100 day promises, media jousts and tractors over the Auckland Harbour Bridge – it was a busy Sunday on the trail for politicians approaching the last sprint of the campaign.
With mere hours to go before New Zealanders at home can begin voting, political leaders of all stripes are doubling down on their offers.
In Albany, north of Auckland, National Party leader Christopher Luxon began his day with a several-hundred strong rally where he made a range of promises over what National would get done in its first hundred days.
The 100-day plan includes banning gang patches and abolishing Auckland fuel taxes, Three Waters and RMA 2.0.
It’s a promise to deliver on on an extensive list of policies by the end of January.
Luxon said it was doable, especially if he kept Parliament working up until Christmas.
But he refused to be drawn on what impact his likely coalition partners would have on his ability to work quickly through the to-do list.
“I made up our 100-day plan to give everyone a very good sense of where we are going,” he said.
Luxon is confident in his ability to form a team and negotiate.
But New Zealand First could very well play a part in any potential coalitions, and Luxon is keen to keep that party as nothing but a distant hypothetical.
“Let’s be honest, New Zealand First hasn’t gone with National for 27 years, and we all remember 2017,” he said.
It’s also a reminder of the last time Winston Peters held the balance of power. In 2017, it took nearly a month for the election dust to settle and the Labour-led coalition to emerge victorious.
Luxon’s 100-day promises suggest he thinks coalition deals would go more smoothly this time around – or at least he wants to give that impression.
With advance voting opening on Monday, Sunday was set to be a busy day for every party leader – that is until Prime Minister Chris Hipkins tested positive for Covid-19. He’ll be out of action for up to five days for in-person events.
In his stead, deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced an education policy that would fund two million free maths and literacy tutoring sessions for school students and institute a maths and literacy training fund for primary and intermediate teachers.
This came alongside the full Labour Party manifesto, which documents the entirety of the party’s policies to date.
Peters also had a busy day on the trail, beginning with an appearance on TVNZ’s Q + A, where he bristled against journalist Jack Tame’s questions and accused the media of “vindictive attacks”.
He then made an appearance at a Groundswell protest at Auckland’s Ellerslie Racecourse, where Invercargill farmers Laurie Paterson and Bryce McKenzie ended their 10-day tractor journey up from Invercargill in protest at farming regulation.
They were joined by around 30 tractors, many of whom made their way north over the Auckland Harbour Bridge before turning around and heading to the racecourse.
The protest was a who’s who of political figures courting the right-of-centre vote.
Peters showed up and was immediately met by Karl Mokaraka, the Vision NZ candidate who has recently made a name for himself by interrupting press conferences and gatecrashing campaign launches.
“I know your style,” Peters told him, before striding away to shake hands and flash his famous grin to others in the crowd. “And you don’t interrupt your elders.”
“I didn’t like how they treated you on the TV this morning, Mr Peters,” Mokaraka said. “Jack Tame was very rude to you!”
Mokaraka said he’d often voted for Peters in the past, but was turned off by his role in the ascension of former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
He’d also somehow made his way to the front of the crowd amassed around Act Party leader David Seymour.
“I told him we’re cousins,” he said. Mokaraka and Seymour both have Ngāpuhi heritage. “He didn’t like that.”
Peters tried to appeal to the protest vote by reminding the crowd he was the only mainstream politician who walked among the protesters at Parliament last year.
It’s part of a brand he’s cultivated that says he’s different to the two Chrises – more experienced, more able to ride a horse in an ad break, more familiar with the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.
“They’re eating ice cream on TV at night, eating sausage rolls night after night,” he said.
Peters also commented on his performance with Tame, telling the crowd: “I wish you were there, maybe you could have done something about it.”
At Groundswell, it was up to each party to cast themselves as the farmers’ party. Some were more convincing than others.
While Peters talked up a track record of “backing farmers to the hilt”, Seymour brought Northland candidate and farmer Mark Cameron up on the stage with him.
He said between Cameron and former Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard, Act represents the “authentic voice of rural New Zealand”.
In his speech, Seymour railed against taxes on farmers, called the IRD thugs and bullies, and said natural significant areas should not be able to be formed from private farmland.
“The Act party is the only party that has even considered opposing taxing on farmers,” he said, to some calls from the crowd: “No, it isn’t!”
They seemed to be coming from New Zealand Loyal and Democracy NZ supporters, two small parties that sprung up in the wake of last year’s Parliament protest.
Democracy NZ leader Matt King – formerly of National and a farmer himself – said three of the top seven candidates in his party were farmers.
King was critical of mainstream views on climate change and said any coalition with New Zealand First as a part of it would be chaotic.
“You don’t thank the arsonists for putting out the fire,” he said.
Peters watched along from the crowd with a broad grin on his face.