He knows how to milk an answer, but today Christopher Luxon attempted to milk something else: a herd of goats. Stewart Sowman-Lund was there.
Christopher Luxon has made it his campaign mission to find New Zealand’s missing mojo.
“I think New Zealand is a country of endless potential, it’s the best country on planet Earth, we’ve got amazing people, we’re in an exciting part of the world in the Asia-Pacific region,” he told RNZ In June. But New Zealand, he added, has got to “get its mojo back”.
This Austin Powers-style search for New Zealand’s missing mojo is taking him to some unusual places this election campaign. After surviving last night’s TVNZ leaders’ debate, a debate that many pundits labelled as a win for the National leader, Luxon today headed out to Oete Goat Farm near Pukekohe.
It soon turned into a hands-on event as Luxon, despite wearing a blindingly white shirt, decided to muck in and try his hand at milking some goats. Oete is the country’s largest goat farm, home to around 2,100 goats, and Luxon got to grips with the udders of about a dozen of them. Considering he scooped eight gelatos in a minute during a recent stop in Christchurch, his milking abilities weren’t half bad.
At first, Luxon struggled to achieve suction and was almost pulled along by the rotating goat carousel. He pushed through the surrounding media pack, the milk merry-go-round dragging him as he struggled to maintain hand to udder contact. “Why isn’t it going on?” he asked at one point, brandishing a pair of milking attachments. He was a man on a mission. He got so involved that a staffer confirmed Luxon did have a spare white shirt in the car ready to go – if necessary.
Locked into campaign mode, and finally locking onto the goats’ udders, Luxon peppered the farm hands with a series of classic barbecue questions: “Do the goats herd well?” And “Is it like cows, that there’s a social hierarchy?” He wanted to know how they were milked, where they were typically exported to and whether there was a leader to “decide it’s milking time”.
A National staffer offered me a free pun: “He’s udderly committed to getting New Zealand back on track”.
Was there some sort of political metaphor to be milked from all this? Luxon was too transfixed by the goats to say. “It’s interesting to see how they herd, I had a view of a goat being recalcitrant and doing their own thing,” he mused. But, he added with a laugh: “We’ve got a clear hierarchy in caucus.”
Asked whether it was harder to milk a goat or debate Chris Hipkins, the National leader deflected by claiming last night’s debate was a lot of fun. “I didn’t quite know what to expect. The time went really fast, and I enjoyed being able to have a platform to say ‘I think there is a strong difference between us and our parties’,” he said.
It wasn’t necessary for the debate to “reinvigorate” him, he said, because he’s always invigorated out on the trail. “I bounce out of bed early and ready to go each day. I love any chance to get out and meet with New Zealanders doing a range of things. You come away really inspired going through a campaign process like this.”
He may have criticised New Zealand for its lack of mojo, but Luxon said his personal mojo stocks were high ahead of election day. “I’m loving it,” he said. “I get up at 4.30am every morning, seven days a week.”
And with that, Luxon headed off to his waiting car, en route to the bottom of the South Island. The search for New Zealand’s mojo continues.