Jacinda Ardern's day of campaigning in Gisborne has been upset by someone far more youth adjacent than the Labour leader.

Labour's East Coast candidate Kiri Allan was meant to accompany Ardern around town and host a Facebook live event with her tonight.

She stood her leader up at the last minute, although Ardern accepted the excuse - telling a rally of supporters at Eastern Institute of Technology that Allan's wife was in labour (and still is at time of writing).

"I have to say that I really love the bolshiness that her newborn has shown," Ardern said. "She is already showing me who is boss."


Ardern grew up in the Waikato and now lives in Mt Albert but told the audience Gisborne felt like her turangawaewae.

"My partner, Clarke Gayford, grew up here. He proudly proclaims to be a Gizzy boy. And I notice that he reminds people of that a lot when we are in Auckland.

"Whenever I come here - even if it is in the middle of the campaign trail - there is something calming about this part of New Zealand...it feels like I'm home."

That will extend to a rare home-cooked dinner at her in-laws, although tonight's visit is as much media as social - Ardern will record a Facebook live session from the house, taking and answering viewers' questions.

Ardern meets Quinn Sidney at Eastern Institute of Technology in Gisborne.
Ardern meets Quinn Sidney at Eastern Institute of Technology in Gisborne.

The itinerary today and tomorrow is focussed on promoting her party's new policy to increase student allowances and offer one year of free post-school study or training from next year (with a full three years phased in by 2024).

She announced the policy at Western Springs College in her Mt Albert electorate, and pointed out the last time she was at the school was to participate in a debate organised by its feminist club.

After taking a couple of questions she scanned the raised hands and asked, "any girls want to ask one?" Before reluctantly accepting one from another male student.

That same approach was evident later in Gisborne when she toured the EIT engineering school workshop.


The first-year students hung back in shyness, and the ones Ardern picked out were the few female students - suggesting to Quinn Sidney, 18, that she goes back to her old school to talk to other women about her experience studying engineering.

Media crowded in to get a shot of Ardern when she talked to Meri Rauna, an automotive students working on a huge engine, and Ardern apologised for the strangeness of the experience.

Ardern was duly mobbed by supporters after the rally at EIT, but the Jacinda effect has its limits - Rauna told the Herald she knew Ardern was with Labour but didn't realise she was leader.

Asked what he thought of Ardern, another engineering student said simply, "I don't know her". Will he vote for Labour? "We'll see."

Bringing free tertiary education forward and boosting student allowances is aimed at exactly such voters.

Ardern has another school visit tomorrow, and the party evidently knows it has a job to do to publicise its flagship education policy.

At Western Springs College, Ardern asked the hundreds of Year 12 and 13 students who had heard about the free tertiary policy, first announced in January last year.

She nodded when only a few hands went up.