Jacinda Ardern and Bill English raced through campaign events and shopping malls on the last day before the election in a last ditch to win an election that is shaping up as a cliffhanger. Bernard Hickey and Shane Cowlishaw report from the campaign trail.

Ardern visited a hair-dressing salon in Auckland before traveling to Te Aroha for her grand-mother’s funeral. She then came straight back to the Manukau Shopping Centre to mingle with voters and supporters in the Labour stronghold of South Auckland.

Ardern laughs as shop workers call out to her at Westfield Manukau. Photo by Lynn Grieveson

She was again mobbed for selfies and she acknowledged she needed to speed up with her technique for selfies on Samsung phones.

One elderly man joked with Ardern about the expectations on her 37-year-old shoulders after just seven weeks as Labour Leader.

“You better bloody win tomorrow, young lady,” he said.

“You’ll be in trouble if you don’t.”

Ardern laughed and agreed. She later told reporters she agreed there was a high expectation, which she welcomed.

Ardern made slow progress through the Manukau shopping centre foodcourt. Photo by Lynn Grieveson 

She was asked about her grandmother’s funeral.

“My grandmother was a wonderful woman and I know she would have liked to have been here for tomorrow,” Ardern said.

“It’s been day of highs and lows. Obviously, farewelling my grandma was really difficult. But it’s the last day to really push again and make sure that every New Zealander knows what’s at stake,” she said.

“This is going to come down to whether people turn out to vote,” she said of internal polling showing a smaller gap than the eight to nine percent lead held by National over Labour in the two public polls — TVNZ’s Colmar Brunton and Newshub’s Reid Research.

Ardern agreed that National’s attacks on Labour’s tax policies and an $11.7 billion fiscal (non) hole had affected support for Labour.

“I’m sure it’s had an impact. It’s served to confuse voters. It’s been politics as usual and that’s not what I wanted this campaign to be about. I’m proud that we focused on the big challenges in front of us,” she said.

She said it may take some time before an agreement can be found to form a Government, given the counting of special votes, many of which will have been made by Labour voters in the heavy early voting, often by young voters.

“It may be the case that we’re waiting for special votes to come in so we may be constrained by that,” she said of the potential time to form a Government.

English stops in Cambridge

A bear hug for Bill English in Cambridge. Photo by Sam Sachdeva

The National bus made one of its final stops in the Waikato heartland town of Cambridge, where English posed with a large white soft toy clad in blue.

“Even the bears are voting for us,” he said.

Addressing supporters inside the Good Union café, a bar/brewery located in a refurbished church complete with stained-glass window, English reiterated that voters had a choice between a stable government or the unknown.

He later told media that on Sunday it would be full steam ahead on trying to form the next government, regardless of the election result.

As the incumbent government this would happen, even if the Labour/Greens block received more votes.

He had not spoken to NZ First leader Winston Peters, and said both Peters and himself were “old school” about waiting until after the votes were counted before discussing such matters.

‘Interest rates would rise’

English talks to reporters on his stop in Cambridge. Photo by Sam Sachdeva

English also took the opportunity to raise the spectre of higher interest rates under Labour, noting they were around 10 percent at the end of their last stint in office.

Ardern rejected his comments about higher interest rates under Labour.

“If he thinks it’s an issue of borrowing, then his Government borrowed more than Muldoon and we still have low interest rates. It’s sad to see on the last day when it’s the final opportunity to pitch to voters, we’re still seeing scare-mongering from the National Party,” he said.

The Treasury has forecast higher interest rates anyway over the next two years, and research has shown Labour’s plans for a slightly longer path to debt reduction would add the equivalent of 0.01 percent.

English said his plans for tomorrow centred around relaxing with his family before the evening.

“Tomorrow all my children will all arrive in Auckland, which will lift the population a bit,” he said.

Before departing, English posed for photos with a group of lycra-clad cyclists and a group of Year 11 pupils.

After confirming the students weren’t wagging – they’d just finished an exam – he pointed to local Taupo MP and Corrections Minister Louise Upston as he gave them a friendly warning.

“She’s the minister for prisons, so you’d better stay out of trouble.”

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