Continuing our recent series of political profiles, we sent our reporter to the deepest, darkest depths of the North Shore in Auckland. Unable to work out the intricate and unrelated plethora of public transport options, our reporter decided to post himself there arriving just before the end of the working week (Friday) afternoon.
Earlier yesterday (Saturday), he sent in his report.
REPORT: SATURDAY 3RD MAY, 2014 – TORBAY
I’m standing outside a 7 metre high gate. There are three security cameras trained on my face and one on my lower body. An aged security guard puts down the phone he has just called up to the house.
“Lord McCully will see you now,” he says as he nods to the gate.
Slowly the large cast-iron gate swings open and I walk through.
Once I’m inside the grounds it’s easy to see why the gate is seven metres high. Ahead of me lie acres and acres of beautifully manicured lawn and row upon row of intricate topiary; the one nearest me bears a likeness to former National Party socialist prime minister Sir Robert Muldoon. I shudder as I walk past.
My main concern is one of distance. There is no apparent house to be seen and I’m unsure how long it will take me to get there. Just as I’m about to give up and turn around a small golf cart appears over the crest of a hill and drives towards me. As it gets closer I realise it’s being driven by former Labour MP and current Rear Admiral of the Pacific Fisheries, Shane Jones.
“Get in, sir,” he says as he pulls up alongside. I oblige and within seconds he has turned the vehicle and we are whirring silently towards, I assume, the house.
As we make our way up the drive I am awestruck by the immensity of it all. Grazing near a small grove of olive trees are some young deer. A flock of swans flap and flight near a lake. Beside a stable-like building I spot a unicorn. It sneezes and stars, glitter and rainbows fly from its nostrils. This truly is a tranquil place.
As we arrive at the house, all the tranquility and peacefulness that has filled me on our slow drive up the gravel pathway quickly dissipates. Compared to the rest of the grounds, the house is a dark, foreboding place. Vast gothic entities stand guard high turrets. An upstairs curtain moves ominously as we come to a halt.
I’m instructed by Jones to extricate myself from the vehicle and make my way to the front door. He opens the large wooden door and in we go. We make our way though an enormous entrance hall before ascending a wide staircase at the end. After several minutes making our way through corridors lined with previous National Party leaders and sub-leaders, we arrive at a single door at the end of the hallway. Jones knocks three times. After a short pause the door clicks open.
A lone voice speaks from inside the room.
“Enter,” is croaks.
Jones scuttles away and leaves me to it. I walk in and find banks of video monitors on every available wall. It quickly becomes clear to me that each screen is devoted to a single member of parliament. It’s not just National Party members either. Politicians from all corners of the political spectrum are being monitored. Labour, Greens, New Zealand First. There’s four screens devoted to United Future’s sole politician Peter Dunne – three alone covering his hair.
In front of the screens watching with sunken eyes flitting rapidly across the monitors is Foreign Minister and chief National Party strategist Murray McCully.
“Good…” I begin.
“Shhhh!” he barks, “Look at his hair. Do you see it?”
He appears to be pointing to the screens devoted to Dunne’s hair. I notice his fingernails haven’t been cut for some time. They are gnarled and twisted.
“That hair has something against me,” he mumbles (I’m not sure if he is directing this observation against me), “it’s out to get me. See how it looks at me. Taunting. Asking questions. Giving answers. It’s like the hair knows everything. Goddammit.”
McCully continues mumbling away to himself for several minutes. It’s an uncomfortable experience being with one so paranoid, but I’ve come this far so I feel it’s my duty to ask the questions.
“Mr McCully. You are the current Foreign Minister, you’ve spent many years as National’s behind-the-scenes strategy guru. What does the future hold for you?”
McCully sits bolt upright; his eyes stare at a spot on the wall. He sniffs long and hard and picks up a megaphone.
His butler immediately appears from what can only be described as a secret door.
“Who is this person and what do they want? Did Dunne’s hair send them?”
“I’m in the same room now m’lord,” the butler informs his master, “so you can stop using the megaphone.”
“Fair enough,” says McCully and puts down the megaphone, “who is this person?”
“He’s here from a blog. To do a profile sir.”
“Send him away! Tell him there are party leaflets by the front door. Give them all to him. And send him away.”
“Those boxes are left over from the 2008 election, m’lord.”
“Give him the boxes and send him away!”
Jones grabs my arm and leads me back out to the front of the house. As we load up the golf cart with boxes of ancient election paraphernalia I can’t help thinking that the whole country is missing a huge potential danger.
If Peter Dunne wins Ohariu, will his hair take Wellington Central?
Only McCully knows.