The Far North's four MPs say they're staunch rivals in Wellington, but at home they'll work together for the good of the region.
Shane Jones (NZ First), Matt King (National), Kelvin Davis (Labour) and Willow-Jean Prime (Labour) all took part in a forest restoration announcement in Whangaroa on Friday, in what might elsewhere be a rare show of cross-party collegiality.
Getting to the site involved a boat trip to an isolated corner of Whangaroa Harbour, so there was plenty of time for good-natured ribbing and jokes about who might end up in the boil-up (King) and who might be thrown overboard (everybody).
Jones, wearing his Forestry Minister hat, organised the excursion to Kōwhairoa Peninsula to announce a $1.54 million grant from the One Billion Tree Fund to help Kaitangata hapū complete a 110ha pest control and tree planting project.
He had invited other MPs along because he wanted the kaupapa to restore Whangaroa Harbour to go on regardless of who made it back to Parliament after the election.
"At the end of the day, although we're in an election, we're all committed to looking after the North," he said.
King said all Northland's MPs were passionate about the region, and ultimately wanted the same thing. "We just disagree on how to get there, but they [voters] just want to see us get on with it and do the best job we can. We all get on fine. We're all for Northland."
Davis said the political rivalry wasn't personal.
"Shane and I are mates from way back. He helped me get into politics.
"Willow-Jean and I are whānaunga, and Matt we've come to know in his time in Parliament ... Wellington's a different beast, but up here in the North I think everybody just tries to do their best for the region."
Prime said the aim of Friday's event was to celebrate the achievements of local people, so the distractions of personality politics had to be kept out.
"I think it's really about us debating and challenging each other on the issues but not attacking each other. We know our people don't like that style of politics so we don't demonstrate that, but I don't think that's inherently who we are anyway."
Jones agreed, saying he had learned to his cost that Northlanders didn't like the kind of sniping and petty politicking that went on in Wellington.
"I'm a master at it in Parliament, but I tend to park that type of behaviour in the North because whānau and households, they don't like it at all."
All four agreed that Northland's transformation, from safe blue seat to an electorate that could decide the next Parliament, had been a boon for the region.
"Northland is the winner from being a marginal seat and being so strongly contested," Prime said.
"We are getting a lot of attention, not only by the media but also Northland voters ... This has provided us with an opportunity to make sure Northland issues are front and centre in a general election.''
"We're on the radar now," King added.
"Everyone knows about Northland."
Despite the good-natured banter the MPs had not entirely forgotten they were fighting an election. Jones urged voters to send him back to Parliament "as their megaphone northern politician", and dismissed a poll that put his party on just 2 per cent.
"I'm not cowering or intimidated by these rogue polls. The poll that counts is the one on the day."
Davis said he was focusing on the needs of Māori in his Te Tai Tokerau electorate, and dismissed any threat of Billy Te Kahika hoovering up votes from the disengaged and disenfranchised.
"He's plausible to the gullible, and there's not a lot of gullible people in Te Tai Tokerau. They've got a lot more common sense than that."
Davis had a prediction for the Northland electorate.
"On October 17 Northland will decide on their local MP and it's anyone's guess what her name will be," he quipped.
That prompted a quick retort from Jones: "He's swimming home."