People have been known to pay hundreds of dollars for some face time with Finance Minister Grant Robertson, but last Sunday the citizens of Karori could have it for free on Sunshine St.
Robertson re-started his Wellington Central campaign with the old-school "street corner meetings" – simply standing on a street corner yakking to the locals.
The only difference this time round was that the locals were asked to stand at least 2 metres away to abide by the Covid-19 level 2 distancing rules.
Those restrictions mean street corners are one of the relatively few old-school campaign tools that can still operate in the 2020 campaign.
Political parties have had to abandon big public rallies, and even door-knocking is suspended.
The limited flight schedules at level 2 have also restricted the ability to travel as easily.
Campaign advisories now come with a standard clause stating physical distancing must be maintained, and face masks are encouraged.
Both National and Labour will need to rely more on social media as a result – but the street corner meetings are still valuable in local electorates. After all, if you want to get the votes, it pays to be seen to be putting in the effort.
Yet the campaign goes on as Labour leader Jacinda Ardern strives to get its second term, National leader Judith Collins tries to claw back lost ground in the polls, and the smaller parties struggle to stay afloat at all.
The NZ Herald looked at the key people of National and Labour's campaign teams, and the tactics being used to get the votes in this most unusual of campaigns.
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National's mission is to show they are ready to govern again, despite the string of dramas that beset the party – including three different leaders since March.
It hopes to secure the return of those voters that stuck with National from 2008 to 2020 but switched to Labour over the Covid-19 months.
Leader Judith Collins has sought to show National is still in tune with the concerns of voters by releasing a string of policies from new roads and school building programmes to law and order policy to crack down on gangs and the methamphetamine trade.
National's biggest asset is its record when last in Government – but the exodus of senior MPs and leadership stability has somewhat dented its record of stability and experience.
Early in the campaign, Collins has started trying to sow doubts about the prospects of a Labour-Green Government. That included saying Labour's mild tax policy was a "stalking horse" to leave room for the Green Party's more extreme tax policy.
The campaign trail:
A day on the National Party campaign starts with a conference by phone or Zoom at about 7am to talk through the strategy for the day ahead.
That meeting usually includes Collins, campaign chair Gerry Brownlee, campaign director Tim Hurdle, and MPs Todd McClay and Paul Goldsmith as well as Collins' chief of staff Megan Campbell. Health spokesman Shane Reti is also taking a prominent role, because of the Covid-19 policy areas.
Collins then heads off for the day's visits – sometimes speeches, or visits to local businesses. In between, both Ardern and Collins will squeeze in private meetings with party volunteers and fundraising events – although the Covid-19 restrictions have made fundraising dinners difficult.
Collins travels with a press secretary, and a staffer who films and puts up social media. She also has Police security detail for the campaign – it is one of the few times the Leader of the Opposition gets it.
National is now releasing policy announcements at least every couple of days: some are national, some are regional in focus such as transport announcements.
The team behind the leader:
Campaign chair Gerry Brownlee
: Brownlee and finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith are Collins' Most Valuable Players – especially in an election so focused on the economy.
Brownlee took on the role from Paula Bennett after Todd Muller rolled Simon Bridges. Brownlee can be prickly but is experienced, knows the National Party inside out and is not afraid to butt heads together when required.
Campaign director Tim Hurdle : Hurdle worked for National Party ministers in the past – including Lockwood Smith in the 1990s and Gerry Brownlee from 2009 to 2013.
Has worked on several National Party campaigns both nationally and for candidates including as Nikki Kaye's campaign manager in Auckland Central in 2007 and Nicola Willis in 2017 in Wellington Central.
Hurdle is politically savvy and was Crosby Textor's New Zealand agent until February this year.
Crosby Textor, a sometimes controversial Australian-based company which has worked on campaigns in several countries, is not involved in this campaign.
Chief press secretary Janet Wilson: Broadcasting veteran and media trainer Wilson and her deputy, former journalist Michael Forbes, do most of the campaign travel with Collins.
Wilson also does the coaching for the televised debates, with help from husband Bill Ralston. The pair previously prepped former leaders John Key and Bill English for debates.
MP Nicola Willis is again being used to fill in as "Jacinda" in the practice debates, having acted as Helen Clark and Ardern in the past.
Wilson worked as an external media trainer to both former PM Sir John Key and Sir Bill English, as well as several National Party MPs and candidates.
She moved into the chief press secretary role when Todd Muller took over the leadership, and stayed on under Collins.
Party president Peter Goodfellow: National is served again by longstanding party president Peter Goodfellow and general secretary Greg Hamilton. It has been a more fraught campaign than usual, partly because of the need to re-open selections in three electorates: Rangitata, Clutha-Southland and Auckland Central. The party hierarchy are charged with matters such as candidate selections and fundraising – a job that is much easier to do in Opposition.
Labour's goal is to lock in the gains it has made in the polls since March when Covid-19 starting biting in New Zealand.
That saw a massive shift in the polls, rocketing Labour up from the low 40s into the 50s and National from the 40s down to the 20s.
If 2017 was a campaign on transformation, in 2020 it is playing it safe. Its aim is to give those voters no reason to revert to National. Its meek tax policy, a new tax rate on income of more than $180,000, is an example.
In 2017, Labour's goal was simply to get more MPs into Parliament than its 24 per cent result of 2014 had left it with.
This time round, the strategy is to try to get there without needing other parties to govern.
It is centering its campaign strongly on Ardern's leadership – its biggest asset.
A campaign day:
As with Collins, Ardern's days start with a strategy meeting. It usually includes Ardern, deputy leader Kelvin Davis, Robertson, and campaign chair Megan Woods.
They talk through the plan for the day, any announcements that are coming, and anything else that might come up.
Then Ardern heads off, usually going to two or three venues a day. She travels by a van with her staff, working as she goes and occasionally posting about life on the trail on social media.
Last week, that included a photo of the peanut butter on toast her mother had given her for breakfast on the go: Ardern based herself at her parents' in Morrinsville and fanned out to the surrounding centres from there – allowing her to get back to baby Neve each night.
The team behind the leader:
THE MVP: Finance spokesman Grant Robertson
: Ardern's not-so-secret weapon.
Labour's polling has shown high trust in Robertson, so he too is taking a central part in the campaign front window.
While Ardern maintains her "relentlessly positive" creed, somebody has to do the shin-kicking and that is Robertson's job.
Robertson is seeking to portray the National Party as "chaotic" after its successive leadership changes, and criticised it for its costings and pledge to pay debt back faster than Labour - questioning the extent it will rely on cuts to public spending.
It is intended to persuade voters that National is not placed to form a Government again – and to contrast Labour's comparative stability and focus on the economic recovery.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins is also prominent in Labour's campaign - but he is also charged with handling the Covid-19 response back at the Beehive while Ardern campaigns.
Campaign chair, MP and Minister Megan Woods : Her first stint heading the Labour campaign, Woods had her first lessons in campaigning under former Alliance leader, the late Jim Anderton. Came into Parliament for Labour in Wigram in 2011. Highly regarded by Ardern. Amiable and efficient.
Campaign manager Hayden Munro
: Worked on Woods' first campaign in Wigram in 2011, did a stint with Labour when it was in Opposition, and worked for former Wellington mayor Justin Lester before returning to Parliament after the 2017 election to work as press secretary for Woods.
Chief press secretary Andrew Campbell : Travels with Ardern most of the time, helping on speech writing, media wrangling and debate training. Former political journalist Linda Clark is also helping with Ardern's debate preparation again.
Campbell was former chief of staff to the Green Party, and started working with Ardern soon after she became Prime Minister.
Labour Party president Clare Szabo
: It is the first election campaign for Szabo. She is backed by acting general secretary Rob Salmond. Salmond was part of Labour's last two campaigns, developing a system to target potential voters through the use of data.
OTHER CAMPAIGN ELEMENTS
Battle of the books - the finance spokesmen:
Policy costings can be a controversial part of a campaign: National repeatedly ran amok with Labour's costings. In 2011 John Key used his "show me the money" line and in 2017, Steven Joyce came up with claims of a "fiscal hole" in Labour's books.
Now the shoe is on the other foot: Robertson is criticising National for putting out either uncosted or partially costed policies such as its transport plan, and claiming it will have to gut the public services to pay back debt.
National's finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith has accused Robertson of "misinformation".
National is using the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research to run an eye over its fiscal calculations and will release those after the Pre Election Fiscal Update on September 16.
For Labour, the advantage of being in Government is Treasury has calculated the forecast costs of programmes which are already on the Government's agenda.
However, Treasury cannot be used to cost new policies being put up by a party.
Labour will also be using an external economist to run the rule over their costings– this time Infometrics' Brad Olsen is taking on that role.
In 2017 Labour used BERL to check its policy costings.
The rise of Jacinda Ardern in 2017 and the fall of Simon Bridges in May this year shows polls can make or break leaders.
But in a campaign, polling is also key to develop policies and messages that will resonate with the public.
Focus groups – in which small groups of people are interviewed - probe into the "why" of the basic polling data: to nut out why people are reacting a certain way.
Both parties did work well in advance to help fine-tune policies, and work out which audiences they would appeal to.
National's pollster is David Farrar, at Curia, while Labour uses David Talbot, from UMR.
UMR also polls for commercial clients on a monthly basis – poll results that inevitably end up in the media so separate polls are done for Labour itself.
'Black ops' or due diligence? The 'fact checkers' and researchers:
Both parties have research units – sometimes portrayed by opponents as "black ops" units charged with dirt digging on their opponents.
Both Ardern and Collins have said they directed staff not to engage in dirt-digging into private lives this campaign.
As well as researching their own parties' policies, the researchers do check out the rivals' policy claims and fact-check their statements, feeding relevant information up to the campaign team.
They also monitor social media and mainstream media to alert the bosses of any developing problems or rogue candidates.
Social media has meant dirt-digging and personal attacks can be left to the supporters outside the party without the party getting anywhere near it – or at least at a sufficient distance to claim innocence.
Examples include negative "memes" from both sides of politics depicting Jacinda Ardern or Judith Collins in a bad light, such as those shared by Collins' husband David Wong Tung.
In terms of picking their poison, both leaders prioritise Facebook over other social media platforms.
NZ First is getting some help from the digital pros behind the Brexit campaign – Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore – for their social media campaign. The extent of that help remains unclear, but some well- produced clips of Winston Peters on the campaign trail have been coming out.
However, National and Labour are using in-house staff to manage their social media material.
National's social media maestros Sean Topham and Ben Guerin are not involved this year.
One National Party insider only semi-jokingly said the party would no longer be able to afford them anyway: Topham and Guerin are now in the UK at the tail end of a $6 million contract with the British Government on Covid-19 messaging.
In terms of followers, Ardern had a headstart over Collins who took over as leader only two months ago.
About 56,000 people "like" Collin's Facebook page, and she has 59,000 followers.
That is nothing compared to Ardern's 1.7 million followers and 1.4 million likes.
Facebook's ad data analysed by Newsroom shows National spent about $90,000 on Facebook boosting and advertising since July, of which about $30,000 was on Collins' page.
Labour had spent nothing. But that is likely to change, especially as the early voting period nears.
In 2017, Labour declared spending of $174,600 on Facebook advertising, and a further $195,000 on Google and YouTube advertising.
The leaders also use Instagram and Twitter, but less so than Facebook.
The ad agencies:
The first television ads will start rolling on Sunday night.
Both Labour's and National's feature the leaders talking straight into the camera.
Ardern's is a re-hit of the televised "address to the nation" she did in March – she is sitting at a desk (but not in the PM's office) and talking straight to the viewers about the Covid-19 recovery. A portrait of Michael Joseph Savage is in the background.
Collins' is more minimalistic, featuring Collins in front of a plain, dark blue background talking about the challenges ahead and National's planks of the economy and jobs.
National is using Dentsu Aegis, a large global advertising company. It is a break from the past – National used ad director Glenn Jameson for the Key-era campaigns.
Labour is using boutique ad agency Augusto for its ad production and Hunch for some work. Both were also involved in the 2017 campaign.