It came as something of a shock to get off the plane after a week in New York to hear calls for a state of emergency to be declared in safe little old New Zealand.

In the United States the news channels were screening the unfolding saga of Ryan Lochte and the floods in Baton Rouge. The Security Council was being told of the "apex of horror" that was Aleppo as it was bombed by Syrian and Russian forces, and the Syrian ambassador was insisting Syria was not harming its own citizens and was instead tenderly nurturing them.

In New Zealand the news included the mysterious disappearance of 500 cows, a model of Richie McCaw that did not look like Richie McCaw and shops being allowed to open on Easter Sunday, maybe.

National was blaming Labour and Labour was blaming National for everything from rising burglary numbers to contaminated water in Havelock North. Key was washing his car in his gumboots and writing open letters to the Indian and Chinese communities to reassure them he was concerned about burglaries.


Even the state of emergency being called for turned out to be little more than a common cooking mistake by Labour, which had over-egged its omelette in pushing home its advantage over National on housing.

That had resulted in the rather over-wrought demand the Government should declare a state of emergency over housing.

The most dramatic news was NZ First leader Winston Peters and Prime Minister John Key agreeing on something, even if they did not know it.

That was over the fate of a new "People's Party" aiming at Indian and other Asian voters. Neither thought it had a chance and both believed those ethnicities were better represented within the ranks of broader parties.

Labour leader Andrew Little probably would have said the same, but given even NZ First has more Indian and Asian MPs than Labour or the Greens (which have none to NZ First's one) he daren't risk it.

Instead he said National's failure to keep a lid on burglaries was to blame for the rise of the People's Party - evidenced by that same letter Key had written to the ethnic media about crime.

In the US, the election campaign had distilled into a daily diet of Hillary Clinton's emails, Hillary Clinton's reluctance to hold a press conference, Donald Trump's immigration policy and calling each other rude names.

One American sitting next to me on a plane wondered what the rest of the world must think as the playground tantrums ground on and on.

So it was refreshing to watch the desultory beginnings of New Zealand's own election campaign.

It was the eve of Spring and Key was in Hutt South learning to make pies.

It is still a year out from the election but National's candidate Chris Bishop is hopeful of stealing the seat from Labour for the first time. Long-standing MP Trevor Mallard had opted not to stand in the seat again. Key had sniffed blood and went out to drive home the advantage.

It was a fattening experience. First Key ate salami and cheese at La Bella Italia and was plied with bags of pasta and a massive salami to take away. Then it was up to Pak'nSave in Petone, home of several award winning pies.

Key spent a good 15 minutes learning to make pies. He slapped handfuls of mince into pastry shells, worried he was not putting enough in and the good pie eaters of Petone would accuse National of short changing them. He sprinkled on cheese and rolled on pastry lids, declaring it "quite therapeutic".

Then he ate the wares, getting through half a steak and cheese and half a potato top. He ate with his pinky finger sticking out. Somebody asked what the potato top was made of and the baker answered it was made of potato.

Welcome to the visceral world of campaigns in New Zealand.