Electioneering starts early as candidates chase votes
The first hoardings have sprung up around the region to signal the start of the restricted pre-election period, but politicians were out on the hustings last week as momentum builds towards polling day.
Just three months remain until the country heads to the polls on September 20, but the week was full of political activity in Waikato as candidates increased their workload.
It began with a punch as Winston Peters took centre stage in Hamilton at a gathering of more than 100 Grey Power members, finding favour with proposals of increased SuperGold Card benefits, retirement savings and the tried-and-true anti-immigration speech tactic.
He wanted to set up his KiwiFund, run by the state like the Cullen fund, so some of the $22 billion in fees he said would be taken over 30 years could go back into the hands of New Zealanders.
It set the tone early in the week, and Labour leader David Cunliffe followed suit with his proposal to make KiwiSaver compulsory and put around 500,000 mostly low-paid workers into scheme.
NZ First Hamilton List MP Barbara Stewart came out in support for Tick for Kids, saying their party was committed to "fighting to protect our social fabric and traditional family values".
It takes "a child to raise a country", she said, a healthy upbringing and good education for all young Kiwis was what the doctor ordered.
Labour List MP Sue Moroney put Rotorua candidate Tamati Coffey through his paces with visits to Youth Horizons, a not-for-profit mental health organisation, and a Hamilton primary school.
It was a perfect fit for Coffey, a former What Now? presenter, who was mobbed by Crawshaw School kids like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
The political studies student turned entertainer turned nominee for the centre-left learned the ropes from Moroney and Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta and got into his work early in his bid to take the Rotorua seat back to Labour for the first-time since National's Todd McClay won in 2008.
"I got selected on March 31 and I've been on the campaign trail since then," he said.
Education was high on the list for Green co-leader Metiria Turei, who came to Hamilton to talk about school being at the the heart of the community and their election campaign.
Teachers and members of the community met Turei and Catherine Delahunty to talk about the affects of poverty on educational achievement.
"From the start, our focus is on families and children and the basics they need to live a decent life," said Turei.
She said 45,000 more children were living in poverty since John Key became prime minister and education was persistently underfunded.
Meanwhile, the Internet Party named Raymond Calver to take on incumbent National MP David Bennett in the Hamilton East electorate and Grant Keinzley in the Taranaki King Country seat.