9 Dec 2022

Candidates go all-out in bid for votes in Hamilton West by-election

7:55 am on 9 December 2022
Hamilton West National Party candidate Tama Potaka, Labour candidate Georgie Dansey, and Momentum NZ candidate Gaurav Sharma.

From left, National candidate Tama Potaka, Labour's Georgie Dansy and Gaurav Sharma, who was the MP until he resigned. Photo: RNZ / Anneke Smith, Andrew McRae

It is crunch time for the two front-runners in the Hamilton West by-election with voting set to end at 7pm tomorrow.

After weeks of campaigning, the person who will represent the electorate should be known on Saturday evening after voting comes to an end.

The vote was sparked by the resignation of Labour MP Gaurav Sharma in October.

Twelve candidates are vying for the seat, but the by-election is considered a two-horse race between the two main parties.

In recent polling by Curia of 400 voters, National's Tama Potaka was ahead, followed not too far behind by Labour's Georgie Dansy.

ACT's James McDowall came in at third place and Gaurav Sharma, in his attempt to get re-elected, was a distant fourth.

While out campaigning in the suburb of Flagstaff, Potaka told RNZ his focus during the campaign has been on listening to local people.

''Their concerns, their aspirations, their desires and sometimes there are pretty sad stories about what they are confronting, the daily reality in their lives, things like crime, law and order issues, but also the cost of living.''

Dansy was not too surprised by polling showing National in front.

''I guess Tama has to stop calling himself the underdog now. It wasn't a surprise to me because five out of the last six elections the National Party has taken Hamilton West, so we always knew this was going to be a really tough fight.''

In the heart of Hamilton West, RNZ found some people who had already voted.

''I voted on the first day.''

When asked why she voted, she replied: ''Might be a dissatisfaction with the present MP that we have and who resigned. So we want somebody good to serve this community.

''I see it as an important thing we should do anyway.''

Another woman, who also voted early, did not want to miss out.

''I wanted to vote for who I wanted in. There was no way I wasn't going to vote.''

One woman had not voted when RNZ asked but was planning to.

''Because if you don't voice, then you can't complain so you have to vote. You have a right to vote and you should vote.''

She was asked who she thought would win. "No idea,'' she responded.

Seat reflects NZ's diversity

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Tim Macindoe Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Former National Party Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe represented the seat for 12 years, but was swept away in what he calls the red wave of the 2020 election.

He said representing a seat like Hamilton West was both challenging and fascinating.

''I think it does reflect New Zealand's diversity, certainly on an ethnic and population basis. Perhaps the only difference is that we are slightly lower age population here. There are a lot of young people in Waikato.''

He said being a marginal seat keeps the MP on his or her toes.

''You really had to work every day and I took the view that as soon as one election was over I was back in campaign mode.''

Macindoe said the people of Hamilton West wanted someone who was engaged in the city.

''Accessible, who is willing to get around and know and understand their issues, listen to them, support them because once you get that connection, it is so much easier to represent their point of view.''

Martin Gallagher also represented Hamilton West for 12 years, but for Labour, losing to Macindoe in 2008.

''The composition of Hamilton West when you look at the demographics, income strata, is very much an electorate that very closely to a degree mirrors a cross-section of New Zealand as a whole. So if you say, let's pick an electorate that is most reflective of our nation as a whole, I would say Hamilton West would fit that bill.

''So all the economic issues, cost of living, cost of housing, etcetera, they will be extenuated in Hamilton and absolutely reflected in Hamilton.''

With voting closing at 7pm on Saturday night, how are both the two main candidates feeling about their chances of winning?

Dansey said if she was feeling pessimistic she would not still be out campaigning.

''This is a tough road and I am focused on my values and what is important to me and I know what I believe, so I will keep fighting right up until we see the results on election day.''

Potaka said he was still feeling very focused.

''I am feeling very humble to be the National Party candidate for the Hamilton West by-election and my absolute aspiration at this stage is to earn the right to be the MP.''

The first results are expected by about 9pm on Saturday.

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