Post-quake reunion for early voters
A campervan decked out with election signs has drawn the residents of an isolated coastal community together for a postquake catch-up.
They pull up at the Kekerengu Store, north of the slips blocking State Highway 1 near Kaiko¯ura, in utes and four-wheel-drives for advance voting day.
Before the roadside cafe was closed by earthquake damage in November, it was a hub for locals, who got their mail at the post office boxes outside.
On Friday, the social buzz returned for a few hours as neighbours chatted over their easy-vote cards in the car park.
They were able to vote in advance with the mobile voting team visiting in a campervan.
The team had already visited the Marlborough Sounds and would later visit Clarence, before driving the long way round to cover the lower half of the Kaiko¯ura electorate, as far as Amberley.
Most Kekerengu residents lived up long hillside driveways in farmhouses, and did not run into each other any more since the Store closed, they said.
Fulltime mother Looby Varley described the last nine months as a ‘‘twilight year’’.
‘‘Because life is not normal yet, but it will resume. You can’t do anything about it, you’ve just got to sit tight and crack on with it.’’
Three minutes before she stepped inside the campervan to vote, she was still uncertain about who to vote for, she said.
‘‘I’m thinking I might change my vote from last time. I’ll know who to vote for when I get in there. I’m feeling rebellious.’’
Running into her neighbours was a great reason to vote early, she said.
‘‘Because life is not normal yet, but it will resume. You can't do anything about it, you've just got to sit tight and crack on with it.’’
‘‘We are missing the Store being open. It used to be a monthly meeting for the girls, going for coffee.’’
Retiree Barrie North voted early because he was too busy with gardening, chopping wood, church activities and looking after his school-age son to drive into Blenheim, he said.
He did not vote for any of the Kaiko¯ura electorate candidates because he did not know enough about them, he said.
‘‘I tried to find out what each of the candidates stood for, but haven’t been able to find out enough. There was nothing in the post, nothing on the internet. They might put it in the local papers, but what about those of us who don’t get the papers?’’
The earthquake did not affect him enough to influence his voting, he said.
‘‘Thank God, we were kept safe and the house we rent was not significantly damaged.’’
James Moore lived on the family farm in Kekerengu. It had been in the family for five generations.
‘‘There was a bit of damage to the house, and there was a lot of fencing and things to deal with. But the drought was a lot more stressful, the two years before,’’ Moore said.
‘‘The day after the earthquake, it rained. The day after the earthquake, things started coming right for us. We didn’t have fences or a water supply, but she was pretty easy, really.’’
He decided to vote for National, as usual, though he would consider voting Greens next time if social welfare did not get ‘‘sorted out’’, he said.
It was hot and windy, but a handful of people lingered near the campervan.
A Farmers Weekly magazine rolled across the gravel.
Moore’s fiancee Faye Dobson chatted to her neighbours about the wedding set for February.
Her daughter Elka, 18 months, kept running towards the highway and the grown-ups took turns shooing her back towards the campervan while they talked.
‘‘Vote National,’’ a man in a plaid shirt hollered as he left the campervan.
A farmer who would not give his name said he also voted for National, and Stuart Smith.
‘‘Stuart’s done a good job for us post-quake. Janette Walker has done a good job also, she’s been very supportive of us.
‘‘But we know what we’re getting with Stuart.’’
Farmer Paddy Trolove had heard that some National supporters would vote for Kaiko¯ura electorate candidates from other parties purely because they disliked Smith, he said.
They disapproved of him scooping the seat from former National MP Colin King, one farmer chuckled.
Trolove voted for Stuart Smith for the Kaiko¯ura electorate, and the National Party, because he liked how things were going, and because he did not have any faith in the other parties, he said.