State of the race #8: More electorate deals and Making Rivers Safe Again

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The first major televised opinion poll of the year provided mixed reading for both parties. While National had overall taken a sizable hit since the shock resignation of John Key, Bill English had a stellar start in the preferred Prime Minister ratings, easily besting Winston Peters and Andrew Little.

But, of course, it is the party vote share that counts. Off the latest poll, National doesn’t have enough to govern alone, or with loyal support partner ACT and United Future. Bill English’s National will need the support of the Maori Party. And, just this week, the Maori Party’s return to parliament became a bit more certain.

MANA-Maori sign electorate deal

An electorate deal between the left-wing MANA Movement and government support partner, the Maori Party, will shake things up in an election year already defined by deals. As suggested by Marama Fox’s Christmas duet with Te Ururoa Flavell, the Maori Party will stand aside in the seat of Te Tai Tokerau in favour of “uncle Hone” Harawira. In return, the MANA Movement will stand aside in the remaining six Maori seats, five of which the Maori Party hopes to gain back from the Labour Party who gained Tamaki Makarau and Te Tai Hauauru in 2014.

The deal is supposed to benefit co-leader Fox who lost to Labour’s Meka Whaitiri in 2014. In fact, Fox placed third behind MANA’s Maori Television star Te Hamua Nikora. However, Fox has gained reputation since then due to her prominent role in parliament, and could potentially generate a large swing in her favour. If she fails, it is likely Fox will be out of parliament.

In Flavell’s seat of Waiariki, it is hoped the 25.1% won by MANA’s Annette Sykes in 2014 will flow to the Maori Party. Flavell currently holds a 17.8% majority over Labour, who have selected former television star Tamati Coffey as their candidate. However, there is dissatisfaction with the Maori Party for signing with National in the electorate. Sykes held large anti-National credentials, and many voted for her as she was seen as the best chance to unseat Flavell.

In Te Tai Tonga, where Labour’s majority over the Maori Party was considered safe, the Green Party is now standing co-leader Metiria Turei, damaging Rino Tirikatene’s path back to parliament.

A big part of the deal comes down to Te Tai Tokerau, the Northland seat previously held by Harawira first as a Maori Party MP, then as MANA, was won by Labour’s Kelvin Davis in 2014. Davis holds a slim majority, but has gained significant credentials in his first term; even Harawira refused to say anything bad of the MP’s work when pressed on Three’s The AM Show. In fact, Harawira was clinical in saying the fight was not against Davis, but against Labour, National, ACT and New Zealand First who he believed had all conspired to oust him. Harawira’s image was tarnished in 2014 after signing a deal with the Internet Party and Kim Dotcom to form the ‘Internet MANA’ ticket. Harawira now says he entirely regrets siding with Dotcom.

Harawira has stressed the cosiness with the Maori Party will end the day before the election, and the parties will not necessarily support the same party if they have any say in negotiating the next government. The Maori Party appears tight in its confidence and supply with the National government, and Harawira refused to say in blanket terms that he’d completely rule out signing with National. However, Harawira initially left the Maori Party over their co-operation with National.

Make New Zealand’s Rivers Swimmable Again
On Thursday Bill English, Nathan Guy and Nick Smith stood beside a river to announce another National Party policy. The government will now commit to making sure all waterways are swimmable by 2040, a target being slammed as weak by the opposition. The government wants to work with farmers, environmental groups and Maori to meet the targets. Currently, Wellington has some of the safest waterways in the country – but even here 1 in 10 are deemed unsafe to enter.

Labour claims the policy is a “con job” that it is fast “falling apart”, claiming Nick Smith is simply altering what is deemed ‘swimmable’. According to Labour’s David Parker a river thought to be safe to enter under the new system would have a 1 in 20 chance in making a person sick. “Who would eat in a restaurant where one in twenty customers get sick? Apparently, Nick Smith would” Parker said in a press release.

The Green Party says it has a comprehensive policy on making rivers safe to swim in again. The party says it will safeguard rivers similar to how national parks are currently protected, set robust new standards for water quality and halt the construction of any new dams.

Currently it falls under the jurisdiction of regional councils to work with farmers to protect waterways, who have been accused as the primary polluter of rivers. The Taranaki Regional Council currently permits the fencing off of waterways in most areas, and financially assists farmers in fencing projects and the planting of bush along the water’s edge to stop run-off.

Yule to stand for National

Hastings mayor and chair of Local Government New Zealand, Lawrence Yule, has been confirmed to replace Craig Foss as National’s candidate for the southern Hawkes’ Bay seat of Tukituki. Yule has been mayor of the area during the water crisis that has seen dozens fall sick, and has been both praised and condemned for his response.

The incumbent MP Craig Foss, who has served the area since winning the seat off Labour’s Rick Barker in 2005, will retire at the election after twelve years in parliament. Yule will take on Anna Lorck, considered a rising star in the Labour Party, who managed to generate a swing towards her in 2014.

National holds a 6,490 vote majority over Labour in the electorate that incorporates the towns of Hastings and Havelock North, as well as a large portion of inland Hawkes Bay – dairy farming and wine country.

Lorck signalled she wants to fight the election on local issues, such as water, which was hugely successful for her neighbouring candidate Stuart Nash in 2014.

If successful, Yule says he would remain as Mayor until June next year as part of his commitment to locals to resolve the district’s water issues. He told the newspaper Hawkes’ Bay Today that he was “humbled by the support” he had received from the local National Party.

Meanwhile Labour has confirmed its Auckland Central candidate as Helen White, and their Illam candidate as local pastor Anthony Rimell.

Holt confirmed as Helensville candidate

Star recruit for the Green Party, broadcaster and sportswoman Hayley Holt, has been confirmed as the party’s Helensville candidate. The seat is currently held by former Prime Minister John Key who will retire at the election. The Greens placed second in Helensville in 2014 thanks to the work of sitting MP Kennedy Graham, who increased the Green vote significantly. Helensville also saw one of the largest swings against National – partly down to boundary changes which shifted the strong Green area of Piha Beach into the electorate.

The seat was marginal in 2002, when John Key won it by a margin of just over one thousand votes. Originally from the wealthy Auckland suburb of Epsom, Holt is a co-host on Prime Television’s The Crowd Goes Wild and Back Benches. She is also a professional snowboarder, a ballroom dancer, model, radio host and boxer.

So far Holt is the only candidate to declare her hand in the electorate.

New Zealand’s child poverty rate comes under scrutiny again

A new report by Amnesty has highlighted New Zealand’s child poverty rate. The report finds nearly one in three New Zealand children are in poverty. Dr Innes Asher of the University of Auckland said the government had done very little to fix it, despite John Key’s assurances after his victory in 2014 that child poverty would become a major issue for the government in this term.

However, the 2015 budget gave low-income families an extra $25 per week – the biggest increase in low-income payments in 30 years. Additional to that, the government has made numerous moves to increase the minimum wage.

Despite efforts, New Zealand’s poverty rate among children continues to grow. Also highlighted in the report was the country’s high level of “sexual violence against women and girls”, a “significant number of children suffering physical and psychological abuse and neglect”, a lack of progress on improvements to the Bill of Rights, a massively disproportionate number of Maori in prisons and the consideration of a formal extradition treaty with China (a state practicing capital punishment which Amnesty opposes).

The marginals:
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).

The polls:
Latest poll (as of Friday, 24 Feb 2017)
Colmar Brunton poll for Jan/Feb:
National 46.0%, Labour 30.0%, Greens 11.0%, NZ First 11.0%, Maori 1.0%, ACT 1.0%, MANA Movement 1.0% United Future 0.0%, Conservative 0.0%, Internet Party 0.0%,
(GOVERNMENT 48.0% OPPOSITION 52.0%).

Poll change: National +0.0, Labour +3.0, Greens -1.5, NZ First +2.0, Maori -1.0, ACT +0.5, United Future -0.5, Conservative -0.5, Internet Party +0.0, MANA Movement +1.0

GOVERNMENT -1.0, OPPOSTION +3.5

Poll average: National 47.0%, Labour 28.0%, Greens 11.0%, NZ First 10.0%, Maori 1.3%, ACT 0.6%, MANA Movement 0.4%, Conservative 0.2%, United Future 0.1%.
(Greens -1.0, NZ First +1.0, ACT +0.1, MANA Movement +0.3, United Future +0.1)

Better Prime Minister poll: Bill English 31.0%, Winston Peters 8.0%, Andrew Little 7.0%, Jacinda Ardern 4.0%, John Key 2.0%.

The leaders’ social media performance:
Facebook ‘likes’ as at Thursday 2/02/2017
1) Winston Peters 74,265 (+550)
2) Bill English 73,967 (+619)
3) Andrew Little 30,075 (+93)
4) Metiria Turei 13,952 (+115)
5) Te Ururoa Flavell 12,801 (+35)
6) Marama Fox 8,018 (+26)
7) James Shaw 7,733 (+15)
8) David Seymour 4,614 (+130)
9) Peter Dunne 1,463 (+1,463)
Twitter followers
1) Metiria Turei 22.0K (+0.1)
3) Bill English 16.0K (+0.3)
2) Winston Peters 14.1K (+0.0)
4) Andrew Little 12.4K (+0.1)
5) Peter Dunne 8.2K (+0.0)
6) James Shaw 6.6K (+0.0)
7) Te Uruora Flavell 5.4K (+0.0)
8) Marama Fox 3.8K (+0.0)
9) David Seymour 3.6K (+0.0)

– Bennett Morgan, Capital HardTalk.

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