All party colours flying at Fieldays
Political parties stormed the farm gate at New Zealand's largest agricultural event in a bid to win the rural vote in the upcoming election.
This year's Fieldays event proved to be a magnet across the political spectrum with parties trying to woo the provincial heartland away from National's stranglehold.
Many in the rural sector expected parties to campaign for their vote but Te Awamutu contractor Gary Saywell said it was no fluke the halls of power had poured out onto the pasture.
"It's a coincidence, isn't it? They are only here for one thing and that's to gain votes."
The conservatives, National and ACT, dug deep for stalls at this year's Fieldays at the Mystery Creek Event Centre but Labour and the Greens chose to mix it in the crowds.
The 2011 general election results show most large regional seats dripping blue and Prime Minister John Key shored up support on opening day as he rubbed shoulders with Fieldays crowds in his khaki pants and a blue pullover.
Labour list MP Sue Moroney said their party stayed away from the first day to allow Key to perform the official opening but that didn't stop the Conservative Party from calling the PM a rooster. Earlier in the week, Colin Craig asked Key to accommodate him in an Auckland city seat but his party went on the attack with an authorised postcard calling for the "chickens at National" to be "put back in the coop".
"Very much the cock-of-the walk but doesn't like being told what to do, even by an overwhelming majority of the coop," the postcard said of a rooster called Poulet Key-ster. "A bit sulky, can be quite dismissive when in the wrong."
Founded just weeks before the last election, it was the Conservatives first appearance at Fieldays.
Te Awamutu farmer Micky Bates was sceptical of their commitment to the sector. "It's a funny one isn't it? Why come this year, sort of thing, if you can't come any other year than an election year why bother."
National MPs Lindsay Tisch, Shane Ardern and his successor in the Taranaki-King Country electorate Barbara Kuriger revelled in familiar territory.
"I've been coming to Fieldays forever and often I've been here for three days at a time and it's very exciting for me that it is in the electorate I am standing in," Kuriger said.
Labour leader David Cunliffe said it wasn't necessary to have a stand this year to make their presence felt.
"The campaign team's just prioritised how they allocate their expenditure, they're going to do more in other forms of outreach. And the sites were reasonably expensive so they decided to do other things," he said. "Apart from the fact it's a lot of fun."
Whangarei-based ACT Party board member Robin Grieve said they had lost credibility after the Banks trial and suffered a few jibes from people who passed their stand.
"One of the things we are up against is the National voter is obviously our target and everybody is trying to pick off the National voter but firstly we have to get back the voters we lost."
Green Party spokesman on agriculture and forestry Steffan Browning expected a strong reaction to their carbon tax policy but received a welcome response and said the key to making headway against the tide of blue support was to play the long game.