Prime Minister John Key's signing of Emily Beaumont's bulging belly in Nelson yesterday was symbolic on a day it was announced the country is now in a "man drought".
Mr Key made a flying visit to Tahunanui Beach to help launch the election campaign of his sixth-ranked Cabinet minister, Nelson MP Nick Smith.
In response to yesterday's story in the Sunday Star Times, which said there were now 50,000 "excess" 25- to 49-year-old females living in New Zealand , Mr Key assured that "we're doing everything we can to keep people in New Zealand and we'll now have a specific focus on men".
Along with his signature on Ms Beaumont's belly, Mr Key left what he termed a marketing message.
"If it's a boy, John's a good name," Mr Key wrote on the most radical thing he had ever signed.
Ms Beaumont, of Motueka, who was "due to give birth any minute", said she would probably name her baby John if it was a boy.
The Sunday "Pick Nick" in brilliant Nelson sunshine competed with rugby at Trafalgar Park and the annual Ecofest. But more than 300 people, including families, the elderly and foreign tourists, waited on the grass for the prime minister, who was fashionably late, and the chance to hear how Dr Smith planned to keep representing Nelson if re-elected.
Dr Smith, who won the Tasman seat in 1990 and 1993, and following the introduction of MMP won Nelson in 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2008, was this year aiming to keep hold of not only the electorate vote but the party vote in Nelson, which National won from Labour in the last election.
He said aquaculture opportunities and the market opening in Australia for New Zealand apples were critical to Nelson's future, along with increased export opportunities with the development of the Lee Valley dam. He said the prime minister wanted to see the dam project through in his next term in government.
Among yesterday's crowd was Debbie Walker, of Nelson, who took along her three sons Jayden, 13, Troy, 12, and Luke, 8, who remembered shaking Mr Key's hand once before and recalled Dr Smith "dressed as the Weet-Bix man" at the Weet-Bix kids' Tryathlon in Nelson.
Nelson fisherman Freedom Walker, 25, has never voted but came along to see what the crowd was doing.
"I don't know much about it. I don't know who Nick Smith is – is he that fellow there?" he asked, pointing at Dr Smith's election caravan.
Paddy Johns, 63, wanted to hear Mr Key say he was not going to raise the retirement age for the pension. And Jill Truman, who has lived in Nelson and been a National Party supporter for 43 years, would not have missed yesterday's event for the world.
South African tourist Adriaan Naude could not believe the public was allowed to get so close to their prime minister.
Mr Key praised Dr Smith's loyalty to Nelson combined with his role as a hard-working Cabinet minister. He said Nelson ranked highly in terms of economic importance to the country because it had experienced stronger growth than other regions in difficult times and was "extremely well endowed with great natural resources" which had given rise to advancements in aquaculture and fishing. It could also tap into forestry and mining on the West Coast, and tourism was a "massive market".
"There are a lot of different things happening here and we would like to see that continue to grow without putting too much pressure on infrastructure.
"It's such a beautiful place to live, it's starting to see high levels of positive migration."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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