'She's moved into a different league' - National's Nikki Kaye on how the old Jacinda Ardern rivalry has evaporated

By her own admission, the 2017 election was a humbling experience for National's Nikki Kaye.

Not least of all because her old Auckland Central electorate rival happened to become Prime Minister.

Of course, the National education spokesperson denies any such rivalry still exists with Jacinda Ardern.

"While when we stood in the seat we were definitely competing against each other, I think to be very humble about it, she's moved into a different league," Kaye says.

"She's Prime Minister and I certainly have respect for that role and the fact that she's at the top of her game and you've got to acknowledge that, so I don't consider myself as a rival with her now.

"When we were standing in the seat we certainly were but I think you have to acknowledge she's Prime Minister of New Zealand and she's leading the country."

Nevertheless, the parallels of Kaye's and Ardern's political histories are undeniable.

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye teaches Hadyn Jones about the age old art of door knocking. Source: 1 NEWS

Both faced-off as the National and Labour candidates for Auckland Central in the 2011 and 2014 general elections.

Early in these battles, the contest was colloquially, or crudely, known in party back rooms as Battle of the Babes.

Kaye won the seat on both occasions, by the small margins of 717 and 600 votes, with Ardern elected on the Labour List.

Both 37-years-old, the pair were the highest profile young female MPs for their respective major parties, before Ardern's meteoric rise to Prime Minister last year made such titles a little irrelevant.

But there's no denying the continued prominence of Kaye within the National Party.

Her transition from Minister of Education to opposition spokesperson for the same portfolio has had her front and centre as a vocal opponent of Labour's scrapping of national standards, and their uncertain intentions for Kiwi charter schools.

Kaye says National's strong showing at the election, with a front running 44 per cent of the vote, has both enthused their first few months in opposition, and cast a degree of sadness over their fall from power.

"Obviously you're sad, you know you're going from, I was managing an $11 billion portfolio to being in opposition where you technically have no funding or major decision making responsibility," she says.

"I worked in opposition when I was a staffer and we went through our worst election result ever in 22 per cent in the polls, so I've been there at a different time when we've been in opposition, not as an MP, and I guess the thing I would say is we still have a lot of support out there.

"That means you get a lot of people contacting you, wanting you to fight hard on particular issues.

Senior female National MPs have taken aim at the PM for her decision. Source: 1 NEWS

"Sometimes when you get lower support you probably don't get as many people contacting you, so that's one thing that's going on."

Asked whether Kaye herself aspires to lead the National Party there is an emphatic "no".

She is also resistant to the idea that generational change, like that which revitalised Labour through Ardern, is needed for the National Party in light of Bill English staying on as leader.

"I mean from my perspective, firstly Bill did extraordinarily well, evidenced by the fact we were the highest polling party," Kaye says.

"And then secondly, he's got a lot of support. I think what matters more is what your policies are. So I think the questions for us are just how are we ensuring we absolutely have good policies and connect with the next generation of New Zealanders.

"So I am more focused on ensuring we have a policy platform that is right for the next generation.

"You don't necessarily need to have a leader that's under 40, it's more about what your policy platform is."

And considering Kaye's deference to the role of PM, how does she grade Ardern's leadership performance so far?

"Well I'm not a member of the Labour Party," Kaye says with a smile.

"I think it's quite early on in terms of the process but I think you saw she's got good public support.

"But from my perspective while we disagree on the policies I certainly do think they'll be people in the part that think she's doing really well."

Ms Kaye successfully ran against Ms Ardern in the Auckland Central electorate in 2011 and 2014. Source: 1 NEWS



Two seriously injured after bus collides with car in Fiordland

Two people have been seriously injured after a bus collided with a car in Fiordland today.

The crash occurred at the intersection of Hillside-Manapouri Rd and Te Anau Mossburn Highway in Manapouri, Fiordland.

Emergency services were called to the scene at 9.06am and one patient was transported by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital and the other to Kew Hospital.

None of the 35 passengers on the bus were injured.

Police say the road is not blocked.
 

Police car Source: 1 NEWS

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Massive blaze near Wanaka under control but still not out

Holiday-goers staying at the Kiwi Holiday Park "dodged a bullet" last night as the Mt Roy fire in Wanaka crept close to the campground.

Andrea Kendrick from the campground, where 180 people were staying last night says they felt very anxious as the flames crept closer.

The campground was on standby to evacuate, but the wind changed at 4am saving the camp from being engulfed in flames. 

Helicopters battling fire on Wanaka's Mt Roy fill monsoon buckets.
Choppers fill monsoon buckets. Source: 1 NEWS

Eight helicopters with monsoon buckets have been working since daybreak to stop the fire burning on the slopes of Mt Roy. 

Four ground crews have joined the helicopters on the steep hillside this morning, with another on its way.

Eight helicopters are working this morning to dampen the Wanaka fire that spread 40ha overnight. Source: 1 NEWS

With temperatures forecast to increase later today, and MetService issuing a thunderstorm watch for the area, the weather is a significant factor in the fire fighting says Principal Rural Fire Officer Graeme Still.

"This is a deep seated fire that has burnt 199 hectares. It's very slow work on the hill."

Black soot covers Wanaka's Mt Roy hillside after huge fire.
Black soot covers Wanaka's Mt Roy hillside after huge fire. Source: Nikki Heath/ Wanaka Sun

He said it will take at least two days more work by ground crews before the fire can be put out.

Overnight fire crews worked to protect homes on the outskirts of Wanaka from a fire on the slopes of Mt Roy.

At about 3am fire crews and police were preparing to evacuate about 30 homes as well as holidaymakers at the Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park as a precaution due to wind shift.

Fire fighters worked through the night to protect nearby property from Mt Roy fire. Source: 1 NEWS

But by 4.30am conditions changed again and the fire is not currently burning towards houses.

The fire broke out behind houses and a holiday park and has spread over a wide area. Source: 1 NEWS

"The fire danger in this area is extreme so we are continuing to take a very cautious approach," said Principal Rural Fire Officer Graeme Still.

The fire has been burning in grass and scrub on steep slopes on the western side of Lake Wanaka since yesterday afternoon and was estimated to have burned 160 hectares by dark.

Fire continues to burn on the slopes of Mt Roy at first light on Thursday.
Fire continues to burn on the slopes of Mt Roy at first light on Thursday. Source: Jenny Hare

Mr Still said fire suppression work continued until dark, when helicopters were stood down, but fire appliances stayed overnight and were able to respond quickly to the wind change.

There is no public access to the Mt Roy Track and Spotts Creek Track, and the Milennium Track from Ruby Bay to the Edgewater Bridge, today due to the fire.

Firefighters used eight helicopters and dozens of trucks to dump water on the fire which started yesterday. Source: 1 NEWS