Botany hopefuls dial back fanfare in wake of quake

By Lincoln Tan, NZPA

Scheduled visits from Prime Minister John Key have been called off due to the earthquake. Photo / Richard Robinson
Scheduled visits from Prime Minister John Key have been called off due to the earthquake. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Botany byelection is shaping up to be not only one of the cheapest but also one of the most muted election campaigns Auckland has seen.

Only two days remain to election day, but candidates are refraining from "in-your-face" campaigning and choosing less-intrusive methods instead after the devastation wrought by the Christchurch earthquake.

The byelection is being held to find a replacement for National MP Pansy Wong, who resigned over misuse of her international travel subsidy.

But with the devastation in Christchurch dominating attention since the February 22 disaster, both National frontrunner Jami-Lee Ross and Labour candidate Michael Wood decided garish attention-grabbing tactics were not appropriate.

"People's minds have been a bit elsewhere, obviously, because of the earthquake," Mr Wood said. "Lots of people in Botany and elsewhere have got connections in Christchurch."

He said a few days of sign-waving on the streets had been called off.

Mr Ross said he also had decided a more restrained approach was best.

"Last week, we did cancel a few events that we had planned because we just felt, out of respect for the people of Christchurch, it wouldn't be appropriate to do a lot of in-your-face campaigning."

Scheduled visits from Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff have also been called off.

"We were expecting to have the Prime Minister several more times between the campaign launch and election day, but naturally his attention has to be focused on Christchurch and I completely endorse that," Mr Ross said.

However, the candidates said they would continue trying to get people to vote.

"There is an election on," Mr Wood said, "and our feeling is that people still need to know who you are and know about what you stand for, so we have continued to be working.

"It's just a case, I guess, of altering the style a little bit to take account of how people are feeling."

The New Citizen Party, which is contesting its first election, has also cancelled all public meetings, and candidate Paul Young is relying on social media and door-to-door visits to get his message across.

He said his biggest concern was that residents would not get out to vote on Saturday because of events in Christchurch.

"The earthquake has meant the media focus is not on Botany, and it has made it far more difficult for us to tell voters what we stand for," he said.

"My worry is that this could lead to people not voting because they feel they don't know the candidates well enough."

HAVE YOUR SAY

This Saturday
* Polling places open from 9am to 7pm.

* They will be located in the Botany electorate.

* The busiest time is usually 9am to 11am.

* For more information, visit elections.org.nz.

CANDIDATES

* Jami-Lee Ross - National Party.

* Michael Wood - Labour Party.

* Paul Young - New Citizen Party.

* Lyn Murphy - Act.

* Robert Goh - Independent.

* Wayne Young - Independent.

* Penny Bright - Independent.

* Robin Caithness - Join Australia Movement Party.

* Hussain Al-Saady - Pirate Party of New Zealand.

Leo Biggs - Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.

- NZ Herald

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