10 Oct 2020

The electorates worth watching on election night

4:17 pm on 10 October 2020

The results on election night for some of the country's 72 electorates aren't likely to be much of a surprise - Mount Albert is a Labour stronghold, Epsom is pretty much a guarantee for ACT, and Southland is staunchly National, for example.

Polling booths are open for New Zealand's general election in Auckland on September 23, 2017. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

Photo: AFP or licensors

But others aren't so clear-cut. Whether a boundary change is affecting the support base for a certain party, a retiring MP is leaving a vacuum to fill, a candidate's good old fashioned hard work has put them in the running, or there's a new electorate altogether, there's enough going on to make election night that extra bit more interesting.

While no electorate seat is likely to make a material difference to the make-up of Parliament this election, they're still worth keeping an eye on to see how things play out.


Labour's Tamati Coffey holds this seat and a Māori Television Curia research poll in early October shows Tāmati Coffey is 12 points ahead of the Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi.

In one of the biggest upsets of the last election, Coffey beat then-Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell for the seat - and the Māori Party want it back.

But that same Māori Television poll shows 24 percent of voters in the electorate are undecided.

Waititi says there's "a game on in Waiariki and the undecided vote will determine who represents Waiariki in Wellington".

It's a big electorate, covering part of the East Cape, the Bay of Plenty and much of the central North Island.

It comprises the two main confederations of iwi in the Bay of Plenty-Central North Island area, the Te Arawa and Mataatua waka.

Te Tai Hauāuru

This is another seat the Māori Party wants to win back from Labour.

South Taranaki iwi leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is standing here, and it's seen as the Māori Party's best chance of getting back into Parliament.

She's polling well behind Labour's Adrian Rurawhe, who has held the seat for two terms. He's on 38 percent, while Ngarewa-Packer is back on 20 percent.

Adrian Rurawhe and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

Adrian Rurawhe and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer Photo: RNZ/ SUPPLIED

But similar to Waiariki, a large chunk of the electorate - 30 percent - are undecided.

The Māori Party was ousted from Parliament at the last election, with Labour winning all seven Māori seats.

But Ngarewa-Packer says the party has come back with a clearer identity and transformational policies.


This is a new electorate, established earlier this year when the Electoral Commission set the new boundaries, following the 2018 census.

The Parliament website says it was: "created ahead of the 2020 general election as a result of population growth in the area caused by the outward expansion of Auckland. Takanini was created by drawing population from the current seats of Manurewa and Papakura, as well as the former Hunua electorate".

It's ethnically diverse - 41.9 percent of the population there is Asian, 31.9 percent are European, Pacific peoples make up 21 percent and Māori 17.2 percent.

The candidates for the electorate are Labour's Neru Leavasa, National's Rima Nakhle, ACT's Mike McCormick, New Conservative's Elliot Ikelei, Vision NZ's Georg Ngatai, the TEA Party's John Hong, and Advance New Zealand's Mitesh Kagathra.

None of the candidates are currently in Parliament.

Auckland Central

This electorate is home to 60,000 people, made up of mostly young and highly-educated adults of European and Asian descent.

The Labour Party's Helen White, the National Party's Emma Mellow and the Green Party's Chlöe Swarbrick are contesting the seat.

Auckland Central was once a jewel in Labour's crown; a red stronghold since the 1919 election until retiring National Party MP Nikki Kaye flipped it blue in 2008 and has held it since.

But it's a close race - a Q+A Colmar Brunton poll in early October had White in the lead with 35 percent, Mellow is on 30 and Swarbrick on 26.

Kaye says Swabrick's bid to win the local seat is unusual for the electorate and will make election night even more interesting - the party has previously told voters to opt for the Labour candidate.

With the Greens polling dangerously close to the 5 percent mark, their push for Swarbrick in Auckland Central has been seen as a bid for an insurance policy to ensure they get back into Parliament.

From left, Chlöe Swarbrick, Emma Mellow and Helen White

From left, Chlöe Swarbrick, Emma Mellow and Helen White. Photo: RNZ


On paper, the Northland electorate could save New Zealand First by offering it a path into Parliament if it doesn't make the 5 percent party vote threshold.

But polling released in early August put the party's candidate for the seat, Shane Jones, way back in third place.

National's Matt King - the incumbent in the electorate - was on 46 percent, Labour's Willow-Jean Prime was on 31 percent and Jones was on 15 percent.

NZ First leader Winston Peters won the seat in a 2015 by-election, but was ousted by King in the 2017 general election.

After the August poll, Jones told TVNZ's Q+A he needed to get the "political jackhammer" out, with his message to Northlanders that if they wanted to get NZ First back into Parliament they should vote for him or the party.

And Labour isn't interested in cutting its coalition partner a deal for the seat, either.

NZ First, Labour and National respectively

From left, Shane Jones, Willow-Jean Prime and Matt King. Photo: RNZ / Labour Party / RNZ

Te Tai Tokerau

This one's interesting for one of its candidates - Advance New Zealand's controversial co-leader Billy Te Kahika.

The seat is held by Labour's deputy leader Kelvin Davis, but Te Kahika and Māori Party candidate Mariameno Kapa-Kingi are vying to push him out.

Advance NZ has pinned its hopes on Billy Te Kahika winning Te Tai Tokerau to get into Parliament, with Jami-Lee Ross stepping down from contesting the Botany seat.

Kapa-Kingi (Te Aupōuri and Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaora) has worked in iwi and Māori social and health services for more than 30 years, and most recently, was part of the collective iwi response in the Far North to Covid-19.

Davis has held Te Tai Tokerau for the last two terms, after narrowly beating Hone Harawira in 2014 by just 3 percent.

But despite Te Kahika's aspirations, the latest voting paints a different story - a Curia Research poll on 8 October put his support on 1 percent. Davis was on 38 percent, Kapa-Kingia was on 18 percent, and 32 percent of voters were undecided.


Labour's Kieran McAnulty has his sights set on National's Mike Butterick here. It's one of the largest electorates in the North Island, bordering Wellington in the south and stretching into the central Hawke's Bay in the north.

McAnulty lost out to National's Alastair Scott - who's stepping down - in 2017 by 2872 votes.

It's also territory for New Zealand First's Ron Mark - although he got about 8000 less votes than Scott at the last election.

Hutt South

Labour will be pushing to take back Hutt South from National's Chris Bishop.

The seat was Trevor Mallard's from 1993 until 2017, when he retired.

Bishop had lost to Mallard by only 709 votes in 2014 and worked hard for his win in 2017 and has been working ever since to keep up his profile in the electorate.

Ginny Anderson was Mallard's replacement, and she's taking a crack at Bishop this time around.


Last election, National's Nick Smith defeated Labour's Rachel Boyack by about 4000 votes.

It's certainly his to lose - he's held it since 1996 and before that held the nearby Tasman seat from 1990-1996.

But when some electorate boundaries changed earlier this year, Nelson's were among them.

That means Brightwater - a stronghold of Smith's support - is no longer in the Nelson electorate.

The electorate is also missing the Greens' Matt Lawrey this election - he took his party's votes in Nelson from 1125 in 2014 to 9746 in 2017.

So if Labour continues its trend of attracting more support in Nelson (it got 41 percent of the party vote in 2017, up from 27 percent in 2011), it might take the seat.

If Boyack wins she will be Nelson's first woman MP.

Labour and National respectively

Photo: RNZ

East Coast

This was outgoing National MP Anne Tolley's seat, one she'd held since 2005.

National's selected Tania Tapsell as its candidate - she's a Rotorua Lakes councillor and the great niece of former Eastern Māori MP and Speaker of the NZ House Sir Peter Tapsell.

Up against her is Labour list MP Kiri Allan, meaning the race for the seat is being fought by two young Māori women.

Allan lost to Tolley by about 5000 votes at the last election.

But for the first time in 15 years, a Labour-commissioned poll put its candidate ahead of National's, according to Local Democracy Reporting.

The late September poll of 831 randomly-selected residents showed Allan sitting at 40.5 percent and Tapsell coming a close second at 35 percent.

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