7 Sep 2020

Political parties back into campaign mode but Covid still casts a shadow

9:41 am on 7 September 2020

After a false start, political parties are now back into full campaign mode.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, National leader Judith Collins, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, and Green co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, National leader Judith Collins, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, and Green co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson. Photo: RNZ

The 52nd Parliament officially dissolved yesterday - a crucial milestone in kicking-off the general election process.

Political parties can finally commit to campaigning after an abrupt stop, when Auckland went into level 3 lockdown and Parliament was reconvened and the election delayed.

Labour's campaign chair Megan Woods said the party has been agile, reprinting materials due to the change of election date, and re-scheduling advertisements.

"We've also had to think about how it is the electorate wants us to speak to them.

"I don't think people just yet are ready for people to be knocking at their doors for example talking about politics, so we've got to be respectful of where people are and the kinds of ways they want to have conversations," she said.

Woods said the party has already held party events online this year.

She said those who innovate during this campaign will be the ones that flourish.

"Politics is ultimately about a conversation, so we need to be having those conversations both online, but be flexible enough as we do move down those alert levels that we can bring people together again," she said.

National's campaign chair Gerry Brownlee said while his party is using social media, they are still trying to get out to the regions.

But to do that Brownlee said politicians will need to spend a lot more time in the car this election, which was evident for leader Judith Collins last week.

"On Monday Judith Collins was in New Plymouth and then it was a drive down to Wellington from there because there were no flights that were suitable.

"Where in the past you may have been able to fly out of a place like that to perhaps as far as Invercargill, land, then make your way back up using different flights that's no longer an option," he said.

Rules on social gatherings had also been limiting for the party.

"We had several meetings where we had 100 people, which is the limit, but you've a much, much bigger space and they are very spread out and the dynamic of that meeting is I think somewhat lost in that distancing," he said.

ACT leader David Seymour said he held an invite only event in Nelson to abide by social gathering rules.

He said while the party is doing more online, there is still a need to physically meet with voters.

"It's critical to get out and actually listen to people because elections are a two way process, so we'll be doing our street corner meetings for instance, but with hand sanitiser and a QR code for people to check in when they come to a street corner or other meeting," he said.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said her party needs to be ready to change its plans with little notice.

"Honestly, I feel like we cannot plan anything in concrete these days.

"We are going to be very aware that any physical larger events that we think we might organise and we've got some potential ones coming up, at a moment's notice we may need to move those to online events if we have to," she said.

Davidson said there is still a lot of anxiety in her Tāmaki Makaurau electorate, which is changing how she campaigns.

"Our focus will be on phone calls and actually we've been having a good response to phone calling.

"But that whole physical anxiety that people are having in Auckland and in South Auckland where I live in my community is a massive feature and people are just not ready to have strangers on their doorsteps at the moment," she said.

But despite the setbacks, parties are ready this week to give it their all.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will be spending most of this week travelling the South Island to meet with voters.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will be in Rotorua today and Judith Collins in Napier.

This week, ACT will be announcing its mental health policy, with David Seymour attending events in Auckland.

Meanwhile, the Greens are preparing for a policy announcement later in the week.

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