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18 Oct 2023

Auckland's Mt Roskill votes for change, now the hard part begins

10:01 18/10/2023

Voters in the country's most Asian electorate - Mt Roskill in Auckland - are counting on the new government to deliver on its promises to cut crime and boost the economy.

National's Carlos Cheung beat Michael Wood on election night by more than 1400 votes to claim the traditional Labour seat, where nearly half of the population identify as Asian. Final results for the electorate are expected to be confirmed on 3 November once special votes have been counted.

The centre-right party's win has put smiles on faces at Three Kings Plaza in Mt Roskill. Among them was Fijian-Indian Harsh Ram, who watched the election with his family.

"I think we just needed a change in direction," Ram says. "I come from an immigrant family, and we pride ourselves on hard work and just try to be happy. ... I think that we are getting a little bit away from that with what we've had."

National party's Carlos Chueng is leading at Mt Roskill.

Carlos Cheung from the National Party defeated Michael Wood to claim Auckland's Mt Roskill electorate on Saturday. Final results are expected on 3 November once special votes have been counted. Photo: RNZ / Blessen Tom

Restaurant worker Meishun Huang, who's Chinese, finished work late on election night and was stoked watching results coming in with her co-workers.

"I hope National will boost the economy, not like now when the economy is bad and public safety is bad," Huang says.

Another Chinese woman, Cuichang Liang, also hoped life would be easier for people who are working.

"Working-class people like us hope there are more job opportunities," Liang says. "We know that a lot of migrant workers have come here but don't have a job."

Pearl Coutinho of Indian descent said National's win will be better for the development of New Zealand and hopes other parties will work constructively with National.

She hoped the new government would usher in some new ideas and look after people from all socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities.

"I'm hoping that it will look at the middle class as well," Coutinho says. "The working people, taxation, benefits for people who need it, but generally for the betterment of New Zealand as a whole."


Pearl Coutinho hopes the new government will look after people from different socio-economic backgrounds. Photo: RNZ / Blessen Tom

Carlos Cheung, who's from Hong Kong, won nearly 12,000 votes.

Most of the Chinese MPs in New Zealand have been included as a list candidate, apart from Pansy Wong who won the newly established Botany electorate in 2008.

Cheung said his win was significant for more than just the Chinese community.

"I think it's a victory for the entire Asian community as well," he says.

"It proves that a candidate with an Asian background can have the support of the electorate and be able to win the electorate," he says.

"Now I just want to strengthen my relationship with them and make sure we achieve something and bring change to Mt Roskill," he says.

"For our electorate, I think the things of most concern are the cost of living and increasing crime," he says. "Making our community safe is my priority as the local MP."

In a social media post Tuesday, outgoing electorate MP Wood says he has "only gratitude to local people (of Mt Roskill) for the opportunity to work for and with them".

"Being the MP for my beloved community of Mt Roskill has been an extraordinary honour and in big ways and small I have worked every day to try and improve life for people here," Wood wrote. "In some cases I have been able to get results that I know have made a difference, and in some cases I haven't been able to - but I've always tried."

Wood says between 8,000 and 10,000 special votes could be expected, so remains hopeful of retaining his seat.


Harsh Ram and his 5-year-old son, Kiyan. Photo: Liu Chen / RNZ

Ram says he's seen Cheung out and about campaigning, but he doesn't know him. He hopes Cheung will keep his promises.

"Carjackings, robberies and even we've got a bunch of small shops down the road, and they've been impacted by a few break-ins and things of that nature in the last 12 to 18 months," Ram says.

"I don't know if that's directly the fault of the government but that's definitely some of the things that are happening, and if he's committed to changing some of the law-and-order things, then I think he will do well."

Hongzhi Gao

Hongzhi Gao says being an MP is not easy. Photo: Supplied

Representing an electorate is not an easy job

Hongzhi Gao, an associate professor in international business at the School of Marketing and International Business at Victoria University in Wellington, was shocked by Labour's "abject defeat" in the election.

"National has gained a lot of median voters who originally voted for Labor," he says. "The ACT Party's bold and straightforward policies have won favour with many voters who have no confidence in the National Party."

Gao also says it's not easy to be an MP, especially in the context of ideological differences between China and the West. If unprepared, they could find themselves out of a job.

Yiyan Wang, a professor of Chinese in the School of Languages and Cultures at Victoria University, says the results show how voters have been unhappy with the Labour government, with many wishing for change.

"It also reflects the diverse political orientations of the New Zealand public," Wang says. "Neither National nor Labour can control politics alone."

Yiyan Wang, professor of Chinese in the School of Languages and Cultures at VUW

Yiyan Wang says having more ethnic minorities participating in politics will make the government more reflective of the will of the people. Photo: Supplied

Wang noticed that the National Party engaged more with the Chinese community while campaigning before the election comparing with Labour.

She says Cheung's win is worth celebrating, but because of the diverse nature of the Chinese community, it's not certain Cheung can represent everyone equally.

"Over the past decade, Chinese MPs have almost been 'appointed' by Labour or National, and the community doesn't have much of trust in them," she says.

"Now it's a different story with an elected grassroots MP, and I think most Chinese will welcome the result," she says.

"For New Zealand, having more ethnic minorities participating in democratic politics will make the government more reflective of the will of the people," she says.

"It should be welcomed by all, but also be seen as inevitable in New Zealand's democratic society."

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