23 Aug 2023

New Plymouth voters weigh in on Labour, National candidates

2:54 pm on 23 August 2023
Kieran McAnulty speaking in Parliament's debating chamber

Glen Bennett. Photo: Phil Smith

The contest for the New Plymouth electorate is shaping up as a two-horse race between Labour incumbent Glen Bennett and National newcomer David MacLeod.

National held the seat - which stretches from Waitara in the north to Ōpunake in the southwest - for more than a decade prior to 2020 and will be aiming to flip it from red back to blue in October.

Bennett surprised many when he rode the red-wave to topple National's Jonathan Young, who had held the New Plymouth seat since 2008.

A community worker, Bennett is openly gay and married his partner Jon O'Neil at Parliament in 2021. He enjoys a majority of 2555 and recently jumped nearly 40 places on Labour's list to number 30.

But some locals have never heard of him.

Billy for example.

"I'm not wholly aware of a lot of our local candidates. I have some interest nationally but I guess I don't really pay much attention to the local people."

He voted Opportunities Party last time around.

Jess was a bit more clued up.

"I'm not familiar with the candidates at all. Not at all.

"Oh wait, Bennett, Glen Bennett? Oh, yes, I love Glen Bennett."

She was yet to decide who would get her vote, however.

Mr MacLeod claimed one of the three South Taranaki seats on offer at the council.

David MacLeod Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

National candidate David MacLeod grew up on a dairy farm at Manaia and has whakapapa to Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāi Tahu, and Ngāti Porou.

An electrician by trade, he's a successful business owner and was Fonterra's first-ever Māori director.

He's no political novice either, having served on the Taranaki Regional Council since 2000 before stepping down in 2022.

Susie was a fan.

"Yeah, I've seen David MacLeod out quite a bit and he looks really friendly and relatable. He's kind, he's welcoming and he just gives off a warm feeling."

She was leaning towards the blue team.

"I definitely think, probably though, I would go National.

"I think Labour's s*****d us over and we're in a pretty bad way.

"So, I mean it can't get any worse, let's try someone new."

JB did not think much of either candidate.

"Nah, nah there just they're just 'yes' people, aren't they? They just toe the party line.

"You know, where are the honest politicians these days that are about getting the truth out?"

He thought Labour and National were as bad as one another.

"The trouble is you've got two different arms the left and the right attached to the same body, eh?

"Until we get a third party outright this country is never going to change we'll just keep going backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards."

Chris was on the same page.

"It's hard to know what to think really, it's to choose between one evil or the other because the country is sh*t at the moment."

Angela, meanwhile, reckoned the New Plymouth electorate was too tight to call.

"I'm not sure how it will go. It's too close to make a call either way, to be honest."

She was clear about what she would be doing, however.

"I'm going to vote for Glen Bennett."

Nick also thought everything was up for grabs.

"I reckon confused is the word I'm hearing everywhere and I don't think there's been an election that I can remember where it is so uncertain what's going to happen, and there's a possibility given MMP that some of the smaller parties could carry a lot of weight this time."

Candidate nominations close on 15 September.

Election day is 14 October 2023.

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