National candidate has plenty of party support as he tries to woo the locals on a quiet Sunday in Mangawhai.

This is what scrabbling for survival looks like. It's a lazy Sunday in Mangawhai and there are few locals about. There are, however, a lot of National Party people about.

They have been at the market, grabbed lunch and hit the shops.

They are here for their candidate Mark Osborne, who is missing his daughter's 10th birthday party further up north so he can shake hands in Mangawhai.

There is National Party president Peter Goodfellow, another couple of board members, and the minister for the day, Amy Adams. MPs Scott Simpson, David Bennett and Jian Yang also pop in. Neighbouring Rodney MP Mark Mitchell is a constant presence. Adams observes they are wearing matching outfits: "The two Marks are starting to couples-dress. You must be spending too much time together."

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When they hit the shops there are more blue shirts than voters. An elderly couple is watching and Scott Dalziel tells Osborne "My gosh you must be worried. Look at them all."

Osborne recites his line about being a team, and the man replies, "A team? You're a bloody army".

Dalziel is a leftie but he's voting for Winston Peters. "Anything to send those guys a message."

Otherwise, it is fairly safe territory. Mangawhai is a well-heeled community of rural dwellers and lifestylers. They want roads, especially the proposed extension of the highway to Wellsford. Even better for Osborne, many of them don't like Peters.

Both are music to his ears.

At the Four Square Mark tells the Herald he'll vote for Osborne in Saturday's Northland byelection, even though he's annoyed about former MP Mike Sabin. His wife Mariaja says she will too. They think National is doing a good job. What about Winston? "He's a fly in the ointment. No - a maggot coming out of the woodwork."

Past the bakery (speciality bread pies), the sushi shop, and icecream shop he meets a family outside the chippy.

The father, Scott, commutes to Silverdale so he's a road fan. He too is suspicious of Peters, telling Mr Osborne "We don't want bloody Winston Peters. I don't want someone to stuff it up." Another man describes Peters as "a stirrer".

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Down on the beach at Mangawhai Heads at a picnic table, Philip has the Herald on Sunday open on the page with a grinning Winston Peters on it. Osborne admits Peters is a tad more photogenic than he is. A woman suggests Peters' grin means "he's in with a grin".

Two women are walking up from the beach and one mutters as she passes Osborne, "We won't vote for you." He doesn't hear her so politely says 'Pardon?'. "We won't vote for you," she calls louder and storms off.

Can't win 'em all.

Osborne: I'm not chicken

Mark Osborne has taken the cudgels to his rival, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, saying Peters is only in the byelection for himself and decided to stand by "looking in the mirror and saying, 'Who's the sexiest of them all?'"

Osborne made the comments after a testy debate on TVNZ's Q+A programme yesterday in which Peters defended his Northland roots by saying he had "grown in Northland" while Osborne had "flown in".

Osborne denied his decision to do the debate from Mangawhai rather than travel to Auckland was because he was too scared to confront Peters face to face
"Let me assure you, I'm not chicken of Winston. He's not about Northland. He's disappeared for, what, 40 years? What's he done for Northland? Absolutely nothing."

Mark Osborne

• Born May 6, 1972, in Hastings.
• Went to Haumoana Primary School, Havelock North High School, Waikato Polytechnic.
• Qualified as a chartered accountant.
• Holidayed in Northland on his parents' land as a child, first moved there in the mid-1990s while working for Affco.
• Met wife Jodi in 1998 and married in 1999.
• Spent six years in London before returning in 2005 after having their first daughter. Second daughter was born in 2008.
• Settled in Taipa to be close to grandparents.