The Northland electorate is shaping up to be a major battleground in the upcoming election. Reporter Jenny Ling spent time with key candidates to uncover the person behind the politics. First up is incumbent Matt King at his Far North farm.
Spending time with Northland MP Matt King on a typical weekday morning is like being immersed in the comfortable bustle of any family home.
His youngest son Robbie, a relatively new police constable, pops in and out of the kitchen and rummages around in the pantry in search of breakfast and hot drinks.
The two cattle dogs - an old girl called Kim who's "like a great-grandmother", and a younger dog named Trix – wait patiently outside against a vista of green rolling hills that make up King's farm on the outskirts of Okaihau.
The interview gets off to a good start.
"Take a pew and I'll make coffee."
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King is happy enough chatting away in the kitchen, before realising he doesn't know where the coffee is.
He calls for his wife Sara, who genially leaves the home office where she is working, introduces herself and helps him out.
The couple's other two children, Jake, a 21-year-old flight instructor, lives in Hamilton and Jasmine, 18, is studying psychology and criminology at Victoria University in Wellington.
King met Sara while he was at the University of Auckland and she was at the nearby polytechnic.
Asking for her hand in marriage 27 years ago "was the best decision I've made in my life hands down", he said.
"I wouldn't be an MP without Sara backing me."
Apart from family, King's other great love is the 285ha beef farm he bought off his parents Joe and Jen, who still live nearby.
There are about 160 angus cows on the hill country unit at present, and anywhere between 200 and 400 goats, which are sold for their meat.
There are also plenty of wild turkeys and pigs pottering around, which end up as dog tucker for Kim and Trix.
King, 53, reckons spending time on the farm is great for his mental health.
It's what he likes to do whenever he can manage a bit of downtime from all the to-ing and fro-ing between the Far North and Wellington.
"I love being on the land and being outside with the animals.
"It's where I'm happiest."
He glances over at Trix and explains how much she loves getting out on the farm too.
"She comes to our bedroom door and if she sees me putting on good gear her eyes glaze over, but if I'm putting on farm clothes, she gets excited because she knows she's coming on the quad bike with me."
There are two things you wouldn't necessarily know about King, who is Northland-born and bred and has been a resident in the region for most of his life.
The first is that his given name is actually Ronald, which still has the capacity to make him cringe when spoken aloud.
He was named after his dad's brother, but thankfully Mum stepped in and decided they would go with his middle name Matthew.
"She didn't like it and said 'we'll call him Matt'.
"I've missed out on so many things because of that; if I had to be called up at a school assembly or when it came to getting the mail or an award – people would say who's Ronald?
"Parents should never do that to their kids, life is hard enough as it is."
The other is that he completed a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in physiology at the University of Auckland, with dreams of becoming a doctor.
"I ended up being a policeman which probably suited me better. It gives you the best education ever, you learn about human nature and behaviour ... it's real-world experience.
"Being a policeman, you see the good, the bad and the ugly. But you also see things that make you think 'wow, I wish I could change that'."
King spent 14 years in the force: seven in Auckland and another seven in his home region, including a stint in the criminal investigation branch as a detective.
He did all sorts of policing - rural, urban, frontline and traffic - and had a couple of "close calls", including with a guy who threw a tomahawk at him, missing by an arm's length.
"It went through the wall near my head."
Another guy came at him wielding a machete and knife and King saved himself by pretending he had a gun.
King retired from the force in 2007.
"I had to make a choice - do I continue in the police and do a 30-year career and move up the ranks, or do I do something else? I chose something else."
That "something else" was working as a private investigator where he did "a bit of bread-and-butter stuff, investigating fraud and ACC surveillance".
He joined the National party in 2008 and, along with farming, has run a number of small businesses, including a retail and service dealership in Waipapa.
He's also a keen polocrosse player, a sport he has played on and off for many years.
He made the under-21 New Zealand side and later was on the men's team that won a championship title.
King enjoys everything about the sport: that it involves horses, is a family activity and is social.
There are currently four horses on the farm, but he doesn't want a photo taken with them because "they've got hairy winter coats and are sitting bone idle in the paddock".
Up until a few years ago, King was a member of the New Zealand Polocrosse board of directors.
But he dropped that when he began campaigning for the Northland seat in the 2017 general election, which he won from NZ First leader Winston Peters with a 1389-vote majority.
Around that time a bunch of other interests also fell by the wayside, including being a senior Northland rugby ref and a member of the Okaihau volunteer fire brigade.
"While I'm a politician I never have the opportunity or time to pursue any of my previous pastimes that gave me pleasure.
"You can't if you want to do the job I do, you have to work hard. It's a big electorate."
Essentially, King describes himself as a family man.
Sara adds her husband is forthright and direct - and at times a bit of a softie.
"He's got a strong sense of family; he's close to his brother and sister," Sara said.
"If anything comes on TV that's really sad he's the first one to shed a tear."
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