2 Oct 2023

Election 2023: Winston Peters wooing small crowds as popularity creeps up in polls

9:11 am on 2 October 2023
Winston Peters at Papakura High School.

Winston Peters at Papakura High School on 30 September 2023. Photo: RNZ / Tim Collins

Winston Peters has been wooing small crowds throughout the country as his party's popularity creeps up in the polls.

New Zealand First has reached the 5 percent threshold in both TV polls, meaning it is likely Peters is returning to Parliament and it is possible he will hold the balance of power.

Small crowds of mainly seniors have been gathering at public meetings in community halls to hear Peters speak and ask him questions.

There is a common belief among those RNZ has spoken to in the crowds: things used to be better, the 'old days' were better and Peters is the man to bring them back.

Peters' speeches are not scripted but they touch on the same topics: the cost of living, law and order, co-governance and the media.

His charisma on full display, Peters has been getting lots of laughs at these meetings and has had a few chuckles on stage himself.

But he is not here to muck around.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks at a public meeting at Napier Sailing Club in Napier on 29 September 2023.

Winston Peters at a public meeting at Napier Sailing Club on 29 September 2023. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Both TV polls show he has reached the 5 percent threshold and could hold the balance of power in a National-ACT-New Zealand First governing arrangement.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon has now officially ruled him in but Peters has not wanted to talk about National - nor ACT for that matter.

"I didn't come along to talk about the National Party, the ACT Party or anybody else. I came to talk about a party called New Zealand First and that's why that hall was full."

Peters has been filling halls and they have become a refuge of sorts for those who do not feel they are being listened to, including the anti-vax community.

Listening, or "doing real politics" as Peters puts it, seems to be doing the trick.

"Well, we always knew that if we went to the people of this country and did things properly, not having photo opportunities but doing real politics, that it would work for us, and it is."

New Zealand First is holding its next public meeting in Auckland later on Monday.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs