As he prepares for another shot at playing Kiwi political kingmaker, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has made bashing Australian-owned banks and supermarkets a key election message.
There's a darker side accompanying the 78-year-old's pitch to return at the October 14 election, with some aggrieved New Zealanders drawn to his campaign hoping for retribution from current leaders.
In NZ, parties which earn at least five per cent of the nationwide vote send MPs to Wellington.
NZ First is polling on the cusp of that threshold and trending up, putting Mr Peters' self-made party on track for a return to parliament after months of campaigning.
At town hall meetings up and down the country, Mr Peters marries a populist economic message with policies on the fringe of the mainstream.
On the central issue in the Kiwi election - the cost of living - Mr Peters is serving it up to corporate Australia.
"The cost of living in this country is crippling," he told an audience of a few hundred in Lower Hutt this week.
"Can we get on top of it? Yes, if we attack foreign owned-duopolies in the food supply market.
"And we can also get on top of costs if we attack foreign owned banks: Aussies ripping off New Zealanders in this country.
Mr Peters has pledged inquiries into both supermarkets and banks should he win a place in the next government.
"It is outrageous what they're getting away with. Do you think Ned Kelly ... is going to behave himself when he gets here?" he said.
"I'm not bashing Aussies. I love them. But don't come the dingo with me. Don't come the raw prawn with us for goodness sake!"
NZ First last played the kingmaker role in 2017 when Mr Peters backed Labour rather than centre-right National after weeks of coalition talks, making Jacinda Ardern prime minister.
In 2020, the party was punished by voters for its stint in government, polling just 2.5 per cent.
This time around, Mr Peters has pledged not to deal with Labour again, which he says betrayed him by withholding cabinet documents on a plan to grow indigenous rights.
Mr Peters is railing against an increased role for Maori in government decision-making and the Maori name for the country - Aotearoa - which has been cheerfully adopted by major parties and even put on passports.
At Lower Hutt, Mr Peters won hearty applause by telling the crowd this inspired his campaign slogan: Let's Take Back Our Country.
"This country's name is not Aotearoa ... No! This country's name is New Zealand," he said.
"The South Island, not too far from here, is called Te Waipounamu. We're insulted by this, having it rammed down our throats.
"When did we have a referendum on this? ... It's all on the radar without any consultation with you. That's what we mean by let's take back our country."
Mr Peters continued by blaming a downturn in literacy standards on the introduction of sex education.
A second applause line comes when he calls for teachers to "teach education and no more indoctrination".
The biggest show of feeling from the crowd comes when Mr Peters addresses vaccine mandates.
"What is the construction of democracy is about if not the people's right to choose?" he says, to roars, pledging a fresh inquiry into the government's pandemic response.
When his 48-minute speech is done, questions from the floor ask the former deputy prime minister whether it is possible to leave the UN and World Economic Forum - two organisations blamed by conspiracy theorists for COVID-19 lockdowns.
One man says "I am not racist" and asks about ripping up treaties signed with Maori tribes.
Another asks whether Mr Peters would support "going after" Labour and Greens ministers who he believes have "committed domestic terrorism".
Mr Peters deflects in his response, saying punishment instead was coming from the voters.
"They're coming in for a major disaster in this campaign. You will never hear from them ever again because of the way they treated the power they had," he said.
The return of NZ First is a headache for Chris Luxon's National, the centre-right poll leader.
If NZ First miss the threshold, National are likely to have the numbers to govern with preferred coalition partner ACT, a right-wing libertarian party led by David Seymour.
If NZ First gets to five per cent, National and ACT are likely to need Mr Peters' support, which throws their policy platform in the air.
While the three parties are aligned on some issues - such as tougher sentencing - Mr Peters does not support National's centrepiece policy: income tax cuts aimed at the middle class, arguing that New Zealand cannot afford them.
Mr Luxon will also have a hard time managing Mr Peters and Mr Seymour, who have a combustible relationship.
The pair sparred at the Newshub minor parties debate this week, trading insults.
"Nobody's able to work with him," Mr Seymour said, "he's like an arsonist showing up dressed as a fireman, saying, 'I am here to help and fix it all'."
Using a unexplainable Winston-ism, Mr Peters argued his experience would be needed in government.
"You better get some adults in the room who leave with trousers on for goodness sake," he said.
With three weeks to go until polling day, this tension is likely to become a central dynamic in the campaign.
Australian Associated Press