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Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

National takes battle to Labour's heartland

John Key has also based his election-night celebrations at SkyCity, such as in 2011. Photo / Greg Bowker
John Key has also based his election-night celebrations at SkyCity, such as in 2011. Photo / Greg Bowker

The National Party will turn its back on glitzy SkyCity to launch its election campaign at the Manukau Events Centre.

The last three launches have been at the SkyCity Convention Centre in the CBD but next week the party will switch to a Labour stronghold.

Before the SkyCity launches, National's 2002 campaign kicked off in traditional blue-ribbon territory on the North Shore.

Otago University political expert Dr Bryce Edwards said launching at the Manukau Events Centre on August 24 was "smart politics".

"It has a sense of cheekiness and I think some voters, even those who aren't inclined to vote National, will give them some credit for breaking out of their comfort zone.

"It's also a message to the rest of the country that National is changing - it's becoming less of a rich white man's party."

Conversely, the Labour Party launched its campaign last week amid the waterfront opulence of Auckland's Viaduct Harbour.

"That's just the mirror image of National going into Labour territory. It is like war - they're trying to win over the territory of the opponents."

Left-leaning commentator Chris Trotter said it could be inferred that National's attempts to win Pasifika support were having some success.

"This move probably reflects a growing confidence on the part of the National Party that they will get a hearing, at the very least, from Pasifika voters."

This could have been boosted by the so-called anti-smacking bill of 2007, which caused a rift between conservative Pasifika voters and the Labour Party - "justifiable or not, especially when you consider National joined forces with Labour to ease the passage of the bill", Trotter said.

The same was true of the legalisation of same-sex marriage last year.

Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth said the party continued to enjoy strong support in South Auckland and had several outstanding candidates in the region.

"The issues we are campaigning on - jobs, affordable homes - are really important for people in South Auckland."

Labour's choice of the Viaduct was due to the central location, although busloads of supporters still made their way there from South Auckland.

National's campaign director, Steven Joyce, said the party had not done in-depth polling of South Auckland but there were indications of stronger support than usual. APNZ

- NZ Herald

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