Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has knocked off the first official mall walkabout of the campaign, beginning with a rookie mistake but ending with votes in the bag.

Ardern strode into the Plaza at Palmerston North for what was supposed to be lunch with the local Labour team. She never made it to the table.

She began with a first-timer's mistake - not realising the two women patiently waiting at the mall entry smiling hopefully at her actually wanted to meet her. Summonsed back, she apologised profusely, chatted and moved on.

After that people didn't bother holding back.


Only a fool would believe a walkabout poll. But in 2014, Prime Minister John Key was mobbed on his walkabouts while poor old Labour leader David Cunliffe hurtled around empty malls frantically looking for someone to have a selfie with him.

Ardern was almost at the Key end of the scale. People flocked for a look and a word. One man asked if he could hug her - she replied "of course, you don't need to ask."

Asked what they thought afterward, they said "breath of fresh air."

Many were already Labour voters. But a sign of the impact Ardern has had came with Adam Claydon who was at the mall with father Roger Claydon.

Adam told Ardern he was voting Labour for the first time in his life because of her.

Asked later who he usually supported, Claydon said it was NZ First. "But I've always like Jacinda. I was wanting her to become leader."

Ardern might not have had her own lunch - but at least she got to cut some of Winston Peters'.