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.

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