DUNEDIN had its own sprinkling of stardust yesterday, with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern visiting the city on a sunny spring day.
Ms Ardern returned to the city on what is her final visit before the election to attend the Polyfest, visit a St Kilda family affected by flooding, visit the University of Otago and attend a special assembly at Taieri College.
Ziggy Stardust was made famous by the late David Bowie
who released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of
Mars in 1972.
Fans of Ms Ardern were quick to post photos of her on
Facebook wearing the nowfamous head shot of Bowie with the lightning stripes on her face, confusing Aladdin Sane with Ziggy. Aladdin Sane was released in 1973. Mere details.
Ms Ardern was not the only leader in town this week.
Green Party leader James Shaw was in the city desperately hoovering up as many party votes as he could as the Greens teeter dangerously on the brink of not returning to Parliament.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters attracted a mixed, but mainly older, crowd in Dunedin on Thursday. He gave no clues as to who he might be in coalition with after next Saturday’s election, probably because, like the Greens, NZ First is dangerously close to not returning to Parliament if Mr Peters fails to retain his Northland seat.
Mr Peters won Northland in a byelection after National failed to realise how disgruntled voters in the north were with the lack of progress in the electorate.
The only question to be answered now is whether Prime Minister Bill English will return to Dunedin to spread his special message of ‘‘blinglish’’ before Saturday.
National won the party vote in Dunedin at the last election and as every vote counts in a particularly close election, Mr English may feel the need to return.
Ms Ardern has a punishing schedule ahead of the election. She is in New Plymouth today, Hamilton tomorrow and Whanganui on Monday.
Labour believed Whanganui was a seat it could win, as National was fielding a new candidate.
On Tuesday, Ms Ardern is in Wellington, Wednesday in Auckland, Thursday in Christchurch and, on the final day of canvassing on September 22, she will be back in Auckland.
At each visit, Ms Ardern will stress the risk to New Zealand of maintaining the status quo of the Nationalled Government.
‘‘Much of the Government focus is on the risk of a change. We think there is a risk of staying the same. Hospitals are full and housing remains the big issue.’’
Ms Ardern expressed frustration at the way the debate had shifted away from people living in cars, the acute housing shortage in South Auckland and emergency departments at Auckland and Waikato overflowing and turning people away.
She believes she can turn the debate around in the last few days of the campaign.
Tax has been a weak point for Labour and Ms Ardern expressed frustration at the seeds being planted by National, although she admitted it was how politics worked.
Labour was not putting up income tax, and never was. That was off the table.
‘‘Our plan is having 70% of families better off.’’
She again committed to a new Dunedin Hospital being built on a central city site. Funding would come from capital expenditure, included in Labour’s fiscal plan.
There would be no public private partnership, as planned by the Government.
Ms Ardern was obviously enjoying the cut and thrust of the campaign, despite a punishing schedule.
‘‘I have an advantage over Bill: I can use a bit of rouge. I have plenty of energy. This is an exciting time — a onceinalife time opportunity, although I want to make it two or three times the same opportunity.’’
The Otago Daily Times broached the issue of whether Dunedin will have two cabinet ministers if she is prime minister.
Dunedin has a long history of Labour cabinet ministers, including Stan Rodger, Pete Hodgson, David BensonPope, Sir Michael Cullen and Bill Fraser.
Dunedin South MP Clare Curran and Dunedin North MP David Clark could be in line for promotion if Labour forms the next election.
But Ms Ardern played her cards very close to her chest.
‘‘You should,’’ she said. When asked again, she said it was all part of the negotiations after the election but reiterated: ‘‘You should’’.
Epsom MP David Seymour, who relies on National voters giving him their electorate vote to remain an MP, is taking a relaxed approach to his last week of canvassing.
Much of it involves drinks. Tomorrow he is attending the East Coast Bays ‘‘Drinks with David’’, on Monday he is having drinks in Auckland Central.
On Thursday, he is having drinks in North Shore and on election eve he is in Epsom, having drinks.
In between he is appearing on Facebook, and closing the Wellington campaign at The Establishment, a restaurant and bar where he possibly may be having drinks.
Mr English was due in Kaikoura early yesterday morning to probably announce freight was flowing on the main line which was severely damaged after the Kaikoura earthquake.
High winds caused the cancellation of his flight, leaving Transport Minister Simon Bridges to announce something previously announced quietly in an earlier KiwiRail profit update.
However, it became official when the first train to travel on the PictonChristchurch rail line since the earthquake was welcomed into Kaikoura yesterday morning.
KiwiRail hosted a special event in the town to acknowledge the support the community had shown KiwiRail and its partners in the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recover Alliance during the rebuild of the road and rail.
Mr Bridges said the first train marked the start of a fivenightsaweek service. Having the key freight service flowing easily and efficiently around New Zealand was critical to economic growth.