In the main arena we were treated to a pork barrel act, some bridges too far and other memorable stunts.

What a madcap couple of months. The Northland byelection campaign has had all the infantile pranking, ill-discipline and personal baggage of an Auckland airport carousel at Maadi Cup time. Here, from memory, is a chronicle of the way it all unfolded.

T minus 57 days. A byelection is triggered by the resignation of Northland MP Mike Sabin, who stands down amid talk of personal issues and a police investigation, according to media reports heavily edited by lawyers. The Prime Minister, John Key, faces questions about when he knew things about stuff.

T minus 29 days. After weeks of eyelash-fluttering and in-depth consultation with the leader of the NZ First party, Winston Peters peels off his secret herbal face mask and announces his candidacy. Mr Peters' rivals dismiss the decision as "a stunt" and "just Winston", as tears of terror roll down their faces.

Northland candidate Winston Peters. Photo / Nick Reed
Northland candidate Winston Peters. Photo / Nick Reed

T minus 27 days.


Descending a rope ladder from a custom-painted Chinook, Mr Peters commando rolls into the Kerikeri farmers' market to announce that Northlanders must send a message to Wellington.

T minus 25 days. Labour leader Andrew Little says Mr Peters is in the "twilight" of his career, and urges voters to back the youthful Willow-Jean Prime. Mr Peters grins, momentarily blinding Mr Little with those perfect, centuries-old teeth.

T minus 24 days. Prime Minister and former World Cup-winning currency trader John Key announces that Mr Peters' chances of winning are "absolutely zero".

T minus 23 days. A poll shows Mr Peters in the lead. Mr Peters, who never comments on polls, says the poll shows Northlanders want to send a message to Wellington.

T minus 22 days. Labour candidate Willow-Jean Prime says she remains firmly in the race and is eagerly seeking Northlanders' votes.

T minus 20 days. Labour leader Andrew Little explains that it's not that they're going to stop people voting for Ms Prime, but that you can go a long way without coming first in any elections, as his personal record proves.

T minus 19 days. Footage emerges showing John Key struggling to hammer a nail into a Northland hoarding. Social media blows a gasket.

T minus 18 days. National candidate Mark Thingamee announces 10 bridge upgrades for Northland.


T minus 17 days. Perched atop the Cape Reinga lighthouse juggling several dozen power tools, Winston Peters condemns cheap, tacky and underhanded pork-barrel bribery from the Government. He says that as MP he will relocate to Northland three of Auckland's most valuable assets, the Port, Eden Park, and Winston Peters.

Northland candidate Mark Osborne. Photo / Nick Reed
Northland candidate Mark Osborne. Photo / Nick Reed

T minus 15 days.

John Key clarifies the bridges situation, stressing that Northland would get its bridges irrespective of the outcome of the byelection, adding that they wouldn't get the bridges if Winston won.

T minus 13 days. Steven Joyce sends several text messages to Wellington.

T minus 10 days. The National candidate for Northland, Steven Joyce, says that whether Mr Peters wins in Northland or not is of very little consequence and with respect he's not all that bothered.

T minus 9 days. The National candidate for Northland, Steven Joyce, says that victory for Mr Peters would cripple the Government and shake the very foundations of the New Zealand economy. He adds that he will not rest until every Northland child has a daily nutritious lunchbox full of broadband and bridges.

T minus 7 days. Labour candidate Andrew Little seeks to clarify his position on crap-cutting. While in a perfect world all the crap would be cut, we live in the real world, he explains, and sometimes it is necessary to leave a certain amount of crap uncut so that larger amounts of crap can be properly cut at a later date and ordinary New Zealanders understand that. As he disappears through a side door, Mr Little insists that what he can say without any equivocation is that no deal has been done with anyone. The devil is unavailable for comment.

T minus 5 days. National candidate Mr Joyce says he took a peep in the back of Winston's bus and he's pretty sure he saw four horses and a swarm of locusts so that's something for the people of Northland to think about when Mr Peters declares Northland a sovereign republic with an economy based on selling marijuana to vulnerable people.

T minus 4 days. Area man Mark Osborne urges National supporters to stay positive, noting that several members of his family have given an indication that they will consider voting for the popular community leader Steven Joyce.

T minus 3 days. Speaking from a golf course in Seoul where a lucrative free-trade agreement has just been agreed between South Korea and the province of Northland, John Key acknowledges that Mr Peters is on the cusp of something special and National is now the underdog. He explains that he has never used the words "absolutely zero", although what he will say is this: a vote for Winston will sink the trade deal and bring great happiness to Kim Dotcom.

T minus 2 days. Strolling serenely across the surface of the Kaipara Harbour, Mr Peters rolls off the names of all the bridges in the Southern Hemisphere, telling reporters that the haters are going to hate, hate, hate, and stressing that he is by contrast going to shake, shake, shake.

T minus 36 hours. Black Caps talisman, White Knight and National Northland candidate John Key roars into town via a newly built bridge linking Tokyo and Dargaville. Mr Key mesmerises the local people with an entreaty to keep building a strong New Zealand economy and a joke about potatoes. Analysts estimate that the potato joke alone could close the gap in the polls.

T minus zero (TBC/Duckworth Lewis). In a shock development, Labour emerges the winner, with a late surge to Prime in the wake of the decision to screen the World Cup Final free-to-air.