27 Mar 2015

Candidates drum up last-minute support

8:01 pm on 27 March 2015

The two frontrunners in the Northland by-election have spent the last day of the official campaign trying to win some last-minute votes.

Mark Osborne meeting voters in Dargaville.

National's candidate Mark Osborne in Dargaville Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Voters go to the polls tomorrow to select a replacement for the National Party's Mike Sabin, who has resigned.

Winston Peters campaigning on the streets of Kerikeri on the final day of the Northland by-election.

Winston Peters in Kerikeri Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

While the polls suggest New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is well in front, both he and National's Mark Osborne have spent the day campaigning hard.

In Kerikeri on Friday afternoon, Mr Peters said he had one final message for voters.

"If you want change up here, regardless of your political background put that aside, vote for your electorate and vote for Northland - if you do that, you'll vote for Winston Peters.

"I only want two and a half years to prove that I can turn around 40 years of neglect."

Mr Osborne had one last message too.

"Please vote for me, it's vital, this is a very, very big decision for Northland and for New Zealand, and my commitment is to absolutely make a difference for Northland over the coming years."

Nearly a quarter of Northland voters, about 11,000 of them, have already cast their ballot.

Polling booths will open on Saturday at 9am and close at 7pm and the by-election result should be known within several hours.

Willow-Jean Prime speaking to a crowd of people at Kaikohe RSA.

Labour candidate Willow-Jean Prime speaking to a crowd of people at Kaikohe RSA. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

PM cans by-election spend-up

Prime Minister John Key said the Government backed away from revealing more funding initiatives in Northland during the by-election campaign because of the way it would be portrayed.

The National-led Government's by-election promise to widen 10 single lane bridges to double lanes for about $70 million early in the campaign, was widely described as a cynical attempt to buy votes.

Speaking in Kerikeri this morning, Mr Key said that reaction led to the Government cancelling other planned funding announcements.

He told reporters that when National makes investment announcements, they are portrayed as bribes.

"Well, because we thought you guys would mischaracterise it, bluntly," he said.

"Not being funny about it but if I turn up, you say, well, we're desperate to win. If I don't turn up, you say I'm ignoring the Far North.

"If we announce policies on infrastructure, you say that we're trying to bribe people, and if we don't make announcements, you say we don't care."

PM John Key and Mark Osborne visiting a Kerikeri kiwifruit packhouse on the final day of campaigning in the Northland by-election.

PM John Key and Mark Osborne visiting a Kerikeri kiwifruit packhouse on the final day of campaigning. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

Winston Peters confident

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the National Party's own polling indicates he will comfortably win the by-election.

Last night's OneNews-Colmar Brunton poll put support for Mr Peters at 53 percent and National's Mark Osborne's on 36 percent. In a similar result the day before, a 3News-Reid Research poll had Mr Peters on 54 percent compared to 34 percent for Mr Osborne.

National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce told Morning Report the race was closer than the polls showed and Mr Osborne could still win.

"It's closer than that, but as I said for a couple of days now we know we're behind and the challenge is to catch New Zealand First before the weekend and that's what we're working on ... in particular turning out National Party voters and getting them all to come out and support Mark."

Mr Peters disputes that, and said there was a good reason that he was getting Northlanders' support.

"They're voting for change," he told Morning Report. "They're voting for the fact that they've been forgotten, neglected, they've been sidelined, they've been taken for granted.

"And a stack of National Party people, whether they be farmers or in [forestry] or fishing or in industry, know that things up here are way short of what they could legitimately expect for 40, 50, 60, 70 years of loyalty."

Winston Peters on the campaign trail in Northland

Winston Peters on the campaign trail in Northland Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Government says highway claim "nonsense"

The Government is dismissing as nonsense a claim by Mr Peters that he's secured a new highway for Northland by contesting the seat.

Mr Peters told Morning Report this morning the Government's recent promise to extend the motorway from Warkworth to Wellsford was pulled out of the hat, because of the by-election.

However, Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the Government announced its plan for the new highway in 2009.

Mr Bridges said Mr Peters lived in a parallel universe where everything good that happened in the north was down to him.

Mr Peters has also slammed KiwiRail for the loss of the Dargaville line, saying its board should be sacked for its neglect of Northland's transport needs.

Kiwirail has closed the Dargaville branch line, saying it would be uneconomic to fix after a derailment last July damaged the tracks.

But Mr Peters said it was only uneconomic because the company lost all its forestry customers by failing to provide a rail link to the region's new port 12 years ago.

Eleven candidates are contesting tomorrow's by-election:

  • Adrian Paul Bonner, Independent
  • Joe Carr , Focus New Zealand
  • Robin Grieve, ACT New Zealand
  • Maki Herbert, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
  • Adam Holland, Independent
  • Mark Osborne, National Party
  • Rob Painting, Climate Party
  • Winston Peters, New Zealand First Party
  • Reuben Porter, MANA Movement
  • Willow-Jean Prime, Labour Party
  • Bruce Rogan, Independent

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