The Green Party and Act both now have larger caucuses in the new Parliament, gathering much of their support before the larger parties had even left the starting blocks.
Capitalising on a growing public discontent with big issues including the cost of living and crime and a void of ideas to solve it, the two major minor parties managed to launch most of their big ideas before the official campaign period even started, leaving themselves plenty of time to spread the word of their respective visions.
And neither were afraid to go big.
The Greens wealth tax plan promised at least $385 a week for individuals and $770 for couples no matter their circumstance. The richest earners and asset holders would pay for it. Free dental care was also there.
Act promised a re-write of the Treaty of Waitangi, big cuts and a bold path to surplus for the government books and came out early with a tough on crime rhetoric timed perfectly with the spike in ram-raid offences.
Almost 8000 Green Party volunteers knocked on 280,000 doors, the biggest effort from the party to date. They knew people power would be their best bet. Motivating and inspiring the grassroots movement was critical.
And the co-leaders came prepared to fight, both Marama Davidson and James Shaw made headlines respectively for their snappy comebacks and takedowns of other party leaders, further fuelling those on the ground to keep hustling.
In the electorates the party targeted open seats with no incumbent and where the Green vote had traditionally been high. It paid off for three out of four of them.
Across the political divide those within the Act Party deny it “peaked too early”, as support stagnated then started to recede in the final weeks.
They put it down to some confusion over MMP saying some right bloc supporters were worried National needed shoring up in those final weeks when Labour finally mobilised, and a licence to support New Zealand First after Luxon’s public statement on ruling in Winston Peters.
But a large support base had already been cultivated. Act had a team brought in from the US to deliver a “sophisticated digital strategy”. However, at a more grassroots level, Seymour’s showings at public meetings around the country remained an important part of the game plan.
At Act’s annual conference in early June the resounding mood of right-wing supporters was that Act appeared to be the only party with any ideas. At this point the public still had no real insight as to who National’s leader Christopher Luxon was or what he stood for. “No vision” and “boring” were terms used frequently.
But behind the scenes National was training up its Prime-Minister-in-waiting. The party’s ‘Back on Track’ campaign had begun a month earlier with little media interest as Christopher Luxon practised delivering the key messages that would soon be repeated to a maddening degree any chance he got in front of a microphone or journalist’s tape recorder.
Mistakes were made early, but he learned quickly.
At the beginning of the tour Luxon was drawn into engaging with people who had complaints about the Waitangi Tribunal and “pigeon [sic] English”. He entered a fraught debate on bilingual road signs and said he didn’t think government departments should be called by their Māori names because it was hard to understand them.
It was distracting and sucked up valuable air time for someone desperately needing quality coverage.
However, he adapted, giving short, sharp answers and moving on quickly from such topics in later meetings. Eventually he stopped being asked.
By the time campaign coverage from mainstream media became more consistent his public meetings were polished to the point of boring for anyone who had heard it all before, but engaging for people wanting to hear from National’s leader for the very first time.
Ground work by electorate candidates also paid dividends, in particular in Auckland.
The Māori Party ran an exceptionally targeted campaign, almost solely through social media, targeting young voters and mobilising support via TikTok and Instagram.
President John Tamihere suspects it was the most cost-efficient campaign across the election.
“We don’t buy radio or TV much. We did do YouTube, we did Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. And that paid out well for the intentional cohort of those we were targeting. So 70 percent of our votes from here are under 40 and so we have to invest in where they are congregating and a lot of them don’t trust mainstream media.”
The aim was to hook people in with entertainment, then get them to stick around to hear direct from the horse’s mouth on the various policies.
“What we do is entertain and there’ll be some political messaging but it’s the fun of entertainment.”
For Labour the campaign was less targeted. There was an early pledge for a positive pitch, to focus on what Labour would do to solve the problems being faced and a focus on “bread and butter” issues, but cut through was tough.
There was a lot of money spent on online and paid advertising and it ran its biggest ever on the ground campaign with a quarter of a million people door-knocked in the last six weeks.
Its final tactic was to go on the attack, which saw Labour’s campaign finally hit its peak, alas for them by too little and too late.