Bill English rolled out the big guns for his tour of Auckland's western suburbs.

At his side was Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, the National Party bus, and one of his six kids, Thomas.

"This is Thomas," English said when arriving at the Higher Ground drug addiction clinic in Te Atatu.

"He's not checking in."


English met some of the 50 patients on an 18-week recovery programme, most of whom were there for meth addiction. There is a four-month wait to get treatment, and English promised National would invest $10 million more a year to nearly double capacity around the country. That was part of a populist policy to crack down on gangs and drug dealers.

Prime Minister and National Party leader Bill English campaigning at Westfield Albany. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Prime Minister and National Party leader Bill English campaigning at Westfield Albany. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Across town, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was announcing a new policy to give renters more rights. Bennett ensured National's policy was not overshadowed, telling reporters that some criminals "had fewer human rights than others".

English hit his stride in the shopping malls, where an endless procession of selfies left little room for conversation or confrontation. Bennett, decked out in leopard print, was in her element, playing photographer and baby-recruiter for English.

"See - he's my rock-star," she said, as English's slow crawl through the crowd ground to a dead stop, camera phones clicking away.

Part of the day was spent at Hobsonville Point. It's a housing success story - a new city of modern, well-designed homes at reasonably affordable prices. There were some easy votes to be had at the farmers market by the seaside.

"Can I take a photo with you?" one woman asked English.

"Of course," he said.

"Well, that's it, you've got my vote," she replied.


But there is no such thing as an easy day for a Prime Minister.

At the market, he was confronted by Melvin Vong Prem and Steven Palmer.

Palmer's brother Brendan's body is lying in the Pike River mine on the West Coast, 1100km away.

"His body is still there," Vong Prem said.

"It's been a long time. Nearly seven years. They have a plan but it's so vague."

Dallas Byronwood, 17, asked what English was doing for the homeless and to help using people into housing. English told him that hundreds of thousands of houses were being built.

Photo / Jason Oxenham
Photo / Jason Oxenham

"If I don't see it I'll come back up to your office and tell you," he said.

Kiri Hider then bailed English up about National's water quality standards. Her son has a form of brain tumour which makes him highly susceptible to disease if he swims in unclean waterways. The new standards would not ensure his safety, she told him.

That left English explaining the Government's notoriously complicated clean rivers standard for five minutes in the middle of a queue for paua fritters. He struggled to be heard over the din of a busker playing Fleetwood Mac's "Second Hand News".

Bennett eventually intervened, suggesting they all move on to the croissants and pecan pie store.

Photo / Jason Oxenham
Photo / Jason Oxenham