Saturday, June 22

An Audience with a King: Corina Shields attends a DemocracyNZ event

Due to a fast-growing online presence which consists of a lot of talk about political topics others don’t, won’t or can’t talk about without being slammed, I have now found myself in a fortunate position where I have been able to connect and meet with people I wouldn’t have thought I’d be talking to, let alone collaborating with on different projects. One of these people has been Matt King.

After Posie Parker visited New Zealand, I reached out to some politicians to talk about what I experienced at Albert Park and to this day. Matt is the only one who has reached back out to me, going so far as agreeing to accompany me when I was trying to meet with one of the drag queens that attended the Albert Park event. Because of this, a relationship of sorts has developed over time.

It was still, however, by fortunate coincidence that led me to speak at Matt’s Waipapa event.

There had been a lot of conversations on my social media at the time around Matt, DemocracyNZ and the Māori roll and it wasn’t long before requests started to come in asking if I would be attending any events, so I lay down a wero and told people if they let me know they’ll be there, I’ll ask Matt and try and make some dates work around my whanau and work commitments.

Talking to Matt about the conversations I was having and what people were saying, I did feel like I was putting him on the spot when I asked him about speaking at his event, but I needn’t have worried about that as I would come to discover, he would later return the favour.

And that’s how I found myself speaking in Waipapa this past weekend at Matt’s event at The Pioneer. Through the request of people and the agreement of Matt.

The Pioneer is a great little bar and restaurant and I understand why people like it. From quiz night to karaoke, darts, and pool with some good food to boot. It was a quaint reminder of my own local haunts of the past.

I had agreed to meet with Matt before the start so we could do a quick rundown of the programme of the day and when that was over I took some time to talk to some of those who had also arrived early.

At this point I need to thank Matt because he really had no idea what I was going to say. He had seen no notes and only had a very brief outline that I wanted to talk about the Māori roll and seats. A lot of people would be nervous about someone hijacking their event without knowing what they were going to say so it showed a level of trust that didn’t go unnoticed.

Walking in, it wasn’t overly busy which wasn’t unexpected given I arrived 15 minutes after the doors opened. This didn’t last long though and the doors to the outdoor area were opened up to give people more space. Different head counts put numbers at around 100 in attendance. Thankfully, the outdoor area does have screens as well, so people didn’t miss what others were seeing inside.

DemocracyNZ events always start with the national anthem and that’s when Matt was able to return that favour and put me on the spot.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve always had an appreciation for the national anthem and never miss an opportunity to sing it and upon seeing this, with a smile on his face almost like a challenge, Matt made his way over to me with the microphone. But being a lot more comfortable with a microphone these days, I was ready to accept it. You will have to ask others how the singing was though!

The Matt King I’ve had the chance to meet and get to know a little bit better than some isn’t dissimilar to “Matt King- The Politician”. He is sensible and pragmatic in his approach but doesn’t shy away from answering a question.

And there were definitely some hairy questions as some within the audience go down the rabbit hole of influences and agendas. But Matt seems to have the ability to calm that down without being disrespectful whilst getting his point across at the same time.

A typical DemocracyNZ event will have you hearing about their position on different policies and topics including the bill of rights, farming, free speech, education, health, and opposition to a cashless society. A video of the freedom convoy that travelled to Wellington to protest government mandates also plays and there is discussion around that, but I can assure you, the event wasn’t just limited to these topics.

As expected, the audience was largely Tauiwi but the observations I made about the Māori who were there is that they largely sat at the back and weren’t always forthcoming with questions. I understand why. Politics is scary for Māori. It’s a topic most of us largely stay away from and so we hang at the back where we can’t be seen. I remember feeling that way the first time I attended an event too.

But I know for certain, some Māori I did get to talk to one on one throughout the day had a different perspective of Matt and DemocracyNZ walking out than they did walking in because I received a message to tell me a couple of them now have or have ordered fence signs and I am still in touch with others I met.

In a debrief with my husband later that night, we discussed the difference in atmosphere at the different political party events we’ve been to, and we both concluded that a DemocracyNZ event has a feeling about it that is a lot more relaxed than the stiffness and rush we’ve encountered before.

Matt left well after 5pm which is a considerable amount of time for an event that started at 1pm and showed a level of commitment to people who wanted to talk further and I would recommend that anyone who is feeling politically homeless this year does attend an event near them so they can make a considered decision in the election and not just waste their vote.

And as the sun set and goodbyes were said, I couldn’t help but wonder,
Was this history in the making, for Matt King and DemocracyNZ?