Election 2023: Chris Hipkins doles out cash for cyclone projects as Prime Minister, denies 'electoral politics' at play

The Government on Wednesday committed more than $25 million to cyclone resilience projects. 

Chris Hipkins doled out the cash wearing both his Prime Minister and his Labour Leader hats but he said the announcements were not about campaigning. 

Silt still lines the streets of Wairoa. The dust blows into the dairy while people are trying to eat their lunch. 

Joanne Kerehi and her boss spent weeks cleaning up after Cyclone Gabrielle. 

More than six months later there's still so much cleaning up to do. 

Asked if she feels forgotten by the Government, Kerehi said: "Definitely, Definitely." 

Hipkins said Wairoa has absolutely not been forgotten.

In this year's Budget, the Government gave itself $6 billion to spend on cyclone resilience projects. 

He fronted on Wednesday saying he was there as Prime Minister, not Labour leader.  

But being a Prime Minister with cash to spend while campaigning as Labour Leader certainly helps. 

"Electoral politics is not at play when it comes to these announcements," he said. 

Hipkins committed $15 million to lift 200 houses in Te Karaka out of harms' way from floodwaters. 

There's also $10 million on other cyclone projects, including $1 million to extend the Wairoa runway so it doesn't get cut off again.  

Mayor Craig Little is grateful. 

"If someone gets injured, they can't get the jets in to Wairoa," said Little. 

But he said the area needs a bit more. 

"Probably need about $8 million, probably about $5 million to $6 million and that'll get everyone back in their homes."

That $6 billion cyclone resilience kitty means Hipkins can dole out cash for projects – like Wairoa's runway - on the campaign trail in seats Labour really wants to hold, like Ikaroa-Rāwhiti  and East Coast. 

Kiri Allan still haunts Gisborne after crashing into a parked car in Wellington. An advertisement with her face is still up at the airport.

Hipkins said he understands it was pre-paid. 

Labour's Tamati Coffey backed out of political retirement to take up the fight to keep the East Coast red. 

"The people of East Coast, they are pretty pragmatic. They will take the best person for the job," he said.

Labour also really wants to hold onto Ikaroa-Rāwhiti after the incumbent Meka Whaitiri's shock defection to Te Paati Māori. 

Cushla Tangaere‑Manuel is Labour's candidate. 

She said she has "already traversed the whole rohe and it's still very much a Labour stronghold."

"I didn't come to play marbles, I came here to be the strong voice for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti "

A voice that will need to be strong for a tough political fight in this region, even with the Government's deep pockets