The fight by the National Party to regain Northland from NZ First leader Winston Peters saw a tit-for-tat over promises made and kept at a candidates' meeting this afternoon.

National candidate Matt King attempted to show Northland how much the party now cared - and Winston Peters told everyone that simply wasn't true.

With a week to go, Peters is fighting to retain his hold on the seat secured in the 2015 byelection which saw government ministers touring the region with promises of investment.

Chief among those was the promise to replace 10 one-way bridges with double-lane bridges - an infamous pledge which has dogged the government since it was made.


"I get asked everywhere I go, where are those 10 bridges?" King told about 200 people at the Frontline Christian Church in Kerikeri. "Three of them start this summer and (the bridge at) Kaeo will follow."

King rattled through 13 new cell towers, $14m spent on Northland College, $10m on the Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa and a motorway from Auckland to Whangarei in the works.

And there were other investments - ultrafast broadband, 19 per cent more police which was beyond the 10 per cent national increase.

"We as National have got to do better in Northland," he said. "I want to tell you that the message has been received loud and clear in Wellington."

Peters was having none of it. "They had forgotten you. All of a sudden since March 2015, they discovered you like Columbus discovered America - purely by accident."

Taking a place at the microphone after King, who stands much taller, someone called out: "Give him a box to stand on."

Peters shot back: "Where I come from, my friend, they measure a man from the neck up."

The veteran's rollicking evangelical style of campaigning fit well in a church setting, with Peters quoting scripture to the crowd: "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle.


"It's all on the line in this campaign as to what Northland gets and indeed the regions, who have been marginalised, Cinderella-ised and forgotten are going to get when the election is all over."

Where King focused of the bridges that were being built, Peters called out the names of those which were not in planning stages - including the Darby and Joan Bridge which could not be built.

Rather than a bridge, it emerged after National's 2015 announcement that it was a ramp built to protect the roots of kauri tree over which the road passed. "That's how little they knew about Northland."

Peters said "you can't see one metre of" the new highway plans to Whangarei while Northland roads needed serious repair.

"But they will never forget you if you make a statement at this election which says, 'we want these promises kept, we want Northland to get what it is entitled to'."

While National and NZ First picked up 94 per cent of the vote between them at the 2015 byelection, the candidates' meeting also heard from Peter Hughes from the Green Party, Willow-Jean Prime from Labour and Maki Herbert, the Te Tai Tokerau candidate from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.

Labour's Northland candidate Willow-Jean Prime has been campaigning with baby-on-board after giving birth to Heeni Hirere-June Te Kare o Nga Wai Prime. Photo/David Fisher
Labour's Northland candidate Willow-Jean Prime has been campaigning with baby-on-board after giving birth to Heeni Hirere-June Te Kare o Nga Wai Prime. Photo/David Fisher

The meeting was opened by pastor Geoff Wiklund who told the candidates the church had concerns over. Among them was abortion - he said he spoke for every baby aborted - and smacking.

"Smacking is not violence, it is correction. I would like a politician to come up so I can demonstrate the difference between smacking and correction."

Prime stood and looked at Wiklund, who withdrew his invitation, saying: "I can't hit a lady."

It was unclear whether it was smacking or correction he had initially offered as political guidance.

The meeting closed with a laying of hands on politicians and prayers of support.