Shanti Mathias on the ground in Ashburton:
State Highway One between Christchurch and Ashburton is colourful, with green fields dotted with cows and horses, and the spiny silvered line of snowy mountains at the other end of the plains. Blue National signs punctuate the green, although one field is filled with material for Freedoms NZ and another simply asks people to “Party Vote Green”.
In the mid-Canterbury town, few The Spinoff speak to know who they’re going to vote for. Sentiment towards Labour MP Jo Luxton is not positive from those we approach. “Who’s that? That tells you what you need to know,” says retailer Sarah, who would like to see more activities and support for young people. She reckons ram raids are mostly due to boredom, although admits that most of the ram raiding happens in the larger centre of Christchurch.
A younger woman working at a nearby shop, where a photo of King Charles is prominently displayed, says that “New Zealand has gone soft” and “National’s plans for military camps is what we need to get on top of ram raiding”.
Nabi Mohammed, a recent immigrant from Indonesia, is concerned that the government isn’t doing enough to support refugees like his best friend, who is going through the arduous process of trying to leave a refugee camp in Indonesia. He isn’t eligible to vote, but likes what he has heard about National from his co-workers at a building site.
Near the town bus stop, Evan is presenting an “election special” focused on the Biblical truth about evolution and Noah’s Ark. He’s supporting Liz Gunn’s conspiracy pushing party NZ Loyal, describing the former broadcaster as a “dark horse” who has levels of support that aren’t going to be reported.
Visitor Stefan, who sells natural health products and homeschooled his children, is delighted that he’s found someone like-minded, handing Stefan and The Spinoff copies of his latest South Pacific Discovery Times newspaper with new information about the location of Noah’s Ark. He’ll be voting for Winston Peters, although he came from a Labour supporting family on the West Coast and has voted National in the past.