Today Chris Hipkins visited a student flat in Dunedin and brought two boxes of donuts with him. Tara Ward was there too.
It’s not every day the prime minister visits a love shack, but today was no ordinary day in Dunedin. This morning, Chris Hipkins was on the campaign trail in the southern city, and amid his busy day of announcements, made a quick visit to a student flat on Cumberland Street named “The Love Shack”. Not only did the prime minister call in to the chateau of amour for a quick chat with a group of students, but he brought with him a very special guest: two boxes of donuts.
Before his arrival, everything outside the Love Shack seemed normal. Trucks rumbled past on state highway one and a nearby cherry tree was in full blossom, possibly for Hipkins’ visit, but mostly because it is spring. But when the prime minister arrived, flanked by Labour MPs Rachel Brooking and Ingrid Leary, he bounded up to the door with the energy of a man who is no stranger to a love shack. Five of the flat’s six residents – Kaitlyn, Jasmine, Santira, Laura and Thomas – greeted Hipkins next to the glass recycling bin and some old cardboard boxes, and welcomed him warmly into their home. Where was the sixth resident? We’ll never know.
Once inside, it was clear the Love Shack wasn’t a dingy Dunedin student flat of yore, but a world of better living. The carpet was plush and went all the way from one wall to another. A heat pump graced the lounge wall and two french doors opened onto a backyard with real grass. There were no holes in the walls, no sad Speights can art installations on the mantelpiece. The Love Shack had heat, comfort and natural light. It was absolute scenes.
Hipkins knew it, too. The Love Shack is a Healthier Homes success story, and Hipkins admitted he was thinking of Dunedin’s notoriously poor student accommodation when Labour introduced the legislation. The flatmates assured him their landlord was “very sweet” (a human donut, perhaps), and because two of the flatmates were conveniently dentistry students, Hipkins bought up Labour’s proposed free dentistry policy for under 30s.
Hipkins sat in the corner of the flat couch as he discussed Labour’s new policy, as the large group of media loomed over him approximately one metre away. Awkward? Not at all. One of the dentistry students asked how Hipkins planned to staff the new policy when health services are already understaffed, and he conveniently had a response ready: that more money would be allocated to fund an additional 335 places at medical school. But before things could get too political, a man in a suit reminded Hipkins why he was here: to give the students some donuts.
The unexpected news of donuts made the students cheer with joy. “Slay!” one of them cried, a term which I would like to move, second and unanimously vote for as Labour’s new election slogan. The students seemed unaware that you should always be wary of a man who promises you free dental care but also gives you sweet treats, and were simply relieved they didn’t have to eat chicken on rice for tea again.
The delicious bounty was duly presented, with flavours including pink with sprinkles, chocolate glazed and something the prime minister decided was “cinnamony”. “The TV networks like to get footage of me eating things,” Hipkins announced as he began to eat a thing, while Leary dutifully reminded everyone to brush their teeth afterwards. The students revealed they cleaned the house for a couple of hours after dinner the other night, and said the vibe of Dunedin student life was “great”. “How long has your light been out?” one journalist asked, pointing to a ceiling socket with no bulb. “All year,” the students replied.
Hipkins chewed his cinnamony donut slowly, but after 15 minutes, it was time for him to move on. The whole shack shimmied, and after one last photo under the Love Shack sign, Hipkins disappeared into the wilds of state highway one. Flatmate Kaitlyn described the prime minister’s visit as “wicked”. “He made himself at home,” she laughed, adding it’s not every day the prime minister comes to visit. “I’m going to send my Mum a message soon and say ‘hey look, Chippy was at my flat.’ She’ll be dumbfounded.” Slay, indeed.