The last week has been, quite unlike the last, largely absent of notable election news. The Port Hills fires have hit pause on campaigning overall, with the government being tested over its response to a serious disaster.
Whilst the Prime Minister’s response appears to be measured and pragmatic, attention in Christchurch has been shifted to minister and local Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee. On Friday RadioLIVE host Alison Mau wrote an opinion piece for Newshub strongly criticising Brownlee. Mau had been hosting her radio program from Christchurch during the fires.
Mau wrote that on Thursday Brownlee had “upset” the mayors of Christchurch and Selwyn, the two territorial authorities dealing with the blaze, by criticising the councils for not putting in place a declaration of emergency earlier. By the time Mau interviewed Brownlee following his bout of criticism, the minister said he wouldn’t comment on the issue, saying it would take focus away from the hard work of local firefighters.
However, by Friday the minister was back to making his criticisms, this time issuing statements. Ironically, despite not wanting to talk about the issue the day before out of concern for civil defense workers, Brownlee angered the same people on Friday. Christchurch Civil Defense controller John Mackie was reportedly stunned by Brownlee’s statements, telling media the minister was achieving nothing.
Mau concluded in her article that after a disaster week Brownlee needed “a wet flannel and a lie down”.
Local MP has Twitter hijacked – by own family
Meanwhile the National MP Nuk Korako has been forced to apologise after several tweets were sent from his account, allegedly written by the MP’s son and nephew. The account tweeted to Labour member and former Illam candidate James Macbeth Dann “why are you breathing???” after Dann tweeted poking fun at an earlier tweet by Korako.
Dann later hit back, tweeting “’My son had my iphone’ is the new ‘tired and emotional’”.
After arguing with Dann and several other users, the young culprit wrote “really, I had better put Dads phone back as had my fun now. No wonder he never responds to you dicks”.
Korako the elder has taken full responsibility for the incident.
Korako, who is touted as well-performing local MP with strong connections to the area, has been re-selected for the National Party to run against Labour’s Ruth Dyson. Dyson has been the local MP for the area under various electorate names since 1993, with a brief stint as a List MP from 1996 to 1999.
Greens and Labour learn the art of the deal
It has its roots in the now infamous ‘Teapot tapes’ of 2011, when John Key and ACT candidate for Epsom John Banks discussed an electorate deal to secure the seat for ACT. The deal has existed since then, with John Key endorsing David Seymour, now ACT leader, for the Epsom seat in 2014 when John Banks stood aside. But National has never withdrawn a candidate from the seat, instead keeping a candidate to secure the party vote – and its worked. At the 2014 poll David Seymour won 43.0% of the candidate vote and National won 63.4% of the party vote.
On the weekend Labour selected former Police Association head Greg O’Connor to be its candidate for the north Wellington seat of Ohariu. At the last election the Labour candidate, Virginia Andersen, won 34.6% to Peter Dunne’s 36.5%. Meanwhile the Green candidate, Tane Woodley, won 7.4%. It is a popular belief that if Woodley were to stand aside in that election, his votes would have helped to get the Labour candidate across the line, defeating Dunne who is a crucial support partner for the government.
If Dunne were to lose his seat, it is likely that the National Party would need to increase its party vote support. Either that, or the Maori Party would need to pick up an extra seat currently held by Labour.
Labour has been criticised by media and National for being hypocritical after criticising electorate deals for years. Most particularly criticism has been directed towards Labour leader Andrew Little, who in 2011 attacked the National-ACT alliance in New Plymouth after they struck a deal in the electorate; ACT stood aside there in what was then the most marginal seat in the country, helping incumbent Jonathan Young to an easy victory over Little.
But both Little and Greens co-leader James Shaw have insisted there is “no deal”. They are maintaining the decision by the Greens to not stand in Ohariu was made independently by the Green Party leadership as part of the party’s desire to change the government.
There had been some uncertainty over the Greens standing down in Ohariu following Labour’s decision to stand in Nelson, where the Greens had hoped to run unchallenged on the left. Labour has selected Rachel Boyack to run against the Greens and National’s Nick Smith.
Peter Dunne has had a far better term than his last, and this is expected to boost his performance. Whether it will be enough to see off O’Connor remains to be seen. O’Connor’s campaign, with the backing of far larger party machinery, has already kicked off.
Greens star misses out on Central spot
There has been some level of shock after Green Party star and former Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick was beaten in a selection battle. Swarbrick had hoped to win the Green Party’s Auckland Central candidacy but was beaten by former candidate and MP Denise Roche. Roche won 7.6% of the candidate vote in 2014, although the Greens hold a massive stake in the party vote – 22.1% – higher than Labour’s.
With Ardern now standing in Mount Albert, Labour will now have to select a new candidate. Lawyer Helen White and educator Shanan Halbert are contesting a selection for the party. The winner will take on Roche and Nikki Kaye, the incumbent National MP.
It is unclear if Swarbrick will contest selection for any other seat, but Epsom and Maungakiekie have both been suggested as suitable seats.
Voting begins in Mount Albert
Following the #WarForMountAlbert multi-party debate hosted by local radio station 95b FM, advance voting is surging. The debate hosted Labour’s Jacinda Ardern, the Greens’ Julie-Anne Genter and the new “radical centre” Opportunities Party candidate, economist Geoff Simmons. Advance voting statistics show that early voting is well up on the 2014 election, a result which was unexpected after the National Party decided not to contest the electorate.
Little continues national tour as Dunedin suffers job losses
Labour’s leader has continued his nationwide tour, visiting rural centres and cities alike to discuss the future of jobs. Little was in Gisborne on Thursday with Labour’s East Coast candidate Kiri Allan, discussing bringing jobs and businesses back to the struggling region. However, it is Dunedin that has witnessed the latest series of job losses, following what has so far been a sluggish year for the city – it recently fell behind the Bay of Plenty city of Tauranga as New Zealand’s 6th largest city. And, if you count Napier-Hastings as one entity, Dunedin is now 7th.
Not assisting that is the closure of Dunedin’s iconic Cadbury chocolate factory, a huge local employer. Dunedin South MP Clare Curran, who worked in the factory in her younger years, said the announcement was “shocking news”. Mayor Dave Cull agreed the closure was devastating. Cadbury’s, who were in talks with union organisers on Friday, said it was a financial decision – 2/3 of the products produced at the Dunedin site are shipped to Australia, and shifting the factory across the Tasman would eliminate the cost of shipping. Thousands of Kiwis have already voiced outrage, saying they will boycott Cadbury’s products and instead buy Porirua-produced Whittaker’s.
All this will leave Dunedin voters asking which parties will provide future economic security. The National Party will approach the election on the grounds they have ensured economic stability, which statistics will back up as a truth. But that growth has largely been a result of Auckland’s surging growth and the construction boom in Christchurch. Labour and New Zealand First will both approach the election on rural dissatisfaction as regional growth lags.
Little was well-received in Dunedin the other week, launching a policy proposal to bring digital jobs to the city in front of a crowd of 400. The Otago Daily Times reported “Business and civic leaders were unanimous in their praise for Labour’s ambitious plans to create a multimillion-dollar centre of digital excellence in Dunedin”.
So, where regional jobs are concerned, it’s now the government’s turn to play catch-up.
Auckland Central (held by Nikki Kaye of National by a 600 vote majority versus Labour).
Hutt South (held by Trevor Mallard of Labour by a 709 vote majority versus National’s Chris Bishop. Virginia Andersen will be Labour’s candidate in 2017, replacing Mallard).
Ohariu (held by Peter Dunne of United Future by a 710 vote majority versus Labour).
Te Tai Tokerau (held by Kelvin Davis of Labour by a 743 vote majority versus the MANA Movement’s Hone Harawira).
Latest poll (as of Friday, 17 Feb 2017) (No change)
Roy Morgan poll for November/December
National 46.0%, Labour 27.0%, Greens 12.5%, NZ First 9.0%, Maori 2.0%, ACT 0.5%, United Future 0.5%, Conservative 0.5%, Internet Party 0.0%, MANA Movement 0.0%
(GOVERNMENT 49.0% OPPOSITION 48.5%).
Poll change: National +1.0, Labour -1.5, Greens -2.0, NZ First +1.5, Maori +1.0, ACT +0.0, United Future +0.5, Conservative +0.0, Internet Party -0.5, MANA Movement +0.0.
GOVERNMENT +3.0, OPPOSTION -3.0
Poll average: National 47%, Labour 28%, Greens 12%, NZ First 9%, Maori 1.3%, ACT 0.5%, Conservative 0.2%, MANA Movement 0.1%, United Future 0.0%.
The leaders’ social media performance:
Facebook ‘likes’ as at Thursday 2/02/2017
1) Winston Peters 73,715 (+973)
2) Bill English 73,348 (+2,301)
3) Andrew Little 29,982 (+138)
4) Metiria Turei 13,837 (+141)
5) Te Ururoa Flavell 12,766 (+26)
6) Marama Fox 7,992 (+10)
7) James Shaw 7,718 (+27)
8) David Seymour 4,484 (+111)
1) Metiria Turei 21.9K (+0.1)
3) Bill English 15.7K (+0.5)
2) Winston Peters 14.1K (+0.1)
4) Andrew Little 12.3K (+0.0)
5) Peter Dunne 8.2K (-0.1)
6) James Shaw 6.6K (+0.1)
7) Te Uruora Flavell 5.4K (+0.0)
8) Marama Fox 3.8K (+0.1)
9) David Seymour 3.6K (+0.0)
– Bennett Morgan, Capital HardTalk.