23 Jun 2017

Green Party to contest Nick Smith's Nelson seat

6:52 pm on 23 June 2017

The Green Party will fight National's Nick Smith for the Nelson seat in this year's election.

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Nelson MP Nick Smith and the Green Party's Matt Lawrey, who will be contesting his seat. Photo: RNZ

This is the first time the Green Party has tried to win a seat since it held the Coromandel electorate in 1999.

Nick Smith has held the Nelson seat for over 20 years and in the last election increased his majority to 7605.

However, Nelson councillor Matt Lawrey said people in Nelson wanted change, in particular, more action on housing, water quality, and developing the waterfront.

"In the 20 years that I've live in Nelson nothing has been done to make it safer or more inviting for pedestrians, cyclists, even motorists and the reason for that is Nelson MP Nick Smith has this obsession with trying to build another motorway."

Mr Lawrey said he believed he had a real chance despite Nick Smith's popularity.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he was confident their candidate had the profile and experience to beat Dr Smith.

"The mood on the ground is that they're ready for somebody new.

"Matt Lawrey is a terrific local candidate, he's a two-term councillor, he's very popular, he was in the media before so he has a very significant public profile, and he's really likeable."

Dr Smith was on his way out rather than on the way up, Mr Shaw said.

"Nick in many ways embodies the things that are wrong with the National Party and the National government, and I think the opportunity here to move him on to his well-deserved retirement is too good to pass up," he said.

Dr Smith said he was not concerned and was in fact surprised to hear this was any different to any other year.

"I thought every candidate that stood for Parliament did so with the objective with winning.

"I'm very committed to representing the wonderful community of Nelson and [have a] proud record of getting results for my community."

Dr Smith was confident his support was still strong.

"But I'm taking absolutely nothing for granted, I'll just be continuing to work as hard as I can to get results for what I think is one of the most beautiful and dynamic communities in New Zealand."

Mr Shaw said he was not concerned the Green Party would split the vote on the left, and said they, and the Labour Party, both saw it as good democratic competition.

This would be the only electorate where the Greens would fight for the seat - in every other electorate, candidates would just be asking for the party vote.

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