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Labour leader Jacinda Adern believes her party can take National strongholds in the Waikato.
The region's 'zombie towns' are on the Labour leader's mind but finding answers for communities stricken by job and population loss are few and far between.
Jacinda Ardern swept through Waikato on Wednesday, talking up her party's $20 million rail plan to connect Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
Growth in the region's golden triangle is set to increase 800,000 by 2043 to 3.25 million people.
Jacinda Adern spoke to nearly 300 people at a Hamilton Grey Power hosted meeting at the Meteor Theatre.
But places like Murupara near Rotorua, where Ardern spent time growing up, Turangi, Kawhia and Coromandel are unlikely to gain from the transport plan.
Nor does Labour have a comprehensive solution for them, she said. She's relying on local knowledge.
"This is us saying we don't have all of the answers but I am really sure that locally, there are plenty of ideas we need to tap into," Ardern said.
Passenger rail has been touted as a remedy to Waikato's transport woes. The National Party, instead, are going with more Roads of Significance like the Waikato Expressway.
Ardern received rapturous applause for the rail plan when she spoke to 100 people at the Western Community Centre and 300 people at a Hamilton Grey Power meeting at the Meteor Theatre on Wednesday.
But for towns unconnected by rail, a different strategy is needed.
"We have got to accept that their roads are important.
"At the moment, for so many of those councils, there is not a lot of support to work on infrastructure that they need."
Rail, trade-training and free tertiary education are hotly emphasised. As is Labour's housing policy.
They are a throwback to Labour's traditional values that Ardern says works.
"They never left - except for a brief period in the 80s but we don't talk about that," she said.
"There is a reason I quote Norman Kirk because some of those old notions about getting back to basics we desperately need again because that's what we've lost."
Labour has identified 200 houses in Hamilton to build and at least 1000 houses every year to end homelessness and poverty.
But there's a trade shortage. Her long-term solution is to elevate the reputation of the trades with a Prime Minister's award and get more people employed with incentives for employers.
In the meantime, the shortfall in tradespeople will be offset with migrants under a special category visa for highly skilled workers.
That's despite Labour's intention to reduce immigration by up to 12,000 per year.
"If there is a genuine skills gap, you will be able to fill it because we accept we have got an ambitious building programme and we will need assistance from migrant labour."
She was also "pretty ambitious" about nudging National's grip on Waikato electorates including Hamilton East and Hamilton West, Waikato, Coromandel, Taupo and Taranaki-King Country.
"We have had them before. These are bellwether and sometimes they take a bit of plugging away but there is absolutely no reason Labour couldn't take these seats back."
This article first appeared on www.stuff.co.nz
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