There's a sharp southwesterly blasting into Auckland's rugged west coast. It skirts the face of Lion Rock and then sweeps down the beach, grooming Piha's black, iron-rich sand as it blows.
It's early on a Sunday morning and the beach is empty. The on-shore wind is flattening the swell, moving sandbanks and churning up the surf break.
Russel Norman, the Green Party co-leader, has arrived at the surf club. He's wearing a suit. Later, in bare feet, he'll make his way to the water's edge and watch the frothy wake of the Tasman Sea as it surges on to the beach.
Inside, Norman waits to be introduced by local woman Fiona Anderson. She is on the microphone, warming up the crowd.
"They snuck that one through, didn't they?" she says, referring to the redrawn electoral boundaries that lumped Piha into John Key's Helensville electorate.
"Where is John Key now?" she says. "We haven't bloody seen him. He'd rather surf in Hawaii than come to Piha. And he's the flipping Tourism Minister!"
The crowd laughs.
The Piha community is an eclectic mix. Old money, bach owners, surfers, professionals, stoners, business owners, retirees and a scattering of old-school hippies. Today's audience is overwhelmingly female. The standard of dress is smart. Outside, in the carpark, a new Mercedes Benz is glistening in the early morning sun. The audience is middle-aged and middle class.
I ask one woman why she's here. She says she's never voted Green, but is warming to the party. "I think they're ethical. I think they've acted with good integrity this term."
She makes a fair point. The Government's second term has been peppered with ministerial scandals involving the likes of Judith Collins, Maurice Williamson, Murray McCully and John Banks. And the claims made in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book of American-style attack politics has left National bruised, embarrassed and at the mercy of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.
Central to Labour's issues has been the party's leadership. David Cunliffe may be finding his feet like a newborn foal but he's fended off questions for months about his suitability for the role.
The Green Party, meanwhile, has boxed on with its core themes of child poverty and environmentally sustainable growth. Or, as a colleague of mine suggested " ... the Greens have just got on with their knitting really".
The party's co-leadership is working like a comfortable, long-standing marriage. Metiria Turei's focus is on social policy. She's quick-witted, articulate and charismatic.
Norman is the straighter of the two. His lanky frame appears swamped at times in his well-cut suits, and he's most at home discussing economics and finance. He and Turei meet in the middle on environmental issues and somehow they've made their relationship work.
It seems that years of clean politicking and hard work are paying off for the Greens, and they have emerged a strong and credible opposition party.
One woman who has always voted National says she's economically conservative, but has become more environmentally and socially liberal as she's grown older.
She believes women are behind the Greens' spike in popularity.
"Men tend to vote for what's right for their wallet, while women are less concerned about short-term financial gain and even more so if it comes at the expense of the next generation, or the environment."
I ask her if she'll vote National again.
"I'm not sure. I really don't know. The Greens may be a bit too fiscally left for me at the moment."
Norman is at the lectern. He says his party will protect the country's beaches by abolishing all deep-sea oil drilling.
"The deeper you go, the bigger the risk," he says. "And the deeper you go, the bigger the mess."
He is preaching to the converted. Few here want to see a deep-sea oil rig off the country's west coast.
Up on stage, Anderson takes the microphone off Norman.
"I dunno about you, but it's pretty clear to me in this election," she tells the audience.
The meeting is wrapping up. A friend texts. She wants to know what my plans are. I say I'm just leaving a Greens' policy launch.
"Oh my God!" she replies. "Greenies! Are you drinking herbal tea and eating tofu?"
I smile. It seems old stereotypes die hard.
• Rachel Smalley hosts Early Edition on NewstalkZB and contributes to TVNZ's Q+A and Sunday programmes.
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