Northland's first candidates meeting of the 2017 election turned into an unexpected lovefest with one candidate urging the audience to cast their votes for her opponent and another saying how sorry he was one of his rivals had been pushed down the party list.
Friday night's meeting at Kaitaia College also offered insights into the people behind the politicians, with National's Matt King breaking down while answering a question about support for sexual abuse victims, saying it brought back memories of his police career.
"In 14 years in the police, I dealt with sexual violence on a weekly basis. That's why I ultimately left the police, it was pretty hard to take. Anything that advances victims of sexual abuse has my 100 per cent support," he said.
The other candidates were sitting MP and NZ First leader Winston Peters, Maki Herbert of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, Craig Nelson of Act, and the Greens' David Clendon.
They were surprisingly complimentary of each other with Mr King saying how disappointed he was that Mr Clendon, "a decent guy", had been bumped down his party's list, while Ms Herbert said the best way to keep Parliament honest was to vote for Mr Peters.
Kaitaia College head boy Reuben Allen asked candidates what they would do for Kaitaia youth, school-leavers especially.
Mr Peters got the biggest cheer when he revealed a plan to match student loan repayments dollar for dollar, as long as the borrower stayed in New Zealand, while Mr Clendon wanted more post-secondary education opportunities in Northland.
Other topics covered included corruption, the TPPA, universal basic income, jobs and the high cost of childcare, with audience member James Walkling saying he and his partner would be financially better off not working because then they would be eligible for state-funded childcare.
Many of Ms Herbert's answers focused on the employment potential of industrial hemp and medicinal marijuana, but her key message was to get out and vote. Anyone who didn't was effectively supporting the winning party, she said.
Mr Clendon cited the need to improve Northland's natural environment, starting with fresh water, and to switch from exporting low-value commodities to more profitable, processed products. He also committed to lifting the top tax rate to 40 per cent and dropping the lowest to 9 per cent.
Mr Nelson, on the other hand, said his party's policy was to cut personal and company tax across the board, and to stop "cutting businesses off at the knees" by reducing red tape.
Mr Peters fulminated against the government's $1.5 billion GST take from international visitors, saying only a fraction came back to the regions.
About 50 people attended the meeting.
Co-organiser John Kenderdine, of EcoCentre Kaitaia, said voters needed to talk to candidates face to face. The meeting had been held at the start of the campaign because "if you want candidates' attention you have to grab them early".
He was pleased to get five candidates but disappointed Labour was unable to find a stand-in for Willow-Jean Prime, who is expecting her second child.
The EcoCentre is also organising a Te Tai Tokerau candidates meeting at Korou Kore Marae in Ahipara from 6pm on August 11. The election is on September 23.