The Winston Peters show arrived in Kaitaia yesterday, drawing a crowd of at least 80 supporters, hecklers and the plain curious who spilled on to the road outside the town's post office.

Polls showing the New Zealand First leader is neck-and-neck with Mark Osborne a little more than two weeks out from the March 28 by-election have shocked National, which has held the seat since 1969.

He arrived around noon in his "Force for the North" bus, wearing his trademark pinstripe suit despite the sweltering heat and delivering old-style political theatre in which he dished out more heckling then he got.

Mr Peters used his visit to hammer home his message that Northlanders had a once-only chance to get the Beehive's attention.


"For the first time in a very long time you have a chance to make sure people in Wellington are listening to you. We are sick and tired of being Cinderellised and forgotten. When you bring strangers up here on our roads, they can't believe the disrepair and neglect," he said.

Mr Peters then claimed the credit for National's "10 bridges" programme, saying the Government would not have promised to replace the one-way bridges if it had not been threatened in the polls.

"In just 10 days I've got you 10 free bridges," he said.

Mr Peters predicted National would now pledge to speed up the Puhoi-Wellsford motorway and the high-speed broadband roll-out.

Questions from the crowd included why the Gold Card could not be used on Kaitaia's Busabout service, the only public transport in the Far North, and what he would do to stop Far North rangatahi getting into trouble (creating employment was the best solution, he said).

Also on the campaign trail today are Prime Minister John Key and National candidate Mark Osborne, whose stops will include Kerikeri. Labour's Willow-Jean Prime will later head to Dargaville for a candidates meeting. All candidates are expected at public meetings in Kaitaia and Kerikeri tomorrow.