The National Party campaign opening attracted around 2,500 members.
When I arrived the crowd was enjoying the music of Lapi Mariner and his band and teenage MC Lavana Seuala had us hanging on his every word.
He welcomed Social development Minister Paula Bennett who went through the accomplishments of the last six years which clearly drew the dots between head and heart.
National has taken tough decisions because it cares about improving the lives of the most vulnerable and knows that helping people move from welfare to work is best for them, their families and the country.
Lavana then welcomed Deputy leader and Finance Minister Bill English who reminded us of the importance of careful financial management and paid tribute to Prime Minister John Key.
Then it was the PM’s turn.
Such was the rapturous reception he got, it took him about five minutes to get to the stage and twice that to get back out.
He began his speech by saying how good it was to be in South Auckland.
Doesn’t it feel great to be launching National’s election campaign here in the heartland of South Auckland?
We’re the party that’s working for New Zealand.
We’re the government that’s delivering results.
The economy’s growing.
Wages are rising.
Benefit numbers are dropping.
Crime rates are falling.
More elective surgery is being done in public hospitals.
And this year, after all we’ve been through as a country, I’m proud to say that the Government’s books will be back in the black.
On top of all that, my sense is that New Zealand has become a much more assured and more optimistic country.
A multicultural and more vibrant country – one that’s increasingly comfortable in its own skin.
I think back to 2008, when every month a net 3,000 people were leaving New Zealand for Australia.
Do you know what that figure was last month?
It was 80.
Rather than a stadium full of people leaving for Australia, it’s now more like a busload.
Because people know in their hearts and in their heads that New Zealand is moving in the right direction.
So the choice in this election is clear.
It’s between strong and stable leadership that’s delivering the benefits of a growing economy.
Or a group of parties that can’t agree with each other.
It’s between policies that are getting real results for New Zealand families.
Or a reversal of everything that’s working.
A choice between a government careful with your money.
Or parties whose election promises already add up to $28 billion and who want to tax you more to pay for them.
I know what I choose.
But I have to tell you that under MMP anything is possible.
Despite being low in the polls, it’s still possible for Labour to cobble together a government with the Greens, Dotcom and others, because that’s how the maths might work.
So everyone who wants National to lead the next government has to get out there on September 20 and party vote National.
They should have total confidence in doing that.
I lead a government that knows what it’s doing, and knows where it’s going.
I’m unashamedly positive for New Zealand.
I back New Zealanders to get ahead.
In the next 27 days I’m going to keep doing what I’ve done for the last six years – be relentlessly focused on what’s best for New Zealand.
I think we’ve got a great future ahead of us but we can take nothing for granted.
In 27 days from now, New Zealanders have the chance to lock in our plan for another three years.
In doing so, they’ll be voting for higher wages, more jobs and more growth.
Today is the official start of our campaign.
We’ve already announced some of our election policies.
These reinforce the approach we’ve always taken – supporting the most vulnerable, helping families, and staying tough on people who don’t follow the rules.
We’re cracking down on gangs that do so much harm.
We’ve set a target to reduce the crime rate even further.
We’ve released a policy I feel very strongly about, because it affects so many families at a difficult time.
We know the anguish people go through when their loved ones are in their final days and weeks – and we want to do our best to support them.
So we’ve made a commitment to increase funding for hospices by $20 million a year.
And let’s not forget – we’re the Party that funded the breast cancer drug Herceptin and, as a result, 1,100 women have got this treatment.
We’re also committing more to education.
We’re putting aside $350 million to build nine new schools in Auckland, with three earmarked for here in South Auckland.
Education is a huge focus for this government, and for me personally.
It’s the real opportunity we have to achieve generational change in the fortunes of New Zealand children and families.
We’re already seeing clear progress.
More kids are leaving school with at least NCEA Level 2, and I’m pleased to say the biggest lift in achievement has come from Pasifika students.
But we’re doing a lot more.
Earlier this year I announced a $359 million package of policies to do two things – to keep the best teachers in the classroom, and to get principals and teachers working together to raise student achievement across the board.
Because that’s what makes the biggest difference for our young people.
That, and getting them into work.
Under this government, the number of teenagers who are not working and not in education is heading towards a record low.
We’re working hard to expand the training opportunities available for young people, including Trades Academies and more apprenticeships.
Teen parents and other young beneficiaries now have a responsible adult alongside them.
That person makes sure they are in education or getting a job, have the support they’re often lacking from a parent, and are paying their bills.
And I can tell you that since 2009, the number of teen parents on a benefit has dropped by 40 per cent.
We’re going to announce more policies this election.
And you know from National that everything will be carefully considered and fiscally prudent.
Taken together, our policies won’t come anywhere near the big spending that Labour and the Greens have committed to.
I think New Zealanders can see that for what it is.
The country has yet to post a surplus but already our opponents are promising the earth to get elected.
They haven’t learnt from the past.
In its last five years, the previous Labour government increased its spending by 50 per cent.
The pressure this put on the economy helped drive mortgage rates up to almost 11 per cent.
That was tough for home owners.
But that’s not all.
Under the previous Labour government, house prices rose faster in New Zealand than in any other developed country.
In fact house prices doubled over Labour’s nine years.
No wonder home ownership is now more difficult for young Kiwis.
National values home ownership.
That’s because it provides stability for families, strength for communities and security in retirement.
So it’s important for young people to get their foot on the ladder, and into their first home.
We’ve been tackling this issue head on.
For a start, can I tell you that one of the best ways the Government can support more New Zealanders into home ownership is by helping to keep interest rates lower for longer.
We’re doing that by carefully controlling our spending and sticking with sensible monetary policy.
We are also working to increase the amount of land available for new houses, and to get those houses built.
We’re setting up housing accords with local councils to free up more land.
We’ve already signed accords with Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga.
And the latest figures show building activity up 16 per cent over just one quarter.
There are also other things the Government is doing to help people get into their own home. . .
The PM then went on to announce policy to help more first-home buyers onto the property ladder.
Details of the policy are here.
When the alarm went off at 5am yesterday I wondered why I was going all the way to Auckland for such a short time.
On the 3 1/2 hour drive to Christchurch I wondered again.
But once there, any doubts I had were dispelled.
It was amazing to be part of such a positive and buoyed up crowd of people who are in the party for the right reasons and are working with the MPs and candidates to help return National for three more years so it can keep working for New Zealand.
It was good to be reminded of what matters and that National has such a strong caucus and line-up of candidates who are focussing on that.
And it’s not only members who recognise the party’s strengths.
The taxi driver who took me from the airport was a Pacific Islander.
He said his people had traditionally voted Labour but that was changing as they recognised that National’s values and policies were better for them.