Director of the NZ Centre for Political Research Dr. Muriel Newman summed up the situation in a recent article.
Essentially, voters believed they had been taken for granted. While the government’s focus, for reasons that are quite understandable, has been on Christchurch and Auckland, people living in Northland and many other provincial areas have been feeling neglected and ignored. The long term impact of poor roading and limited economic growth opportunities not only generates discontent, but it also creates deep pockets of deprivation and hopelessness.
Rural communities rely on primary industries, farming and mining, for jobs, but New Zealand has one enormous in-built barrier that discourages the re-vitalisation of rural communities, the Resource Management Act, that triumph of environmentalism. Muriel Newman again:
The RMA is one of those Acts of Parliament that most people have little contact with. They are the lucky ones.
It's the property owners and business people with initiatives that come into contact with the Act. Most come to dislike it intensely because they encounter first hand the extortionate demands of ‘affected parties’, the manipulation by activists, the huge costs extracted by the RMA industry, and the barriers put up by consenting authorities.
As a result, consents will often take years to go through the process - council hearings, the Environment Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, all costing applicants such vast sums of money, that in the end many are forced to abandon their project altogether.
There is little chance of the government scrapping the Act and going back to the drawing board, which is what should happen, but the reforms being proposed by National, whilst they do not go far enough, are needed, especially in places like Northland.
It remains to be seen whether Peters will represent the interests of his constituents over his own personal vanities.