Masterton was one of several stops for the National Party’s campaign bus yesterday, with leader Christopher Luxon exhorting the party faithful who had gathered at Entice Cafe on Dixon St to “keep pushing for the next three days” to ensure they get the result they want in what remains a “close” election.
Fresh from earlier events in Petone and Upper Hutt, and accompanied by deputy leader Nicola Willis and campaign manager Chris Bishop, Luxon pressed the flesh with local party members, helped prepare some muffins in the crowded kitchen for the benefit of a battalion of media cameras, and addressed the pre-lunch crowd – about 20 of whom, with their blue windbreakers and placards, had made the trip over from Wellington with him.
Local candidate Mike Butterick was praised as “an outstanding MP” in waiting who has run what Luxon described as one of National’s most energetic campaigns in terms of erected hoardings [600-plus] and knocked-on doors.
Luxon also noted it was Butterick’s concerns about the “crazy stuff going on with the speed limits in the area” that galvanised the party to adopt a policy of reversing Waka Kotahi’s recent reductions – something Luxon visited the region to announce two weeks ago.
The party leader’s other primary provincial pitch was to characterise Labour as treating farmers “as villains and not as valued” for the past six years, and to promise to “remove the regulatory overload and burden, get rid of the red tape” and “get behind farmers because they’re going to power us out and get our economy growing again”.
Although Bishop declined to discuss the party’s internal polling for Wairarapa, he said he’s “optimistic for success” in the region, citing Butterick’s “very strong ground game”.
Asked about the unlikely scenario he floated over the weekend of a possible hung parliament and second election, Bishop insisted “it’s just one of a number of uncertain and messy election outcomes” and took the opportunity to stress that “our message for New Zealanders is if they want change, they have to vote for it” – which, by his lights, involves two ticks of a specific hue.
“But we don’t take anything for granted,” Bishop said, “it’s just about getting out every last party vote from now until Saturday,” before reboarding the bus – bound for Dannevirke, then Napier – in an effort to achieve exactly that.