A day on the campaign with Jacinda Ardern

A day on the campaign with Jacinda Ardern
Photo credit: Newshub

Jacinda Ardern took her seat in the front row of the Air Chathams plane, destined for Whanganui. It just so happens to be the seat right in front of me.

"Don't worry guys," she turns around and says to the plane. "I've got this."

The flight attendant laughs.

"Let's do this," she says.

Let's bloody not do this, I think. "This" meaning crashing.

During the flight, Ms Ardern is reading some documents. "Leader of the Opposition Briefing Notes" is written across the top. I'm tempted to lean over and get the scoop, but the DPS man next to me deters the urge.

We land, and we hit the road. First stop is an interview with the local rag, the Wanganui Chronicle. I only know this because I see the Crown car is parked outside during my mission to get a coffee.

It's on to Wanganui City College next, where she gets a great pōwhiri from the students. After a few speeches, she opens it up for questions. Kids ask the best questions.

"Would you send that red robot into Pike River? The one Bill English has known about for months?" asks one pupil.

Ms Ardern doesn't know what he's talking about. She didn't catch Newshub on Sunday night.

"Do you hope to be Prime Minister one day?" asks another student. "Hopefully I'll be the Prime Minister in five days," she replies.

"Why did you choose Labour?" pipes up another student. I can't remember her answer. She probably quoted Norman Kirk. She quotes Kirk at every public speech I've been to. And the next stop was no exception.

She walks to Majestic Square instead of taking the Crown car. There is a massive crowd waiting for her, with a band playing on the stage.

For about an hour she is swamped with locals. You'd be forgiven for thinking it's one of Winston Peters' rallies; the supporters are of an older variety.

It's more of an Elderly Quake, instead of the typical Youth Quake.

A day on the campaign with Jacinda Ardern
Photo credit: Newshub

Annette King is with Ms Ardern, she's known as "Aunty". One of the locals says to her: "I'm sad to see you go and sad to hear you've run out of miles on the clock."

Ms King curtly replies, "I've got plenty of miles left on the clock, thank you."

Ms Ardern gets up on stage, and talks about the regions, fixing the local roads, supporting families and brings up Mr Kirk. Again.

"People don't want much. They just want somewhere to live, something to do, someone to love and something to hope for," she says.

We have a media conference. She's grilled on the Morrinsville protest, water tax, the Greens' robo-poll in Nelson, the broken oil pipeline and dairy farms again.

After more locals share their problems with her, it's on to the local RSA for lunch. This is the second Razza on the campaign trail I've been to with Ms Ardern. This one is much less boozy than Kaitaia. It is only lunchtime though.

This is the highlight of the day. There are TWO fish pies to choose from at the buffet. One is a basic fish pie, the other is a fancy fish pie, with smoked fish and piped potato mash on top. They are both delicious. Someone get me the recipe.

We hit the road again, this time heading toward the river. We pull up outside Q West Boats, don some safety glasses and walk around.

Inside the massive shed is a catamaran under construction, all silver and shimmery. There is also a Whale Watch boat, Paihea, having a bit of a spruce-up. I walk around checking out the hydrofoil, and the jets at the back. I'm far more into this than Ms Ardern.

She heads into the smoko room, where the 35 employees are having a cuppa and a biscuit. The bell rings, marking the end of the break, but because Ms Ardern is here, the guys get an extra-long smoko. Winning. They're stoked.

"Let me start by saying Labour will not increase income taxes like some people have been saying we will," she laughs, half serious.

She covers off all the nuts and bolts: Labour's families package, its apprenticeship plan and its promise to spend $3 million upgrading Whanganui's port.

"It means you'll be able to service and build bigger vessels," she says, before going around every table to sit and talk with the workers.

On her way to the airport, Ms Ardern detours to Placemakers, where the sister of local candidate Steph Lewis is working. She couldn't get time off to come to the rally at Majestic Square.

The media pack out Placemakers. It's the busiest it's been all day, one of the customers jokes. There's a few photos, then it's back on the road.

Another spontaneous visit to the local flight school before the airport, then time to check in.

Back on the plane. Air Chathams to Auckland. There's no fuel crisis in Whanganui.