NZ First leader Winston Peters was back in his favourite place — the election trail — as he took his party's campaign bus on a whistle-stop tour of the Far North yesterday.
The veteran politician from Whananaki struggled to get momentum early in the campaign with Covid restrictions putting a dampener on the kind of street corner meetings he favours.
Yesterday, however, he was back to his old form as he addressed a crowd of more than 50 outside Rocksalt in Kerikeri.
If he was feeling the pressure of campaigning in a must-win electorate, or a 1 News Colmar Brunton poll the night before showing his party languishing on 2 per cent, he wasn't showing it.
He did, however, give the media and ''rubbish polls'' even more of a blast than usual.
Peters said Northland candidate Shane Jones had every chance of winning the seat — ''because without Shane Jones Northland is in trouble'' — and claimed the two main parties also believed NZ First would be back.
A poll back in August showed Jones trailing in third place behind National's Matt King and Labour's Willow-Jean Prime.
Returning to the theme that won him the 2015 byelection, Peters said Northland had, until three years ago, endured decades of being ''Cinderella-ised, marginalised and even stigmatised''.
If Northlanders wanted an experienced voice in Parliament they should vote for Jones, even if they didn't like the way he talked or dressed.
Yesterday's crowd was dominated by NZ First supporters with a few ''nephs'' thrown in, and few of the hecklers Peters thrives on.
Questions from the public covered commercial fishing, the horticultural worker shortage, and re-opening the borders to tourism.
He pledged a reform of the RMA and a review of building material costs to a builder who said ''pain in the butt'' bureaucracy was adding 30 per cent to house prices; and channelled the National Party when he answered a question about NZ First's opposition to a wealth tax by saying the country couldn't tax its way to prosperity.
Peters also restated a commitment to move Ports of Auckland to Northland.
He referred a complaint about PGF funding apparently getting stuck in the Far North District Council to Jones, who pledged to apply a ''suitable laxative'' to the organisation.
If the polls are correct Northland's PGF windfall isn't translating into support for Jones but the party won over at least one new voter yesterday.
Ernie Taylor, of Waimate North, told Peters he'd voted National ''like a sheep'' for 60 years but this time, because of the funding raining down on Northland, his tick would go to NZ First.
The party's 'Back Your Future' bus also stopped yesterday in Waipapa, Mangonui, Kaitaia and Paihia. Today it is due to visit Dargaville and Mangawhai.