The Mainland Ministers’ Q&A session at the weekend’s National Party conference covered issues from the exchange rate, transaction tax, labour laws and the ETS to the likelihood of the All Blacks winning next year’s World Cup.
Smiths Grain Store in the historic precinct had been decorated with Donna Demente’s art work for the Prime Minister’s and President’s cocktail party. John Key showed his wittier side before handing over to Jim Hopkins who auctioned a couple of bottles of wine and a $1 cheque.
The latter had been signed by John and framed under conservation glass. Even so, I don’t think we should let Dr Bollard know how much it went for in case it causes concerns about inflation.
Conference reconvened on Sunday with a report from party president Peter Goodfellow then Daniel Fielding, Young Nats president outlined the activities of the under 30s. He included the Young Nats’ views on alcohol which set the scene for a remit on the issue of problem drinking.
The Prime Minister opened his speech with praise for Kurow Village pinot noir which had been served at Saturday’s dinner. He then paid tribute to his mainland caucus colleagues and, as is usual for conference speeches, he also thanked the president, board and the conference co-chairs – Canterbury Westland chair, board member, Roger Bridge, and me. In doing the latter he mentioned not having seen me without a smile. A friend was sitting beside my farmer and later reported that he’d responded with unflattering haste by whispering to her, “I have”!
John’s speech was similar to the one he delivered to other regional conferences with updates in the wake of the Budget and regional references which included irrigation.
When he finished speaking, representatives from Summit Woolspinners, one of Oamaru’s biggest employers, came forward to thank him for the nine-day fortnight initiative which was introduced as one of the measures to take the edge off the recession. It enabled the company to tread water over a few tough months and without it they may well have sunk. Now orders have started flowing in again they’re back to floating under their own steam.
The final conference session was a panel on campaign strategies then the last word went to West Coast Tasman MP Chris Auchivole. He was signed up to the party by then Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, who told him that one day he too might be in parliament.
Like any other conference, there’s value not just in the formal sessions but in the informal interaction with other delegates. There’s also value for the host town – Neat Feet, a shoe shop opposite the Opera House, opened specially on Sunday and did a roaring trade.
The conference coincided with the opening of the last stage of the proposed Alps to Ocean cycle way which, it is hoped will run from Mount Cook to Friendly Bay and the PM was invited to cut the ribbon with giant scissors made specially for the occasion by Gillies Metaltech.
He took a short journey by steam train and alighted to an honour guard provided by Alfs Imperial Army. The opening was covered by the ODT, Timaru Herald and Oamaru Mail – which has a photo of the PM on a penny farthing.