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Peters calls Northland bridge upgrades a by-election bribe

National's promise to replace 10 one-lane bridges in Northland is a by-election bribe, Winston Peters claims.

National has promised 10 new bridges as it tries to gain the edge in the north, but Winston Peters says it’s a bribe. Source: 1 NEWS

National's candidate Mark Osborne revealed the plans to spend up to $70 million upgrading the bridges on state highways in the region over the next six years.

"Ten single-lane bridges across Northland to be double-landed and upgraded," he said.

Mr Osborne is in a two-horse race with the veteran New Zealand First leader for the Northland seat, which is vacant after the resignation of National's Mike Sabin.

Mr Peters says the bridges announcement is a bribe. "A week ago they never had given any of these things a thought. But all of a sudden they've become top priority."

But Mr Osborne says it's not a deal sweetener. "It's something that's been worked on for some time. These issues have been around and we've been working through them."

Meanwhile Mr Peters' has promises of his own. He wants to stop the development of the Ports of Auckland and re-develop Whangarei's port, along with re-establishing the rail link to Auckland.

"In this plan, Auckland wins and Northland wins," Mr Peters says.

Labour's candidate Willow-Jean Prime was campaigning in Kaikohe today, away from ONE News cameras and was hard to reach on the phone.

But she's attracting a lot of interest after her boss, Labour leader Andrew Little, indicated Northland voters could give their vote to Winston Peters instead of her.

"If they want to send a message to the Government they're going to have to work out how best to do that," Mr Little told TVNZ's Q+A yesterday. 

Mr Peters won't talk deals. "I'm not concerned about what any other party does."

Mr Peters, Ms Prime and Mr Osborne are sharing the stage at a candidates meeting in Kaikohe tonight, offering a chance for Northland voters to size up the options first hand for themselves ahead of the March 28 by-election.