Kingswood Election Tour: Jacinda Ardern's home town of Morrinsville keeping faith in dairy
Jacinda Ardern's home town of Morrinsville is almost a religious experience.
That is, if dairy farming is your faith.
Life-size plastic models of brightly painted dairy cows with full, healthy udders dot the main street and a mega plastic dairy cow donated by Laurie and Yvonne Maber must be the cheesiest exhibit on the planet.
It would be hard to find a town so totally devoted to one industry.
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That Morrinsville, the cream of the country, might well have spawned the next Labour Prime Minister is so rich with irony that even hostile farmers might see the funny side.
After lunch a dairy cow sale at the town's saleyards is drawing to a close and Neville Adams, a Tokoroa farmer who owns six dairy farms, has bought about 20 replacement cows.
The good-natured farmer likes Ardern, but feels farmers have been unfairly singled out by Labour Party policy.
"We've been targeted as dairy farmers for being the major polluters of the waterways. We've got some bad buggers who do some stupid stuff, but the majority of us do what we are meant to do.
"We are not the major contributors of nitrogen ... but we have been blanketed by Labour. There are more and more compliance costs, but Labour hasn't been specific about taxes."
Across town butcher Tracey Kruithof is walking home after a shift at a local supermarket, the blood from her work caked on her trousers.
She's definitely voting for Labour, she says, because Labour is standing up for pay rates and helping the poor.
The Kingswood Election Tour starts the day in Gisborne, then skirts the Urewera National Park along Highway 2 and, after negotiating the Waioeka Gorge, lands in Opotiki where diesel mechanic Nick Namana is under a Kenworth logging truck fixing a short in the headlight.
He moved to Opotiki about two years ago and bought himself a house and a jetski. He believes National is better at making money while Labour is the champion of spending. Immigration is one of his concerns.
"I also like Winston Peters mainly because of his immigration policies. I feel like we are being overrun. Their culture is not on a parallel with ours and they bring with them their own social problems. Look at Auckland for example."
In Whakatane, ZanzaHair owner Airlie Blair says she always votes, but does not dissect policy closely.
"I don't think Labour knows what it's doing. I mean I like her (Ardern). She's seems lovely. When I vote I look for a nice smile. I like Gareth Morgan."
She is worried about higher taxes, but a higher minimum wage would just be passed on to customers.
Customer Margaret Jensen, a staunch National voter whose husband is a logging contractor, says Labour should divulge its tax plans.
In Matamata, Amy Allison, with Macklin in a pushchair, plans to make an early vote. She says despite her husband being on a good income, home-ownership – even in Whakatane where they live – was getting away from them.
"I think poverty is our biggest issue. The disparity between rich and poor. It's huge. I'm a teacher so I support strong education policies. Having just driven from Whakatane, I'm appalled at the number of trucks on the road. Our roads are dangerous enough without all the trucks," the full-time parent says.
"We are trying to purchase our first home, but can't do it. We live on one income, he's a professional. We could buy a home, but we would be so mortgaged that, what's the point, if you are just working to pay the mortgage?
"It breaks my heart to see the number of people who really work hard and can't make ends meet."
On Thursday the Kingswood bypasses Auckland to head north to tune in to more regular folks.