Northland's final candidates meeting of the 2017 election started with the national anthem and ended with pastors laying hands on the aspiring MPs in blessing.

Last Sunday's political meeting with a difference was organised by Kerikeri's Frontline Church and drew a crowd of more than 220.

In a break from customary format, each candidate was given eight minutes to speak but there were no questions from the audience. Instead, people were encouraged to grill the politicians one-on-one over supper afterwards.

More than 220 people attended the candidates meeting at Kerikeri's Frontline Church. PHOTO / Peter de Graaf
More than 220 people attended the candidates meeting at Kerikeri's Frontline Church. PHOTO / Peter de Graaf

Candidates Maki Herbert (Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis, Tai Tokerau), Peter Hughes (Greens, Northland), Matt King (National, Northland), Winston Peters (NZ First, Northland) and Willow-Jean Prime (Labour, Northland) took part - but guest pastor Geoff Wiklund had the first turn with the microphone, using it to make his own pitch to the politicians.

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He spoke out against abortion and called for tax breaks to encourage businesses to set up in Northland, better funding for hospice and a repeal of the anti-smacking law.

Afterwards he led a team of pastors laying their hands on the candidates in blessing, which Mr Wiklund said would impart wisdom and grant protection.

It was the eighth public meeting in the Northland electorate so the candidates' speeches were well rehearsed and traversed familiar ground.

Ms Herbert spoke of the failure of cannabis prohibition and the potential of industrial hemp while Mrs Prime talked about her idyllic childhood in Moerewa and the subsequent rise of homelessness, poverty and pollution of waterways.

Mr King and Mr Peters traded barbs over bridges with the National candidate reeling off numbers showing the government's backing for Northland and the NZ First leader telling the audience they had been forgotten until the 2015 by-election, when National discovered Northland "like Columbus discovered America, by accident".

Mr Peters even threw in a bit of scripture, asking the audience: "If the trumpet giveth an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?"

The least-known candidate gave the most impassioned speech with Whangarei-based Mr Hughes decrying "30 years of inaction" on climate change and poverty, and calling for an end to the market-driven meanness inflicted on many New Zealanders. Mr Hughes stepped in after David Clendon resigned last month.

Pastors lay their hands on Northland's election candidates during the final meeting of the 2017 campaign at Kerikeri's Frontline Church on Sunday. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF
Pastors lay their hands on Northland's election candidates during the final meeting of the 2017 campaign at Kerikeri's Frontline Church on Sunday. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

Conscious perhaps of the church setting everyone was on best behaviour. The only heckling came when the microphone had to be adjusted as Mr Peters took the stand after the lanky Mr King.

"Give him a box to stand on," someone called.

Peters shot back: "Where I come from, my friend, they measure a man from the neck up."

Frontline pastor Shaun Foster said the church would hold a similar meeting for the 2018 local elections and, if Far North District councillor Mrs Prime was elected to Parliament, a council by-election later this year.

In particular the church aimed to give people a chance to interact with the candidates one-on-one, he said.