Two women threw the electorate's opposing views into sharp relief for John Key in the closing stages of his campaign.

Key seemed on to a winner at the final leaders' debate on Wednesday when he singled out Kaukapakapa web designer Rachel Cunliffe in TVNZ's studio audience.

The smiling Prime Minister hailed her as exactly the kind of voter who would benefit from his faster broadband plans.

However, his toes must have curled into the carpet when during a break he turned his attention to 22-year-old science graduate Amelia Power, who informed him she'd just lost her job.

Advertisement

National could last night count squarely on Cunliffe's support, while Power hinted she favoured the Left.

Cunliffe said she believed Labour tended to give the impression that government could solve all of life's problems, but her experience of raising a family suggested otherwise.

"It's up to me to make the most of the opportunities I get," she said. "At the end of the day, I make the decisions that affect my family."

Power, from the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn, was far more taken with Labour leader Phil Goff, even though last night she was still coy about who she voted for.

"It isn't a surprise that National won but I was hoping it wouldn't happen," Power said. "When I met Phil Goff I thought he was a genuine person and I was impressed by him.

"He really knows his stuff and I agree we shouldn't be selling off national assets."

Across town, Mike Wilson cracked open a few beers in front of the TV with family and friends night to watch the "next best thing" to the Rugby World Cup final.

But on this occasion, the passionate All Blacks supporter saw the side he backed at the election lose out.

Mike, 25, and his wife Emily, 22, are disappointed National swept back into power as they had voted Labour.

"Having two young kids we are not normally late-night people," Mike said. "But we stayed up to watch the election with a few drinks as it was the best thing on since the rugby."

The Wilsons are the young Auckland couple who had been chosen in a readers' pre-election poll to speak for Kiwi families about the challenges of finding quality time together.

Originally from Tauranga, they share a rented bungalow in Ellerslie with their two young daughters.

Mike, formerly a $40,000 a year DJ at The Rock radio station until he recently took voluntary redundancy, switched to Labour because he felt John Key's performance in the build-up was below par.

"I voted National last time but I thought Mr Key came out with some childish things during the campaign and didn't answer the questions people wanted to know about," Mike said. "I just don't believe what he has to say any more.

"He said that the large number of Kiwis moving to Australia for an improved standard of living was just a bit of a 'brain drain', but how can 45,000 people a year be wrong."

The Herald on Sunday revisited some of the ordinary Kiwis we spoke to in the election run-up to ask for their thoughts on last night's result.

Diehard Nats supporter Jimmy Li is happy Key is back in charge.

Li, 27, is the owner of Auckland food bar Kumeu Takeaways. He employs four staff and feels a Labour government would have been too soft.

"I wasn't impressed when National raised GST levels as it caused my business a few financial problems and John Key wasn't that impressive during the campaign either," he said. "But I wouldn't have wanted to see Labour get in as they would just put more people on long-term benefits and give them even more money to do nothing."

Li added: "Labour would also have raised the minimum wage to a level that would cause me difficulties for my business."

Auckland workmates, water mains contractors Jason Ferguson and Michael King, are split over National's victory.

Ferguson backed John Key's party all the way.

"National has run the country well and have a job to finish," Ferguson said. "Three years was never enough time to complete the work it started."

He added: "If Labour had got in, big changes would have been in the pipeline but I suspect nothing major would ever get done."

King intended to vote Labour but changed his support to the Maori Party as election day loomed.

"My biggest concern about National is that I suspect they will eventually raise taxes which will hurt a working guy like me in the pocket," King said.

"One of the main reasons I voted Maori is because they talked about making it cheaper to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, which is important to the health of ordinary New Zealanders."

North Shore-based Navy electronics tech Matty Anderson is another defector from National.

He ticked the Maori Party after voting for Key last time around.

Anderson, 37, is considering moving his wife Michelle and their 2-year-old son Ludo to Australia when he quits the Navy in February after almost 20 years' service. He is having trouble finding a decent job here.

"The Nats take care of business and when business does well, so does New Zealand," Anderson said.

"But they have too much power so can do what they like and I'm not keen on some of their ideas.

"I'd never voted Maori before but I feel they are better than the other parties when it comes to checks and balances."

One person unhappy about Key's victory last night was one of his staunchest supporters from the 2008 campaign.

Joan Nathan, the mother of Aroha Ireland, had been a staunch National supporter after being charmed by John Key back in 2008.

But that support waned and last week her daughter Aroha revealed she was leaving New Zealand to move to Australia.

The mother-of-six has kept a pledge card from the last election and believes Key failed on every one of his electoral promises.

"He has let us down."

Nathan had hoped for a brighter future under a Key-led government. She worked for a time in the electorate office of List MP Jackie Blue, and did a hospitality training course.

But she had also endured a tough time with her daughter Aroha, who had been taken into the care of Child, Youth and Family.

Nathan said she bumped into Key at a shopping mall recently and while he recognised her, he barely said hello.

"I felt the cold," she said. "He has let us down since then. He used that to his advantage."

She says beneficiaries have become a scapegoat under National, and believes drug testing was only the beginning of a range of tougher restrictions on them.