Greens snug­gle up to Labour in Ohariu

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

All things con­sid­ered, Greens MP Gareth Hughes would be happy to see Labour’s Charles Chau­vel win the Ohariu elec­torate seat from United Fu­ture leader Peter Dunne.

‘‘I think Charles is a great guy, and a good MP. I’ve been in touch with him, say­ing I’m not con­test­ing the can­di­date vote.

‘‘I’ve been invit­ing him to events that I’ve been host­ing in the elec­torate. We’ve got a good re­la­tion­ship.’’

Of late, Hughes has been get­ting ‘‘lots’’ of emails urg­ing him to drop out of the elec­torate race al­to­gether. Hughes won’t go that far, but will be telling peo­ple to cast only their party vote for the Greens.

Such deals – and they’re hap­pen­ing on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide – are turn­ing Ohariu into a fas­ci­nat­ing mar­ginal seat at the Novem­ber elec­tion.

Dunne has a 1000-vote ma­jor­ity which would dis­solve if even half the peo­ple who voted for Hughes last time switched to Chau­vel.

Sim­i­larly, Na­tional ad­vised its sup­port­ers last time to vote for Dunne. Even so, 10,000 vot­ers in 2008 still sup­ported Na­tional can­di­date Ka­t­rina Shanks.

There is no sign yet whether Na­tional will en­dorse Dunne again.

Right now, Hughes points out la­con­i­cally, the IPre­dict bet­ting web­site rates Dunne as hav­ing a 50/50 chance of be­ing re-elected.

Does Hughes find it hard to ask peo­ple for the party vote while tell- ing them that he’s not in­ter­ested in be­ing their lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive?

‘‘The way I look at it, this is a true MMP po­si­tion I’m tak­ing. I want to rep­re­sent is­sues in Par­lia­ment, na­tional is­sues. I don’t want to just fo­cus on geo­graphic is­sues.

‘‘Some peo­ple do a good job of that.

‘‘So I’m go­ing out there ask­ing for the party vote so that I can rep­re­sent peo­ple across the coun­try on trans­port is­sues, dig­i­tal is­sues, hous­ing is­sues.’’

Right. That could be taken to mean he’s got more im­por­tant things to worry about than do­ing the don­key work for his con­stituents. No, no, he in­sists. ‘‘It’s not more im­por­tant, it’s dif­fer­ent. It’s a ben­e­fit of our elec­toral sys­tem that both elec­torate and na­tional is­sues get rep­re­sented in Par­lia­ment.’’

On av­er­age, the Ohariu elec­torate is white, wealthy and rea­son­ably young.

That’s not quite how Hughes sees it.

Wealthy sub­urbs like Khan­dal­lah, he points out, co-ex­ist with New­lands. John­sonville en­joys good pub­lic trans­port, while New­lands has al­most none.

When not crit­i­cis­ing the al­leged folly of the Trans­mis­sion Gully pro­ject, Hughes is an ad­vo­cate for a light rail sys­tem that would no longer drop com­muters at the rail­way sta­tion at the edge of town, but would carry them through the CBD, and be­yond.

‘‘It might seem counter-in­tu­itive to cam­paign for a light rail link in a dif­fer­ent elec­torate. But the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries would be the peo­ple of Ohariu.’’

Come Novem­ber, Hughes ex­pects Dunne will be cam­paign­ing again as the mod­er­at­ing brake on a Na­tional Gov­ern­ment.

‘‘Yet as a sin­gle mem­ber, I don’t think he has much in­flu­ence. As Rev­enue Min­is­ter, he’s de­liv­ered the Gov­ern­ment’s tax poli­cies. I haven’t seen him speak against gov­ern­ment pol­icy.’’

So the im­age of Mr Rea­son­able or Mr Sen­si­ble may not have much sub­stance?

‘‘No. I think peo­ple in the elec­torate are get­ting sick of him, be­cause it is es­sen­tially Mr Bland, and Mr Which­ever Way the Wind Blows.’’

Gor­don Camp­bell is an ex­pe­ri­enced po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist and colum­nist who has writ­ten for The Lis­tener and Scoop.

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