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. Today Labour list MP Willow-Jean Prime gives a tour of her hometown Moerewa.
Northland's Willow-Jean Prime has a spring in her step as she strides into the room with a friendly "Morena".
We meet in the heart of Moerewa, at Hati's café, where you can still get a flat white for just $3.80.
The Labour list MP has made the decision to conduct all her publicity for the upcoming election here.
I'm glad she did.
Apart from the best caffeine deal for miles around, the discovery of this cool little café so obviously familiar to locals is like stumbling upon a well-kept secret.
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Prime is proud of the town where she grew up and she wants people – especially those in local and central government - to really see it and hear the problems people face.
But we're not here to talk politics, I remind her.
Remember? This is about who you are, the person behind the politics.
Prime then describes herself as "grassroots".
"I'm the same person in real life as who I am in politics," she said.
"I like the fact I haven't had to change who I am to be a Member of Parliament."
Getting into the Beehive wasn't a straightforward journey though; Prime's career path has zigged and zagged, taking many twists and turns.
First up, she wanted to be a train driver like her dad Barry, who drove shunters from Ōtiria railway station around Northland.
Prime learned to drive those trains before she could drive a car, though what she really wanted was to drive locomotives because they paid more.
But the school careers adviser told her: "that's not something women can do".
That dream shattered, and while still at school, she was offered a scholarship to play basketball in the United States after representing New Zealand in the development squads.
Prime then thought she'd be a teacher, though her husband Dion – a teacher at Bay of Islands College - joked she wouldn't be patient enough.
"I really am way more patient now, politics has taught me how to hold my tongue."
Memories of her whānau are everywhere here.
She points to her grandparent's house across the road, and the shed where her grandad Lloyd made his famous smoked fish.
Prime and her family lived in the house one street over.
They were poor and her parents had to make their income stretch.
But they were also big on gardening and being self-sufficient - and big on values too, instilling empathy and compassion in their kids.
"Our life was never easy but it wasn't as hard as others who lived around us," Prime said.
"We understood we didn't have a privileged life. Mum and Dad worked for everything we had as a family. Mum instilled in us a lot of empathy for others' situations."
From humble beginnings growing up in one of Northland's poorest towns to councillor, lawyer and now frequenting Parliament, Prime - of Ngāpuhi descent - has come a long way.
She became the youngest Far North district councillor in 2013 at the age of 30 and was re-elected at the 2016 local body elections.
However, she believed she could do more for Northland as an MP, and in 2017 was elected as a Labour list MP.
Prime elaborates on her school years, initially at the local primary school, then Pakaraka School, followed by Bay of Islands College in Kawakawa.
She insists she wasn't academic: during fifth form exams she scored 54 per cent in maths, 56 per cent in science and failed her internal English exam.
"I was naturally sporty and more focused on sport and played netball, volleyball and basketball.
"But I had a mum in my corner pushing me to make sure I focused on the academic side. She didn't want me to completely fail academically."
Leaving school in the sixth form with enough credits to get university entrance, but too young to go to university, Prime got a job at Ngāti Hine Health Trust as a personal assistant to the chief executive, then as a receptionist.
She enrolled in extramural te reo Māori papers and as her passion for the language grew, so did her confidence in her learning abilities.
She signed up for the University of Waikato's "full immersion" te reo Māori course, then discovered a world of other subjects and began a law degree.
Prime had found her groove.
"It wasn't until I was 18 or 19 I got that confidence in my ability to learn and apply that learning."
Prime now holds a Master of Laws, a conjoint Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws and a post-graduate Diploma of Māori and Pacific Development with distinction.
She worked as a solicitor in Wellington before returning to Northland, where she established a consultancy business handling hapū and community projects.
We leave the café and take a tour of Moerewa in her car, driving through the backstreets, past the house she grew up in which backs on to the disused railway line.
We spot community stalwart Mike Butler sitting on the porch and she slows down to give him a wave, before driving over to the netball courts where she spent many weekends as a youngster.
Someone has drawn an outline of a body in chalk.
Prime also points out broken hoops and a lack of clubrooms and facilities.
She talks of how hard it is to get anything done when there are layers and layers of bureaucracy, which makes people want to shrug their shoulders and give up.
Prime now lives near Pakaraka, just over the hill from her hometown, in the family home she shares with Dion, their two daughters Hihana, 5, and Heeni 3, her sister Season-Mary Downs and mum Adrienne.
She and Dion are in the process of building their own rammed-earth whare uku on land nearby.
When home from parliamentary duties in Wellington, she loves spending time with whānau and working on the land, but admits there's "not a lot of downtime when you've got two energetic girls".
"I love the outdoors in Northland, it's such a stunning part of the country and I love being a tourist in my own backyard.
"It's the simple down-to-earth things we like as a whānau, like picking blackberries and mushrooms and swimming in our waterholes.
"We like cooking and preserving and sharing ... you know, living the good life."
TOMORROW: Shane Jones