16 Sep 2014

Wairarapa contest heats up

9:39 am on 16 September 2014

New Zealand First is aiming for an upset in the mostly rural seat of Wairarapa while National's first-time candidate is looking to repeat the success of the electorate's outgoing MP.

Carterton mayor and former New Zealand First MP Ron Mark is standing against first-time National Party candidate Alastair Scott.

National Party Wairarapa candidate Alastair Scott.

National Party Wairarapa candidate Alastair Scott. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

The mostly-rural seat of Wairarapa, stretching from the Rimutaka Range to Waipukurau, was held by National MP John Hayes with a majority of 7135 at the last election. Mr Hayes is retiring at this election.

National's candidate Alastair Scott, the owner and director of Matahiwi Estate in Masterton, said he would have to earn the trust of the electorate. "I can't just coat-tail on John Hayes' success story, I've got to get out there and do the work, which is what we've been doing."

Mr Scott is enrolled to vote in Wellington central and has a second home in Masterton. He has been receiving some criticism for not living full-time in the electorate but does not think it is be an issue.

"Because they want the best candidate, the voters want to see the strongest candidate represent them. It doesn't matter what town they're from, it doesn't matter where they were born, it doesn't matter what school they went to, it's about the quality of the candidate."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Wairarapa candidate Ron Mark.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Wairarapa candidate Ron Mark. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

During his time in Parliament, former army officer Ron Mark had one of the highest profiles of any New Zealand First MP other than the leader Winston Peters, and was for a time considered to be Mr Peters' natural successor.

Mr Mark said Wairarapa voters deserve better than being represented by a backbench MP, toeing the party line. He said he has a lot of support from National party members in the electorate.

"They recognise my farming background, I've been involved in Maori agri-biz, I've spent some time as the chief executive of Federated of Maori Authorities. There has not been a strong, forceful representative for rural provincial New Zealand in Parliament for a very long time."

While both men believe they can win the seat, Labour Party candidate Kieran McAnulty, who boasts five generations in the region, also fancies his chances.

In 2002, the right vote was split between three parties, handing victory to then-Labour candidate Georgina Beyer.

Wairarapa candidates

  • Alastair Scott - National Party
  • Brent Allan Reid - Conservative Party
  • John Hart Green - Party
  • Kieran McAnulty - Labour Party
  • Ra Smith - Māori Party
  • Ron Mark - New Zealand First
  • Shane Atkinson - ACT Party

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