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Monday, 20 May 2019 10:43 pm

What’d you do election night? I reported…

Nov 12th, 2008 | By | Category: Latest News, News

NewsWire’s election team of reporters and photographers recount impressions of covering the biggest news event of their careers:

PICTURE: Tariana Turia with mokopuna and her campaign manager Helen Leahy (with red hair).

DAVID BANKS (Ngati Raukawa – Katihiku), at Tariana Turia’s marae, Whangaehu, near Turakina, close to Wanganui.

I wouldn’t have swapped my posting to cover Tariana Turia’s election night for anything. 

When we arrived, Mrs Turia’s family welcomed Queenie and me by giving us a tour around the marae and supplying anything we needed. The atmosphere was incredible, with TV1, TV3, Maori TV and reporters from the Herald placed inside and outside the dining hall.

There were family, friends and Maori supporters enjoying a hangi meal, then Tariana roamed around the hall talking to most of them. In between talking to guests, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren surrounded her.

At one stage, she had one of her great-grandchildren in her hands, then she passed the baby over to her husband, George.

Most of the people were dressed casually, but Tariana and George were in formal attire. You could feel the love in the hall for Tariana. The family are just like her, down to earth and very approachable. She is a lovely lady and is going to be missed when she retires from the party.

Her family will be glad they will have their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother back in their lives. A profession Tariana’s son, Pahia, does not want is to follow his mother’s footsteps to Parliament.

Maori Party organiser Ken Mair roamed around the room ensuring everything ran smoothly.

The TV and writing crews were friendly towards us. We were in the same room, working on our computers. Everyone who used Vodafone had trouble with sending anything out, and the only group in the room that could was running theirs through Telecom.

Every time I walked into the hall there was always someone smiling and ready for a chat. I was asked many times: “Have you had pudding yet, Dave.”  One of the family finally took me out to show me where the pudding was – trifle, ice cream (already gone) and peaches. Three cakes with Maori Party written on them in icing were made by one of the family members.

The night air cooled down rapidly, but the dining room stayed warm as the crowd kept an eye on the big screen watching for the results.

Cameras were set up in the middle of the hall and I actually found myself on TV when the election switched over to Tariana’s headquarters.

I was standing at the back by the kitchen with camera in hand ready to capture the crucial shot.
Once the five Maori party seats where announced, Tariana hugged family member as she wept and George was standing right beside her. She had to wipe her eyes before she was interviewed on TV.

I was standing in front of her when she spoke to John key and congratulated him. She sat on a chair for about 15 to 20 minutes.

The family asked it we wanted to stay with them and we had our bedding all laid out. But Queenie wanted to celebrate her birthday at home and I wanted to still work on the project where I could pick up a signal.

We were driving back home after leaving at 11.30pm, when to my surprise (student colleague) Hinano (Andrews, covering the Otaki electorate) texted me, so that just made my night, having another colleague interested in not just her area, but what we were doing too.

Overall, I reckon this was the most rewarding night of this diploma course and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Well done, Tariana and Maori party, for keeping us in Parliament and winning five seats.
Well done to all the students from the Whitireia diploma and certificate courses for working so hard in bring you up-to-date information about the election.

HINANO ANDREWS, at new Otaki MP Nathan Guy’s home base: 

 PICTURE: Nathan Guy ponders a close race. 



When asked where I wanted to be on Election Night -Labour or National – I went for the venue that would put me most out of my comfort zone. 





I chose to report from National candidate Nathan Guy’s headquarters. I have never felt that I looked or behave like a “real Kiwi” so I was sure that I would stand out in a room full of National voters and blue balloons.





Although my grandparents were both born and raised in Otaki, they were “lefties” , socialists, and were never prouder of me than the day I attended my first protest. I’m the antithesis of the National Party.
Although I worried about being intimidated by my conservative surrounding, I quickly put my reservations aside and started working on my first story for the night.
It was easy to find people to talk to, it was harder to find the time or place where people would stop talking to me and let me write!
The first gentleman who greeted me when I arrived was your typical salt-of-the-earth Kiwi. In Stubbies and an oversized Swandri, he looked me over dubiously, as if I didn’t quite belong there in my black and white dress. I had, after all, tried to dress neutrally.
In a far corner, a group of older women who were anything but neutrally attired asked if I wanted a rosette to pin to my cardigan. They were drowning in a swarm of blue wool blend and polyester. Blue eyeshadow painted on their eyelids. The conservative’s approach to war paint. I tried to picture women at Labour parties with red eyeshadow.
One woman told me that they would be celebrating that night, but she assured me in a most serious manner, that there would be no dancing. Celebrations are okay, but gyrating and swivelling of hips? God, no.
When Nathan Guy arrived, he worked the entire room. Thanking people for their support. It seemed that everyone in the room knew each other. I met the husband and wife that worked for Mr Guy: “My husband milks his cows, he has over 1500. There is no one nicer to work for or to vote for,” she told me.
Victory was a certainty to them. I was offered placards and Mr Guy’s face on a stick, to wave “when we won”. This, they said, at 8pm.
Whenever the words GUY LEADS OTAKI appeared on the large screen, the room erupted.

I felt like I was in a part on New Zealand I have never experienced before-maybe the heartland kind of country that clever marketing people use to sell us cheese and beer.
Being there when he won was an experience I will not forget. It is hard to not get caught up in the excitement of it all, even for the grand-daughter of a leftie, vegetarian woman who once chained herself to a school that was threatened with closure on National’s watch.
I left after midnight with rosettes and placards and had my photo taken with Mr Guy’s secretary.

My highlight was sitting in a bathroom stall with my laptop, reading copy out loud over the phone to Miyuki at home base, thinking “this is what being a real grown-up journo must be like”.
There was a “real-life grown-up journo” there. I asked how long he had been working as a journalist, to which he replied: “My whole life. It’s the kind of thing that you are born into.”
I think a whole lot of us were reborn as journos on Election Night. Well, I know I was.

SOPHIE SCARF, with the Greens in Wellington

PICTURE: Greens MP Sue Kedgley, husband Denis Foot and Ms Kedgley’s campaign manager, Fleur Fitzsimons.

All in all, it was a great night for Green voters at the Craftsman on Courtenay place.

With a rather nervous start, I played the student card convincingly enough for Wellington Central candidate Sue Kedgley to take me under her wing.

I dismissed any preconceptions of a dominating organic power-hungry matriach: Ms Kedgley introduced me to all who approached our table in the bar, taking special care to mention I was attending Whitireia, saving me the usual “Massey or Vic?” small-talk.

She even invited me to the Backbencher with her husband Denis Foot, though somewhere between a chicken drumstick and a steamed mussel, I lost my new green parents. Did they take a green cab?!

I spent the next hour blinking and nodding, two well-meaning gents picked up on my (not so) expansive knowledge of politics, and I suspect, while they were telling me what I should be reporting there were more interesting people to interview washing the dishes.

The atmosphere seemed to pick up with the number of friends and family arriving rather than being dictated by the televised fixture of national polling.

Pacing Courtenay Place back towards Whitireia’s newsroom, I was enlightened with more latex, less skin, and higher heels than a usual Saturday.

Witnessing the overflow of the NZ Fetish Ball at the Garden Club actually made me feel relieved reaching the destination of my computer.

Then off again, to see if my Green surrogates had returned… I pounded my stilettos back past wonderwoman and co. to find the Craftsman was packed.

A few clicks of the camera phone and some polite questioning, I felt I had what I needed, so enjoyed my glass of Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Noir kindly bought by Denis, which I drank with his obliging nephew and pretended to know what everyone was talking about.

In conclusion to a political report from a bewildered journalism student, it was a jolly affair washed down with a glass of good Pinot (not organic, for the record).

Although a little sad that young Gareth Hughes did not quite make it into the Beehive this year, the Green MPs proved themselves good sports and will reign supreme in third place again.

I’m glad I gave my vote to the Green Party. If only they’d befriend Mr Key…

SARAH CODDINGTON, at Helen Clark-central in Auckland

PICTURE: Clark supporters console one another after her resignation announcement.

There I was, six months of journalism training and with the big shots at the Labour headquarters.

At first, the journalists treated me like the new kid on the first day at school, but once I set up my laptop and had all my technical gear out, they knew I meant business.

I don’t know what I expected this party to be like, but to me it was more like a massive filming studio than a party.

For most of the evening, the party was lifeless, the Labour supporters drowning their sorrows with beer, some even gulping back some champagne as the polls looked dimmer by the second. 

With Helen Clark making noises she would finally appear (this woman must take a while to get ready: I feel sorry for her husband) I made my way to the stage, right up the front with journalists squashed behind me eager for my spot.

I was armed with my dictaphone, camera and notebook and pen. I noted to myself that in future pockets are a must for these events, but in emergencies bra straps also do nicely.

So Labour had lost. That was a given by now, although I suspect the dedicated Labour supporters were still holding on to hope.

Then, Miss Clark dropped a bombshell – she announced she would stand down from her position as the leader of the Labour party. 

I turned round and all around me families gripped each other, bawling their eyes out. Grown men cried, children who can’t even vote cried. I couldn’t believe it – this was bizarre, it was like there had been a sudden death in their family.

I must say I was feeling quite the opposite. I was so excited and in one split second I became a news- hunting monster. I took photos of people in tears and heartache and was told to piss off, but like the other journalists I did not seem to worry and continued.

I ran to the press conference, where I crouched on the ground with my little dicataphone less than a centimetre away from Helen Clark – and couldn’t get a word in.

By now, I couldn’t believe at the beginning of night I was wishing I was at National’s headquarters with their antipasto dishes and fancy champagne.  At the end of the evening, there was nowhere else I would rather have been.

I had witnessed New Zealand political history first hand and got to tell the world.

WILLIAM LIANDO at the Backbencher pub:

PICTURE: William’s shot of National candidate Stephen Franks and his wife Cathy (right) getting the bad news of his loss on student Charlotte Hilling’s laptop (read the story below to see how he got it).

Politics is not my thing, but the evening of November 8 marked the birth of my burgeoning interest in it.

I was submerged in what occurred to me as something I would never have done in my life – being a journo, covering another country’s election.
Indonesian politics is so full of corruption and nepotism. I guess that’s why it never catches my attention, as it will just be another jack-up story. As an ordinary citizen, you can almost be sure meeting a government dignitary will be a close-to-nil chance at home.
Around 10 o’clock that election night, a classmate of mine, Charlotte, and I were sitting at a small round table near the entrance of the National Party headquarters, typing away on our laptops what we hoped could be election scoops.

I was a busy-body who asked customers randomly at the Backbencher what they thought of the night, who was going to win among the Wellington Central candidates, and nosily, what they were having that evening.
It was a new and rewarding experience for me because I got to write what I observed and many political enthusiasts were going to read it within the next couple of minutes. Not that I am a qualified political writer.
Despite the hustle and bustle of the pub, I got interesting quotes from important people that night, too. That can never easily happen to a student journalist back in Indonesia.

Vaughan Smith, an ACT candidate, was very open about his take on this year’s election and I was kind of taken aback when he said he just wanted to gain new campaigning experience this year and was not looking forward to winning anything.
The highlight of the night was when an important man in Wellington, Stephen Franks, took a seat next to Charlotte and started scrutinising the live online tally of votes on her laptop.

He kept his cool, even after seeing the unpromising numbers. I did not think at all and just grabbed Charlotte’s N95 (cellphone) – as my P1i was still attached to my laptop – and captured the three of them (his wife, Cathy, too) in one single frame.

(ED: William is too modest to mention that his great picture was later displayed on NewsWire as the best of the night).

I left the Backbencher close to midnight, apologising to Charlotte that I had to leave her alone there.

All in all, that was one night to remember.

CHARLOTTE HILLING, at Stephen Franks’ place.

When I first arrived at Stephen Franks’ election party at around 6.30pm, there were about 15 people, in a cordoned-off section of the Backbencher. 

What first struck me was the number of people under the age of 25, and the reggae and dub music playing in the background. Perhaps this is a result of my prejudice and preconceptions of what a member of the National Party should be.

Within half an hour the room began to fill up with a well-dressed and chatty crowd.  Once I set up the technology, and established everything was in good working order, I went looking for a complimentary drink to calm my nerves. Just one, mind, on the advice of a colleague. 

I was under the impression, from one Mr Tucker, that a complimentary spread was something to be expected.  However, to my despair, I noticed punters handing over paper and plastic in return for their goods. 

No hand-outs – perhaps a reflection of what’s to come under the new government.  I went back to my table, parched. 

The people at the party were most friendly, and I forged several pleasant connections with two people in particular. One, a 77-year-old Hungarian migrant, Elizabeth Fejos, was a wealth of knowledge and interesting opinions, most notably on MMP. 

Another woman provided a much-needed confidence boost when I was losing my nerve to hunt down Mr Franks:  “Aww, he’s just a man,” she said.

As the night wore on, more and more people tried to get a peek at my computer monitor, offering me suggested topics to write on. 

Despite these slightly uncomfortable occurrences – especially when you’re throwing around words like “neo-liberal” – everyone was remarkably willing to answer my questions, and participate in my polls.

Predictably, I received some ribbing, good-hearted, mind you, about my journalism student press card, which displays the EPMU logo rather prominently.

Mr Franks, and Ohariu candidate Katrina Shanks, checked their respective electorate results on my laptop a few times. It was hard not to will the results in their favour, especially when their disappointment was so close to me.

Without doubt, the most beneficial lesson of the night came during Mr Franks’ concession speech. While sandwiched between a scrum of faithful admirers, I tried in vain to discreetly scribble down notes, all the while knowing that a husband and wife team were watching everything I wrote. 

Thus, I challenge anyone who says shorthand – our secret journalism language – is not worth knowing.

LAURA FRYKBERG, who teamed up with JENNY MEYER to cover Ohariu-Belmont and Wellington Central.

PICTURE (Jenny Meyer): Labour candidates in Wellington seats – Annette King (Rongotai, safely returned and now deputy Labour leader), Charles Chauvel (Ohariu-Belmont, second to Peter Dunne) and Grant Robertson (right) (Wellington Central’s new MP).

Arriving at the Labour party meeting at the Basin Reserve where Peter Dunne’s rival Charles Chauvel was residing, I suddenly became aware I was wearing a blue dress instead of the neutral colour my fellow colleague Jenny had intelligently chosen.

After a few awkward introductions explaining that my outfit choice was not intentionally showing my support for the opposition, Jenny and I got into a lengthy conversation with a long-time Labour supporter called Graeme Adams, who told us the A to Z of what is wrong with our political system.

He believes our system is flawed because what the media publishes pre-election sways the opinion of voters.

He told us people decide to vote National because they want to vote for the party that has been called the outcome before the results, just to be on the winning side.

I thought this was an interesting viewpoint, but in our society media freedom is constantly pushed and pushed and there is no way news outlets would allow restrictions on calling the election results. It’s too much fun.

After not being able to find Mr Chauvel, Jenny and I left to go to Portland Towers in the search of Mr Dunne, whose number is now saved on my cell phone and who answers my calls if I need a quote or comment.

Jenny and I could not find him at first, prior to his live television announcement, so after a quick cell phone call we got some comment from him without having to battle through all the big media stations.

After a quick photo of Mr Dunne looking grim, courtesy of Jenny, we headed back to Charles Chauvel’s, where he was impossible to find once again and we had to rely on the old “I hope he answers his cell phone and actually talks to us”, which, being the lovely man he is, he did.

Jenny and I found there are pros and cons to being journalism students covering big topics like the election.

Politicians either don’t have the time of day for you because they think you can’t help their career, or they take you seriously because they think you don’t have any power.

While Jenny and I didn’t do any damage to anyone, it was a good learning curve and an expensive cell phone bill.

SINEAD OGILVIE and CARL SUURMOND, who were at Ron Mark’s Rimutaka place.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION had set in on the train out to Upper Hutt where newsbie NewsWire reporters Sinead Ogilvie and I headed out to cover NZ First’s Ron Mark receive election results at the Upper Hutt Club.
My nauseas fellow reporter had thoughts about diving towards the exit door of the train to heave every time her stomach churned.

I was worried that I might have to go solo on this assignment. Having had much experience in dealing with being off-colour when you really shouldn’t be, I prescribed 4 Nurofens which 20 min later alleviated the worst of the suffering.

On arriving at the Upper Hutt Club at 6.50pm, we were received warmly by NZ First supporters and staff. About 60 in total, the hosts were quick to offer the usual nibbles and snacks that best go down easily with alcoholic beverages at the cash bar – which were well off the menu till later.

NewsWire was the only media present for the first hour, then a TV3 camera crew arrived, and later a Radio Live journalist, crushing our presumed windfall: that we would have the results and reactions of NZ First in Rimutaka scooped up.
When it came to taking the pictures with my small 5 mega-pixel Olympus, I felt inadequate and more like a tourist than a journo next to the TV3 photographer – but I bet her photos didn’t turn out with my signature red-eye.

Photography aside, Ron Mark was pleasant to us, perhaps because my best friend is engaged to his partner’s daughter, or maybe because we were the only media that stuck around to the bitter end.
According to an older gentleman, the life-size plastic race horse (see picture) had been smuggled in the back of a Ute, photographed in the local constable’s backyard late at night, before finding his new stable in the doorway of the Upper Hutt Club.

It took a number of visits to the men’s toilets to snap a picture of the “Express Lane – 5 Beers or less” sign, which hung above the left side of the urinal (see picture). Being seen taking pictures in the Mens, I figured, was best avoided.

As far as colour goes, it certainly was challenging to find it after 9.30pm. With the outcome apparent, some supporters made for the door, leaving just the party faithful, the vodem and laptop playing up, and two very tired National Certificate in Journalism students stressing about deadlines and evidently becoming the spectacle in the awkward silent minutes when the commercials were given the mute button.
Gauche times also arose, when Mr Mark needed our help with his speech, requesting that we Google how many votes he lost to winner Chris Hipkins, jeopardising our bandwidth.

It was fair to say that the atmosphere seemed a bit bleak, with the smiles seen much earlier replaced by long faces and tears. It was time to wrap it up and head to the pub.

ANNE CORNISH, at losing Labour MP Darren Hughes’ Otaki headquarters

PICTURE: Hughes HQ early in the night – a portent of the quiet time to come.

When I was in the Labour headquarters for Darren Hughes – while Winston Peters was making his concession speech – the room fell completely silent.

People had been chatting and socialising, but they gradually all became riveted, and when he was finished, they applauded.
When I went from Labour’s party at the Levin Cosmopolitan Club to Nathan Guy’s National party at the Levin Club, there was a very different atmosphere – raucous, ebullient.

When Helen Clark gave her concession speech and said she would step down, there was a lot of booing and quite aggressive shouting at her. Quite a contrast to Darren Hughes making the effort to go there and concede to Nathan Guy in person.

ALEXANDRA JOHNSON at Grant Robertson’s Labour headquarters in Wellington Central.

PICTURE (Jenny Meyer): Stephen Franks (right) congratulates Grant Robertson on his win. 

The Labour party at the Basin Reserve was a mixed affair. 

At the start of the night, the room was fresh-paint sterile, the hopeful red on supporters’ clothes garish under the too-bright lights.

The TV blared out – perhaps in the hope that the louder the bad news came in, the easier it would be to digest. 

Despite Labour’s receding chances, the mood lightened as the night wore on.  People poured through the door, excited.  Grant Robertson, Labour’s candidate for Wellington Central, is a good bloke and well-liked. 

His votes were rolling in – and although it was a bit close for comfort – just over 1000 votes over National rival Stephen Franks – he won the Wellington seat.

He was cheered, hugged and patted on the back.  These were the people who had spent the last few months campaigning, doing letter box drops in the Wellington southerlies.  The sense of relief in the room was palpable.  Labour had lost, but their man was in.










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  1. When Helen Clark gave her concession speech and said she would step down, there was a lot of booing and quite aggressive shouting at her. Quite a contrast to Darren Hughes making the effort to go there and concede to Nathan Guy in person.

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