Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020

Election results 2020: Steve Braunias: Nothing but blue skies … and a trip to the polling booth


The weather’s always good on election day, isn’t it?

You can measure the course of New Zealand politics in a Saturday that rolls around every three years, forever sunny and warm, nothing but blue skies over the isthmus.

It feels like a carnival, a kind of solstice – election day is awesome, a fun excuse to get out of the house.

In te reo, Te Atatū means the dawn. The sun comes up somewhere over the Waitematā in the east and shines towards west Auckland.

I got up this morning and looked at the familiar sunlit blaze on the harbour, fed the cats, fed the fish, and fed the kid, and thought: this is the best country in the world.

Politics exerts a huge and crucial importance on our lives but New Zealand often feels as though it just blunders happily on regardless of who shapes the way it functions.

I read the paper and luxuriated in the absence of politics. There were snail trails by the mustard plants in my front garden. Out the back, fallen citrus fruits lay like bright marbles on the green lawn.

I mowed the front lawn as well as the neighbour’s berm because he has a bad back and could do with a hand. The kid accepted my challenge of a game of table tennis in the rumpus room.

In the arena where I recently played against Simon Bridges, Chloe Swarbrick, Kelvin Davis and Billy Te Kahika, she gave me yet another hiding.

We walked into the shops so I could vote. She’ll be eligible in the 2026 election. Tonight’s results will help determine quite a bit of the layout of that future; all I hope is that Covid will have become a thing of the past. The only people wearing masks were at the nail salon.

Signs directed us to the polling booth at Te Atatū Intermediate, the kid’s old school. We took a seat and waited for scrutineers to check my address details. “Ah,” she sighed, looking around at the school hall, “the tuck shop menu”.

There was a long queue of voters waiting to get into the intermediate and cast their ballot. Te Atatū is an electorate of contrasts.

Labour MP Phil Twyford has won his past three campaigns over National MP Alfred Ngaro, but National won the party vote in 2011 and 2014, narrowly losing it in 2017. Labour polls heaviest in the working- and benefit-class suburb of Ranui, National does best in elevated Western Heights. “Kia ora,” said the scrutineer, and gave me the forms.

It’s always exciting to tick the circles. There were 17 parties to choose from! I silently wished them all good luck, and then enjoyed the greater excitement of slipping the two folded pieces of paper into the two cardboard boxes.

All of us – stupid or informed, blithe or passionate, rational or insane – get to vote. The sun shines on all of us, and we walked back home, stopping to take six free tomato plants on offer at the front of someone’s house.

There was more free food in store. My neighbour was at his letterbox, thanked me for the lawn mowing, and said I should come over and take some avocados from his tree. I think I know who he votes for; he was very pleased to learn that my table tennis opponents included the co-leader of Advance NZ.

But we didn’t mention politics. I said I’d love to take some avocados. I figure on cutting them in half, and eating them in front of the election programmes on TV tonight. All they need is a squeeze of lemon and a grind or two of pepper. They’ll be delicious.

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