It is little surprise Labour leader Jacinda Ardern looked a bit hesitant when she was confronted with a photo op involving whitewater rafting in Greymouth.

At about the same time her campaign had moved from still, fast waters and into the whitewater as National's attacks on Labour's tax policy looked to be getting results.

Photo ops can go disastrously wrong.

So when Ardern was confronted with a raft and a group of outdoor education students frocked out in blue, red, black and green - the party colours of almost all parties running for election - she baulked.

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"Actually, at the moment you are Parliament, basically," she observed to the outdoor education students at Greymouth's Te Tai Poutini polytechnic.

There were certain similarities with National's 2014 campaign ad which featured a motley bunch of people in red, green and black in a dinghy all trying to row in opposite directions.

That was intended to represent a potential Labour coalition.

It worked for National that time round - but as Labour has surged in the polls it has been a slightly less effective weapon this time round.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and MP Damien O'Connor, right, get into a whitewater raft with outdoor education students at Greymouth's Tai Poutini Polytechnic this morning. Photo / Claire Trevett
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and MP Damien O'Connor, right, get into a whitewater raft with outdoor education students at Greymouth's Tai Poutini Polytechnic this morning. Photo / Claire Trevett

Ardern ended up clambering into the raft and once in, the students lifted the raft to give her a rather low-tech simulated whitewater raft ride.

She and MP Damien O'Connor were heaved up and down for about 30 seconds before they were allowed to escape.

The whitewater moment in Ardern's own campaign emerged soon after that ride when Ardern delivered her first backdown as leader.

Ardern had made what she described as a captain's call early on in the piece that she could introduce new taxes in her first term if a Tax Working Group recommended it, rather than wait until after a further election to allow voters to decide if they accepted it.

Soon after the fake whitewater ride in Greymouth, it was announced Ardern had made a further captain's call revoking the first captain's call.

She denied it was a poll-driven captain's call.

Rather, she insisted, it had been driven by listening to the people - which is code for "it was poll driven".

"I want to do politics differently," she said to justify her change, so she had responded to the calls of those people.

Quite how that differed from former Prime Minister John Key was unclear - Key had made an art form out of adroit backdowns which Labour had derided him for being poll-driven over.

Ardern's day of unfortunate coincidences didn't get any better.

She got stranded for 15 minutes while a rockfall was cleared on Arthurs' Pass as she tried to make her way to Christchurch.

She filled the time handing out chocolates to others stranded in the same queue.

Her mission in Christchurch was a visit to Coes Ford to try to get attention off taxes and onto one of the issues she wanted to highlight - Labour's plan to clean up dirty rivers.

Nature was against her - it was cancelled because the river had flooded.

All in all, it was something of a washout.