Stories from my mini election road trip
I recently spent Thursday, Friday and the weekend up in Taranaki. My assigned goal was to keep a tally, for a brief understanding, on who was winning the signage war out on our nation’s highways. Our Thursday morning and afternoon drive up to New Plymouth was completely uneventful apart from one sign at the very end of our journey. ‘Andrew Little – New Plymouth’ of the Labour Party. New Plymouth was once the strongest Labour seat in the country, with Harry Duynhoven holding a massive majority and at his peek he held 67% of the constituency vote.
Most of my trips to New Plymouth always, rather strangely, include an encounter with Harry Duynhoven. Last time I was in Taranaki I saw him venture into an Opunake cafe, then leaving (obviously not to his high-standard of taste). This time he was stuck behind our car, looking rather miffed at the traffic. Or perhaps still brooding over his 2013 defeat in the Mayoral election.
I had brought with me no less than seven Green Party stickers (their intended purpose was for car bumpers). My Grandmother demanded she have a couple. One for her door to keep Jonathan Young (the local MP) well away from her Okato residency, and one for her car’s bumper. Her sister took two as well, one for her letterbox and for her car’s bumper. She lives on the outskirts of Okato, in what is probably 90% Key country. Her lifestyle farm includes a river, which she is currently lobbying the council to protect from farming pollution.
I can’t imagine these two sisters would be popular among the Key-fanatic farming population.
Additionally my Aunt also accepted a bumper sticker, and she lives and drivers around New Plymouth city.
Excellent I thought, the Green message will really be getting out in Taranaki.
Little was my awareness to the happenings outside of this area, that I hadn’t realised the Nats had conveniently hijacked country roads and farms for my trip home.
As soon as we hit Warea, a dot of a settlement about 5km south of Okato, National signage started to appear. They were brief, popping up every couple of kilometers on random farms. This was the Whanganui electorate (well actually it changed to New Plymouth, obviously someone had forgot to tell the disconnected locals) and the signs proudly projected their local MP; Chester Borrows.
As soon as we hit the Whanganui city limit, Chester signs became a rarity. Whanganui (or Wanganui) is largely a Labour/NZ First voting town with the Greens coming in fourth almost behind Colin Craig. The signs from here into the Manawatu region were mostly Labour, with ZERO Ian McKelvie signs to report. Around Turakina the Maori Party signs came in with a majority, dominating the grasslands around the scattered houses. Some National-voting farmers even had Chris McKenzie’s signs in their paddocks (obviously they understand the Maori Party’s validity to National’s survival). There was also one outdated ‘Keep assets Kiwi’ sign, from the Greens, near Whanganui, in the middle of nowhere.
As soon as we hit Otaki, it was a Nat-quake. My Mother claimed she was feeling nauseous from constantly seeing John Key’s glaring plastic smile. People even had them on their fences and in their gardens – suddenly it wasn’t just farmers going Nat-nuts. We felt aware of our minority status, as our car pulled through with it’s two Green Party stickers.
As we hit the Mana electorate the Nat signs completely died. You’d be brave to put up a sign with Hekia Parata’s face on it in this Labour-stronghold (which also features one of the few towns in New Zealand where the Greens won all the ballots). My Aunt, obviously vexed too at seeing the constant flow of National signs, almost jumped from her seat when she was fooled by a blue Tip-Top sign. Below it was a blue Dominion Post logo.
“Don’t worry” I said, “It’s just the Dominion Post, not the National Party”; “same thing” she replied… Touche.
Now, both my Aunt and Mother are teachers, and quite literally scowled when passing Hekia Parata’s electorate office. I was then told of one of my Mother’s acquaintances, who previously worked for Hekia Parata. She left, feeling bullied by the Education minister. “Apparently she actually is a really mean person” my Mother told me with certainty, “no one in that party can possibly be nice” added my Aunt with even greater certainty.
In Wellington, one lone Annette King sign stood in the shop window of a Chinese takeaway. And that was it.
The final tally:
B. Morgan, 2014