It’s a classic bracing Wellington day, with rain drifting across the car park of Newlands Community Centre – but there’s a lot of red piercing the gloom.
Red balloons, red placards, red flowers on Ohariu candidate Virginia Andersen’s top – even a scene-stealing little dog sporting a natty-knitted jumper complete with “four paws for Labour” slogan.
Early birds have nabbed all the seats so it’s standing room only, with a roomful of Ohariu activists and quite a few others squeezed around the edge while the centre of the room bristles with hacks and cameras.
“Here’s here,” calls someone from the doorway, the dog’s borne away looking slightly pained – did someone say “Never work with animals or children?”
A toddler in red tartan trousers makes a dash for freedom, his grandmother doesn’t quite manage to grab him in time but David Cunliffe deftly sidesteps as he strides through the door.
It’s straight into the press conference, Cameron Slater and Dirty Politics, questions on the opinion polls, education, the Maori vote and the growing inequality, as well as Virginia’s campaign.
“We have a very good chance of taking this seat,” says David. “We have a fantastic team” – cheers from the room - “And a great candidate in Virginia Andersen” – more cheers – “And we’re in this to win!”
The rest of the room have questions too – not to mention wanting selfies with David. One man has come especially to ask David more about capital gains tax – they spend some time talking - but the kitchen is calling.
2014 MasterChef contestant Elizabeth Anderson getting ready to cook spaghetti bolognaise for 50 people. The community centre provides a big cosy room full of comfy chairs for those who need somewhere to keep warm during the day.
Every Friday the centre also provides lunch for a gold coin donation. The food is provided by the local food bank and Elizabeth is among the volunteers who cook it.
Today she’s got a not-so-little helper. David’s in the kitchen donning a red pinny, the camera teams swarm to the serving hatch, David sticks his head out, grins and calls “last orders” – then Elizabeth sets him to work opening a towering stack of packets of mince and emptying them into one of the huge pans of frying onions.
“I never thought I’d have David helping me in the kitchen,” says Elizabeth. “I never thought I’d get the chance to cook with a MasterChef cook,” retorts David.
“Many of the people who come to the centre live in the flats around here,” says Virginia. “Their homes are cold and damp with virtually no insulation; you almost have to wring your socks out after you’ve been through them. The centre has made the room here really homely so a lot of people spend the day here. The Friday lunch is very popular with a very mixed aged group.”
David pauses from stirring onions “This is something I hear all the time across the country. A lot of people are telling me how they have trouble putting food on the table. That should not be happening in New Zealand.”
In the ‘comfy’ room 76 year-old retired warehouseman Alan Smith is looking forward to his pasta lunch.
“I come every week,” he says. “They cook all sorts of things, cakes, home-made soups, the roast is my favourite.”
Alan’s looking forward to casting his vote too. “I’ve always used my vote and I always will,” he says “I’m watching David Cunliffe – now let’s see what his spaghetti bolognaise is like.”
Picture: Allan Smith