They're under 35, from minor parties and they're campaigning for the party vote in Rotorua. But that's about all they have in common. Felix Desmarais met up at Terrace Kitchen with the Act Party's Pete Kirkwood and the Greens' Kaya Sparke to talk firedancing, food trucks, and whether or not tax is love.
Kaya Sparke - of the Greens - and Pete Kirkwood - Act - are candidates running in the Rotorua electorate, but they don't want you to vote for them. They're gunning for the party vote for their respective parties.
Some may recognise Sparke from a bid for council in 2019, but Kirkwood is a bit of a new face in Rotorua - he lives in Pāpāmoa.
Sparke, 24, was born and raised in Rotorua. She runs a food truck called Vegan Eats. She's 19 on the Greens list.
"It's a lot of work but it's fun," she says.
Kirkwood is a small business owner - he coaches men how to communicate with women.
"I grew up in a household where I saw that poor communication between the adults and just the pain that constantly caused."
He's 32 - "I'm ancient now" - and number 40 on Act's list. Both candidates say when not running their businesses or campaigning, they're big on fitness - for Sparke, it's boxing - a perhaps surprising interest for a member of the party of non-violence, although perhaps punching bags don't count.
Kirkwood practises calisthenics.
"Also, I'm a big fan of firedancing. I've got a fire staff and you light up the end of it and spin it around and try really hard not to burn yourself."
Sparke says she has been long exposed to politics through her family.
"We always talked about the different parties and who was running and what was happening.
"People were like, you're really good at arguing, you should be a politician."
She's been a Green member since 2014. "I've always been a big supporter and a volunteer."
Political engagement is much newer to Kirkwood.
"I thought politics was a realm of 'just don't worry about it, you're never going to make a change that's meaningful. So why bother?'
"We were in the middle of lockdown, and ... I saw [Act Party leader] David Seymour stand up and actually argue very sensible articulate points and I went, is that an honest politician?
"I think if more people around the country knew about the Act Party, what they stand for and the solutions they offer, we could get some serious positive change in this country."
Kirkwood said Seymour was "talking about having an open debate" on the response to Covid-19.
"A lot of the rhetoric that the Government said is that we have this option to lock ourselves in tightly, borrow a lot of money, hunker down for the storm, and economically go broke to survive [or] open up every single border to the entire rest of the world, let the virus in and we all get in danger and everyone ends up dead.
"Why can't we have a middle ground?"
Sparke says the Government had to make "fast decisions for the life and death of our country".
"I do think it was the correct decision to make. I don't think that there was enough time ... to find that middle ground, and I think that's what we're trying to do now."
Kirkwood says it was the public that "stayed home and did a good job".
"Ten per cent of hospitality businesses did not open again at the end of lockdown.
"The economy is actually about the people who live in this country and the business owners who are losing their livelihoods."
He says the election needs to be about more than Covid-19, and Sparke agrees:
"We do need to see more policy from all of the parties. That has been a real lack in this election, and I think it's quite embarrassing."
Kirkwood points to an Act Party policy that would see top civil servants take a 20 per cent pay cut.
Sparke asks Kirkwood why Act wouldn't do that through taxation, and Kirkwood says it would disincentivise people to "achieve in life".
But the Green Party candidate is not having it.
"The money being taken away from you is going back into the community to provide a safer, better place for you to live and work and for your family to be raised.
"The better off the people who are doing worse in our community are, [the better off] everybody does."
Kirkwood asks if handing those worst off in society more money from people doing better-off would solve the problem.
Sparke says there is enough wealth to go around.
"We're not 'handing out' money to people who are doing worse, we're supporting them so that they can get to a place in life where they don't need to be supported anymore. Not just through welfare - you have to have a wraparound solution."
Kirkwood says welfare becomes a "lifestyle choice for many", though he's careful to note not for all.
"But taking money off the people who've succeeded to give it to that system isn't the answer. Taxation is not love."
He's referencing a line from Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, following her party's policy launch in July, and Sparke is swift to pick it up.
"That's a really bad way of framing it," she says.
"I would most definitely disagree, tax is love, through and through."
"Wow," comes the under-breath response from Kirkwood.
"There's so many other mitigating factors that make people dependent on welfare," Sparke says.
"One of them - a huge one - is colonisation."
Kirkwood asks how colonisation affects "people's ability to create their own life".
Sparke says, "If your land, your language, your culture, your entire way of living was taken away from you that has follow-on effects for hundreds of years."
Kirkwood says it's happened to many of his ancestors, but it hasn't stopped them going on to "live a life of their choice".
Sparke says he's being selective.
"I could be a case of that. But that's just selecting the one in many - you need to be helping the many, not saying 'this one person did it so we should expect that from everyone'."
The volley continues, as Kirkwood says the Greens' calls for higher benefits sends the message that it's easier to not work hard and succeed, but stay on the benefit.
But Sparke says no one "really wants to live on a benefit".
"It's not enough to pay your rent, to buy your groceries, to feed your kids - by far, not enough."
Kirkwood says he knows "single mums earning $700 a week" on the benefit.
"They have zero incentive to go to work. They get paid for their child to go to childcare to give them free time by the government, they get paid to stay home, they get paid to live a life of luxury."
We pivot to housing, a hot topic for Millennials like Kirkwood, Sparke and me.
Sparke says she doesn't think private home ownership is sustainable, nor the way of the future.
"[In Germany they] have public housing communities where your rent is a certain percentage of your income.
"No matter where you're working, what you're doing, you can afford to continue living in this home.
"It means that you don't have to move constantly, it means you have so [many] more rights as a tenant than you would here. You can paint, you can put pictures up, you can make it feel like a home, you have long-term leasing."
Kirkwood says lots of "average person" landlords "are quite happy for [tenants] to paint or do anything around the property".
Sparke disagrees with the idea that most landlords allow tenants to modify their properties or have close relationships with their tenants.
Further, she doesn't think those relationships are necessary when lease agreements allow for more freedoms for renters.
Kirkwood says those things should be the norm, but Sparke says one could say that "or you could say that we should provide public housing for everyone so that's not even an issue anymore".
Kirkwood says private home ownership has a better track record than the Government's with public housing.
Sparke sees her moment.
"Yeah, absolutely, and that's why people need to party vote Green so you can get innovative housing policies in government."
A good segue, I say. Why should the people of Rotorua party vote Act, or party vote Green?
On a roll, Sparke responds first.
"People should party vote Green because we are the only party that actually acknowledges that intercept of social justice and climate justice and that the two ends are interlinked so you can't have one without the other.
"You can expect a party that has a track record of sticking to our values. We don't stray. We don't work with anyone for power. We will do what is right."
Kirkwood says he hasn't seen that.
"Which has turned me away from the Greens - because I used to believe in them."
He says David Seymour embodies that value system.
"Another six, seven, eight Act MPs is going to enable Act to hold the government accountable because they're the real opposition in government."
Could the Greens and Act ever work together?
Sparke says she agreed with some of Act's policies but there were too many differences to allow the parties to work together.
It's an agreement on disagreement:
Kirkwood says the ideologies and principles of the Green Party are "very noble" but their policies don't solve the problems.
"Their policies that line up with those, I don't think they actually attack or solve the [problems]. I don't think Act could work with the Greens in their current form."
Photographer Ben and I begin to pack up to leave, but Sparke and Kirkwood seem to linger. Despite the gulf of difference of political opinion, they appear to have enjoyed themselves immensely.
They even pose for a selfie outside the cafe afterwards.
Quick fire hot topics
Black lives matter:
Sparke: Absolutely. One hundred per cent for it.
Kirkwood: I believe Black lives matter, I believe white lives matter. I believe yellow lives matter, I believe every coloured life matters. I believe all lives matter, and it's been politicised for the democratic left.
Are you a feminist?
Kirkwood: Absolutely not. I believe that men have unique qualities given to them and women have unique qualities given to them as well, and if we treat them as equal, then we use the uniqueness of both sexes.
LGBTQIA + rights
Sparke: Hell yeah. We need a Rainbow Minister.
Kirkwood: Everyone in life - personal freedom, personal responsibility. It's their life to live as they choose, 100 per cent.
Abortion law reform:
Sparke: I am in full support of it. Abortion care is healthcare and people need to stop convoluting the issue with outrage and controversy.
Kirkwood: It is about putting people first. It's about healthcare.
Sparke: Yes. Legalise and regulate.
Kirkwood: Drugs should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue.
End of Life choice:
Sparke: I think that there are some provisions that need to be made on the bill, and I think they should have been more consultation with disability communities and Maori communities, but I'll be voting yes.
Kirkwood: It's Act's biggest flagship policy. Just being able to provide people that choice and that dignity. It's exactly like abortion, why shouldn't people be able to have that choice?