelling major project’s like Auckland’s East West link. This may pacify local opponents of such projects but will hold New Zealand back in the long term.
Simon Bridges faces an enormous challenge as Leader of the Opposition. It is the toughest job in politics. Simon, like Jacinda Ardern faces the challenge of a young family with children 5,3 and a new baby in December.
Simon Bridge’s election as National Leader alongside Jacinda Ardern for Labour marks a generational change in our country’s leadership. It bodes well for New Zealand’s future that we have this sort of talent to take our country forward.