Lloyd Burr: Watching NZ First's bizarre behaviour

OPINION: When New Zealand First's day-long meeting wound up just after six o'clock on Monday night, I was waiting out the back of Parliament's Bowen House with cameraman Billy Paine.

We were only there on the off-chance the party's MPs and board decided to call it a day and make a swift exit out the back.

Billy and I were the only media there. We were about to call it a day ourselves when a Corporate Cab arrived.

It was a sign. New Zealand First prefers Corporate Cabs. We decided to hang around for a bit.

Then the back door opened and out came MP Mark Patterson with board members Kristen Campbell Smith and Toa Greening.

I threw a few questions at them, and they didn't comment. Not unexpected. They handled themselves well, got in the cab and it drove off.

Then another taxi arrived. And another. And another.

Lloyd Burr: Watching NZ First's bizarre behaviour
Photo credit: Newshub

Then the back door opened again, and New Zealand Firsters started coming out, but they saw us and went back inside.

But out came newbie MP Jenny Marcroft and Fletcher Tabuteau and into a cab. I thought it was the beginning of a mass exodus. But I was wrong.

Cue what can only be described as an orchestrated comedy of chaos, cabs and a confused carpark roller door.

Deputy leader Ron Mark was the conductor, and MP Clayton Mitchell was his sidekick. With the help of Parliamentary Security they initiated the "Great Bowen Breakout".

Mr Mitchell directed taxis into the carpark like an enthusiastic New World trolley boy during the Christmas rush. Mr Mark was in charge of the roller door, but it had a mind of its own.

The carpark flooded with MPs and board members but many of them had nowhere to go because the cabs either couldn't fit in or were trying to turn around or were blocked by the erratic roller door.

Some of the board members were covering their faces with their handbags like they were starring in some TMZ celebrity exposé. We had no idea who they were.

Lloyd Burr: Watching NZ First's bizarre behaviour
Photo credit: Newshub

Slowly the cars came out, and by that stage all the other media were there. The roller door nearly guillotined the front off a few of the cabs, meaning they had to drive past slowly.

Nelson-based board member Sue Sara sat in the back of one cab like a stunned possum. Coromandel-based Anne-Marie Andrews followed in the taxi behind, staring out of the front seat, clearly startled by the brouhaha.

It gave all the media an opportunity to film and photograph the procession of board members squeezed into the back of the taxis.

Some of the windows were open, meaning we could ask some questions. They went unanswered.

Twelve board members, six MPs, and a handful of staffers came through in total. But no Winston Peters and no Shane Jones. Mr Mark disappeared.

Mr Jones went through the main foyer, making his usual food reference, before leaving to plan his Rarotonga wedding.

Out the back, another cab arrived. This one was surely for Mr Peters and Mr Mark. But no, it was a decoy. It disappeared - empty.

They both left through the main foyer. Luckily Jenna Lynch and cameraman Richard Cooper were there to ask how the meeting went. Unsurprisingly, no answers.

Into a Wellington Co-Op taxi and off the leadership team went.

What an absolute kerfuffle. And for no reason.

They were so worried about one journalist and one reporter at the back of Bowen House that they panicked, and what a comedy of chaos it created.

Lloyd Burr is a Newshub political reporter.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz