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Opinion: Winston’s Town Hall Meeting

A good ol’ fashioned town hall pre-election meeting.

One way to describe Friday’s gathering at the Invercargill WorkingMen’s Club with the Right Hon. Winston Peters.

The meeting attracted good numbers, in fact very good numbers considering it was a work day and the weather hardly favourable.

The leader of New Zealand First generally played to his faithful constituency but was for much of it biking into the wind to stir up the stoic faithful. Even bringing out the growly voice didn’t seem to fire the passions of the gathered.

The meeting was billed as Mr Peters having a plan to go back to the original legislation, and power prices of those glorious days decades ago. Take things back to the beginning was the catch cry which drew hearty applause,

Before that he reeled off what was happening now, yes right now in the business world since it was confirmed that Tiwai will close in 13 months. Some startling stuff.

He was also going to name names of those who have interfered with the running of the smelter over the years.

This is where his old mentor the late Sir Robert Muldoon came into his cross hairs.

Mr Peters revealed that it was Muldoon who ratcheted up the price of electricity 350% and the smelter has apart from a few good results, struggled since.

The deputy PM also had a shot at his coalition partners just referring to them as “they” in coming down here to offer $100m the workers and Southland and hoping we would go away.

Former National energy minister Max Bradford, the architect of the energy landscape we have now was not spared referring to electricity prices going vertical on his watch when they should have plateaued.

The assembled and wider Southland community also got a bit of a serve with the message that the people of the province have to send a very clear message – we’ve had a gutsful and we’re not taking anymore!

If Muldoon and Bradford were in the cross hairs then high praise went to Kiwi Keith Holyoake as Mr Peters said he was one of the best Prime Minister’s this country has had.

Mr Peters singled out Holyoake’s vision for our country and getting the Manapouri Power Station project started basically on a built it and they will come basis.

So the plan in a nutshell is for the smelter operators to commit to a 20 year agreement with a 10 year review. take things back to the beginning.

When asked what if Rio Tinto don’t come to the party, Mr Peters basically replied, does it have to be Rio Tinto ?…….Opens the door I guess.

Of course Mr Peters was on the campaign trail urging the gathered to buy yourself an insurance policy and vote NZF. He also commented that you’d have to be off the planet to vote Green. So we know where he stands there.

The meeting concluded with a somewhat clumsey segue into NZF’s campaign song You’re The Voice at full volume then question time.

There a good selection of questions to which Mr Peters answered by skirting around.

So, is the plan a goer? Who knows.

Did he win the crowd over? Again hard to tell but we’ll have an answer a few weeks.

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