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Peters Braves The Pitbulls Of Taita

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Winston Peters
Winston Peters

Wellington, Nov 6 NZPA - Even as his silver ministerial BMW cruised past gang houses and pitbulls in Taita today, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was being labelled a quitter.

In a desperate fight for his political survival, Mr Peters chose to spend his second-last day on the campaign trail fighting for votes in the Hutt Valley electorate of Rimutaka.

Held by retiring Labour MP Paul Swain, Rimutaka is said by NZ First to be a three-way contest between its candidate Ron Mark and the big two, National and Labour.

So Mr Peters opted out of Tauranga, where polls have him well behind National newcomer Simon Bridges, and into Rimutaka, where his visit coincided with police hunting an armed fugitive.

National Party leader John Key scoffed at news Mr Peters had left Tauranga, the seat that offers NZ First an election lifeline.

He had given up winning the electorate, Mr Key said.

But Mr Peters was treated like royalty in Rimutaka as he strode past deflating basketballs, sofas disintegrating in the weather, rusting bikes and rubbish bins.

He met two shop owners who had been robbed in the past week, a woman whose son killed himself, a retiree who loved his SuperGold Card, and was yelled at by gang members.

"We're going to shock the world on Saturday, like Muhammad Ali," he told retailer Peter Clark.

Politicians were rarely seen in Farmer Crescent, Judith Delany told NZPA. Two of her children have moved out to Auckland, one committed suicide, she said.

"I just want something for my kids' future," she said.

"They need something, they get in trouble around here. There's not enough jobs out there for our young kids. We need more income, we need more help."

Those residents who didn't scuttle inside when they saw the suits coming acted as if they had a TV star on their street; Mr Peters was greeted like an All Black, or a rock star.

NZ First will have to win an electorate seat to remain in Parliament, or lift its party vote over 5 percent -- it's about 3 percent on current polling.

Labour leader Helen Clark, campaigning in south Auckland, didn't want to comment on Mr Peters' decision to move in on Rimutaka.

"I got a good reception in Rimutaka, we have a new generation candidate there and I've got a lot of confidence in him," she said.

There was no chance of doing a deal with NZ First in Rimutaka, "a heartland Labour seat", she said.

Mr Key, who was in Christchurch, told reporters Mr Peters turned tail and ran after seeing the polls in Tauranga, realising Mr Bridges would be elected on Saturday.

He thought it unlikely Labour would do a deal in Rimutaka.

"She has been arguing very strongly for people to give their vote to Labour because she is worried about her own vote collapsing, let alone trying to save Winston Peters."

Mr Peters told NZPA there was nothing unusual about him campaigning in Taita and in the past he'd door-knocked in Otara, a similar suburb in South Auckland.

"What's the news about me being here? It's just another day on the campaign," he said.

"We're strong in this electorate, but we're strong in a number of electorates."

He was "very confident" he would be smiling after the votes were counted on Saturday.

"I've been written off countless times by the media in this country, and they do it every election, hoping that it's true.

"I've disappointed them too many times for them to be carrying on this way in 2008."

NZPA WGT kn pw nb

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