Speech to Centenary of 1917 Parliamentary Tour of Northland
Te Ahu, Centre, Kaitaia
4pm-5pm Thursday, February 2, 2017
A sense of déjà vu
It’s a pleasure to be here today to welcome the Centenary of the 1917 Parliamentary Tour of Northland.
Congratulations to the organisers of this event – the North Shore branch of the New Zealand Vintage Car Club with the help of other club branches – Northland, Far North and Wellsford-Warkworth.
Mr Edmondson, the Far North council’s communications manager, has requested we don’t use this occasion to make political statements.
Well why on earth not?
The treatment of Northland by the Beehive and the Wellington bureaucracy is one of neglect and patronisation.
The funding for Northland’s roads by the NZTA is a classic example where severe cuts in real terms appear in their press statements where Northland is concerned as praiseworthy increases.
The infrastructural deficit throughout the North is testimony to that.
It is impossible to keep politics out because the original tour was organised by Colonel Allen Bell, MP for the Bay of Islands from 1922 to 1928, with political intentions.
Colonel Bell’s concerns back then are still the concerns of a mass majority of Northlanders.
Colonel Bell believed the economic potential of the North was not being given due consideration by the politicians in Wellington.
Now isn’t that déjà vu in fast forward?
Both Colonel Bell and the North Auckland Executive and Development Board wanted as many MPs as they could to come and see what challenges the North faced.
In the end 40 MPs made the epic trip, as well as 97 others from various walks of life – farmers, business people and reporters.
And what a trip it was.
The tour was called a “tour of the roadless” North and it was a big problem finding accommodation.
On one leg of the 16 day, 800 mile trip it took them six hours to slog through 26km of mud and slush.
Some of the MPs had to get out of the cars and heave on ropes to pull the cars out of mud.
Of the 33 cars which started, only 10 finished the journey from Auckland to Kaitaia, then through Ahipara, Herekino, Broadwood, the Hokianga, Kaikohe and Dargaville.
Did Colonel Bell and the development board achieve what they wanted?
Did the Wellington politicians wake up?
Before considering that it is interesting to note some contemporary comment of the tour.
The Auckland Star (February 1, 1917) said the tour had introduced those who had been on it to “the riches of the North, developed and undeveloped, and they were astonished.
“The dominating impression brought away from the tour is one of immense possibilities …and most of them (the people on the tour) have become converted to the Auckland conviction that the North has been neglected by the Government.
“But they have observed failings in the North, and have not hesitated to point them out.
“They think that the North should show more energy and self-reliance.”
Without being too political, if we want the North to get proper attention we must be united up here in asking for it.
It is not energy or self-reliance we lack up here, but a united voice.
For all of you who have joined this tour our grateful thanks because you have focussed on an infrastructural need, in this case roading, that Northland desperately needs a response to.
Your journey will be a pleasure trip compared to the arduous experience endured in 1917.
We are sure you are having a great time viewing the riches and wonders that the tourists of 1917 found and discovering immense possibilities as well.
Safe travels on your continuing historic journey!