Win­ston in his el­e­ment

The Timaru Herald - - National News - Brit­tany Keogh

‘‘Hear, hear’’, some­one shouts, cut­ting through the crowd’s rau­cous cheers.

Stand­ing be­hind the podium at the front of the hall, NZ First leader Win­ston Pe­ters grins.

It’s clear he’s in his el­e­ment.

The rewa Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, north of Auck­land, is as packed as pos­si­ble given phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing mea­sures re­quired at alert level 2. Sit­ting on chairs spaced about 1m apart are more than 100 peo­ple, about one in three wear­ing a mask.

Most of them ap­pear to be mem­bers of

Pe­ters’ big­gest sup­porter base –

Pa¯keha¯ over-65s.

He’s part-way through a blis­ter­ing speech on race re­la­tions, at­tack­ing Labour’s han­dling of the Ihuma¯tao protest.

Through­out the 40-minute ad­dress he re­it­er­ates that his party stands for ‘‘one law for all’’, claim­ing NZ First MPs are ‘‘gen­der-blind, race-blind and colour-blind’’ and that Treaty of Wai­tangi claims have be­come an ‘‘in­dus­try’’ prof­it­ing lawyers.

‘‘In 2020 too many Ma¯ori, aided by a small mi­nor­ity of wokeish fel­low trav­eller elites, can­not shift their mind­set,’’ Pe­ters says.

‘‘They are trapped in the past. They wal­low in it.’’

The au­di­ence is cheer­ing in re­sponse when Pe­ters adds: ‘‘If we are to have a pros­per­ous fu­ture to­gether we need to shift gears’’.

He re­peats the phrase, louder, for em­pha­sis.

He ends his speech: ‘‘Vote for New Zealand First and we will stop any dan­ger­ous set­tle­ment with Ihuma¯tao.

Speak­ing to me­dia later, Pe­ters is scathing in his re­sponse to ques­tions about whether he’s ‘‘race-bait­ing’’.

‘‘If you want to make a state­ment like that, and you don’t care about your coun­try, you go ahead.’’

Af­ter a jour­nal­ist asks whether it was true his party had blocked moves by Greens and Labour to ban min­ing on Con­ser­va­tion land, Pe­ters abruptly ends the press con­fer­ence.

‘‘I’ve had enough,’’ he said. Judg­ing by the polls, this could be Pe­ters’ last hur­rah, and it seems he’s de­ter­mined to go out with a bang.

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