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Meet NZ's answer to Air Force One - Ardern's humble campaign van


Forget Donald Trump’s fleet of planes and helicopters or Scott Morrison’s “Shark One”.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s vehicle of choice as she racks up the kilometres on the campaign trail is a humble van.

This week, Labour leader Ardern is staying in the spare room of her parents’ house in her hometown of Morrinsville rather than the PM’s official residence in Wellington or her Auckland home.

She’s making day trips to the nearby cities – visiting Rotorua on Monday, Tauranga on Tuesday and Whakatane on Wednesday – eschewing fancier options available to her and packing her staff into a silver van.

Necessity and practicality are behind Ardern’s choice.

She prefers to travel in the same car as her staff and any accompanying MPs, rather than separately.

In previous campaigns, political leaders have flown between destinations, slashing travel time and maximising their campaign efforts.

This year, that’s not possible.

New Zealand is currently under level two COVID-19 conditions, meaning there are fewer flights available to choose from and fewer seats on those flights as the national carrier enforces social distancing in the skies.

That may change later in the campaign, should Auckland’s virus cluster lessen to the point where Ardern considers dropping the restrictions.

Until then, it’s all aboard the van – a 2017 Mercedes Sprinter 319 Minibus.

“It’s a tremendous choice,” Cameron Pearson, of Mercedes dealership Ingham-Sears in Mt Maunganui, near where the PM campaigned on Tuesday.

“The Sprinter is the safest, most economical van on the road.

“And if it’s good enough for the PM then it’s good enough for anyone.”

The PM’s van is the same vehicle used by many St John ambulances, and retails for $NZ95,000 ($A87,000).

Her chariot of choice is even dwarfed by her deputy, Winston Peters.

Peters is campaigning across South Island on board the Back Your Future express, a full-sized bus emblazoned with his face and the slogan of his New Zealand First party.

While Peters’ bus is unmissable, Ardern’s vehicle is unremarkable.

On board the van, it’s all business. Insiders say there’s rarely music through the speakers.

The PM withstands carsickness on her country’s windy roads to read briefing papers and make calls.

It’s also where she updates her Instagram account with stories and posts from her day for her 1.4 million followers.


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