NZ Election 2020: Jacinda Ardern heads to hometown of Morrinsville on first stop of campaign 2.0

After a false start, election campaign version 2.0 is officially underway, but it will look different to the last time round before our latest COVID-19 cluster.

Jacinda Ardern is the last of the party leaders to hit the road, but on Saturday she burst her Beehive bubble and hightailed for campaign stop number one - her hometown of Morrinsville.

It was back to school for Ardern, who was welcomed home and to her old high school of Morrinsville College. Saturday marked the first day back on the road proper and the ribbon officially has been cut on campaign 2.0.

"I always feel very proud to come back to Morrinsville College," she says.

"It was such an important part of my life. It's where I had my first leadership opportunities."

In fact, in the 1998 yearbook, her classmates voted her most likely to be Prime Minister. 

A classic overachiever. She was on the debating team, the Board representative and a chemistry student.

The homecoming is becoming a tradition. It's where Ardern kicked off her campaign in 2017 too.

"Technically, this stop was intended to be in the final two weeks but obviously the election has changed and the timetable has changed somewhat."

COVID-19 has changed everything. The chippie where Ardern first worked was closed for the day, but the businesses either side are feeling it. 

To the left, there's Gayle's.

"It's definitely been concerning. People don't have the confidence like we used to," Gayle says.

And on the right, there's Jacinda.

"Not too bad, slower than usual but not as bad as we thought it would be," the shopkeeper says. 

Morrinsville is cow country in the true blue seat of Waikato. National got 60 percent of the vote last election.

"It's great to see her back here in the hometown but there's a lot of hurt down here so we'd like to see some improvements," National Waikato MP Tim van de Molen says.

The reception for Ardern has not always been warm in Morrinsville.

She stood here back in 2008 and got a tiny share of the vote, but has won a few hearts and minds since. 

"I think she's wonderful for what she's done, I really do," said one local.

"This is a National electorate. So, even though she schooled and worked here," said another.

When asked if Labour would be getting their vote this election, others in the town said Ardern could count on them.

Working for votes will look very different this election with the first physically distanced campaign ever.