TODAY |

Bridges accuses Ardern of not taking ownership of 'cowboy-like' Winston Peters amid strained NZ-China relationship

National Party leader Simon Bridges is calling out Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for "not taking ownership" of Winston Peters amid a strained relationship between New Zealand's and China.

Ms Ardern has said the relationship between New Zealand and China is a complex one and has its challenges after it was questioned this month.

The National Party questioned the relationship after an Air New Zealand flight was turned back from Shanghai Sunday last week, and a Chinese tourism event scheduled for Wednesday at Te Papa was postponed. They also questioned why Ms Ardern hasn't visited China as Prime Minister.

On Wednesday intelligence and policy analyst Paul Buchanan said if the Government was to accept the Government Communications Security Bureau's (GCSB) advice and formally ban Huawei from the 5G rollout, he could see the two country's relationship "deteriorating further".

Mr Bridges this morning told TVNZ1's Breakfast: "It's their [Labour's] incompetence. It's Jacinda Ardern not being able to take ownership of Winston Peters and him running amok".

Mr Bridges said it was his job to point it out. "I think it's right that we raise this given the importance of our relationship".

He admitted it wasn't the coalition Government's fault that the US and China have entered a trade war, but what was their fault was "Winston Peters being incredibly cowboy-like about initiatives from China ... saying some very cavalier things around our defence strategy and what it means in relation to China," he said. 

Mr Bridges also said a speech given by Mr Peters at Georgetown University in the US in December was "very dismissive" of China.

There was "no maintenance of the relationship" around the Huawei decision, Mr Bridges said. "The Chinese are entitled to have their views about that. All of this together has led to the deterioration in our relationship."

When asked by Breakfast host Jack Tame if the more National made noise about the deteriorating relationship between the nations, the worse it could get, Mr Bridges said his party did not have that power and China would be looking to the Government for answers.

"I'm hearing this morning that the Government is in crisis talks to work out what to do - that's good in a way to take this seriously because it is a $27 billion relationship," he said. "You lose a billion dollars off this and you're talking about 8500 jobs for New Zealanders."

However, he said it could be "too little to late" for the the Government.

"The Prime Minister should've gotten up there very early on so she could manage this very complicated relationship."

Your playlist will load after this ad

The National Party leader accused Winston Peters of acting “cowboy-like” as New Zealand experiences tensions with China. Source: Breakfast