Candidates kept on a tight rein

PM: John Key received cheers and boos when he arrived at the event in Kumeu.
PM: John Key received cheers and boos when he arrived at the event in Kumeu.
LEADER: Internet Mana Party Leader Laila Harre also addressed voters in the Helensville electorate meeting at Kumeu Baptist Church.
LEADER: Internet Mana Party Leader Laila Harre also addressed voters in the Helensville electorate meeting at Kumeu Baptist Church.
MANA: Fellow Internet Mana Party member Hone Harawira spoke to the full house at the venue.
MANA: Fellow Internet Mana Party member Hone Harawira spoke to the full house at the venue.
ON STAGE: Independent candidate Penny Bright (right) listens  during the event which is the only opportunity for the leaders to debate face to face.
ON STAGE: Independent candidate Penny Bright (right) listens during the event which is the only opportunity for the leaders to debate face to face.

After a day of smouldering nastiness on the hustings, the Helensville candidates meeting could have been a shootout.

But convener Holly Ryan proved an effective sheriff, threatening to kick out rule breakers so the whiff of cordite in the Kumeu Baptist Church Hall remained just that last night. A wag said Helensville should have been renamed Nashville.

About 300 people packed into the hall, with at least another 50 outside.

John Key
John Key

Candidates were not allowed to refer to their rival candidates or parties in any way - break that rule and you will be removed, Ryan insisted.

It was the only multi-party candidate event Prime Minister John Key will do during the election campaign - and he got a big cheer but attracted some boos as well when he got up to speak.

He said the electorate, which he has represented for the past 12 years, had a falling crime rate and rising early childhood education. It needed infrastructure and the Government was delivering, he said, with a "billion plus" being spent on ultra-fibre broadband.

Laila Harre
Laila Harre

Like many candidates, Key was forced to finish abruptly, with speakers not allowed to go over their allotted five minutes.

Internet-Mana leader Laila Harre went just over the limit - and got booed by some.

The economy was too reliant on commodities, she said. Her party would ban deep-sea drilling, scrap national standards and put a "massive investment" in modernising education.

Key and Harre had clashed earlier in the day, after controversy about a video showing an effigy of him being burnt.

Key was shown a video of a group of seemingly intoxicated youths dousing a huge wooden model of him with flammable liquid and setting it alight.

He associated it with German entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, the founder of the Internet Party, but Internet-Mana said it had nothing to do with the video and would seek legal advice over the Key comments.

Key later said he did not know whether Dotcom was behind it.

"They were chanting the same thing as the other one but look, I don't really know," Key said when asked if he thought Dotcom was behind it.

Key was also the target of a racist jibe yesterday from Rangitata Labour candidate Steve Gibson, who called him a "shonky jonkey Shylock", an anti-semitic term. He also said Key was "a nasty little creep with a nasty, evil and vindictive sneer".

Gibson later apologised.

The heat over NZ First leader Winston Peters' "two Wongs don't make a white" during his campaign launch speech in West Auckland at the weekend bubbled over during the day.

Labour leader David Cunliffe refused to condemn Peters during the day, but eventually suggested he did not condone the remark.

"I've said what Labour stands for, which is a positive, diverse, multicultural society. I think you can take an inference that I don't agree with what Mr Peters has said."

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said Peters needed to know he was not funny.

"His outdated rhetoric belongs in New Zealand's past - it has no place in New Zealand's future," she said.

Peters dismissed criticism of the speech, saying that it wasn't racist because a Chinese man told him the joke. Fairfax NZ

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