Otago Daily Times

Act NZ pro­pelled into new realms

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TUES­DAY’S re­port in the Otago Daily Times that Act New Zealand was con­sid­er­ing set­ting up a south­ern base fol­low­ing its record party vote re­turn in the 2020 elec­tion was, pre­dictably, greeted with some scep­ti­cism on the news­pa­per’s facebook page.

‘‘They are get­ting a bit car­ried away. Will be in the back row for 3 years!!!’’ was one com­ment which cap­tured the gen­eral mood.

How­ever, Act is de­cid­edly not get­ting car­ried away.

It made as­ton­ish­ing gains this year and as a party which has had just the one MP for the past six years it has no in­ten­tion of throw­ing those gains away through ne­glect.

Waitaki (4555) and South­land (4371) were the sec­ond­ and fourth­high­est party vote Act seats in New Zealand; Sel­wyn (4717) and Kaik­oura (4359) were first and third.

That South­land fig­ure is all the more re­mark­able for the fact that Act’s can­di­date left the party soon after se­cur­ing the nom­i­na­tion and stood as an in­de­pen­dent in In­ver­cargill in­stead.

Even with­out a can­di­date in South­land, or in In­ver­cargill for that mat­ter, Act se­cured a com­bined 7841 party votes in the two elec­torates.

To put that in per­spec­tive, across all of New Zealand in 2017 Act only got 13,075 party votes.

Yes, much of that vote was al­most cer­tainly Na­tional vot­ers who, for what­ever rea­son, could not stom­ach vot­ing for their reg­u­lar party, but some of that vote will also have been a con­scious de­ci­sion to vote for Act.

Act’s vote in Waitaki in­creased 40­fold, from 109 in 2017 to 4555.

In In­ver­cargill, just 95 peo­ple ticked Act in 2017; last Satur­day it was 3470.

Those vote tal­lies are too large for them to sim­ply be a protest vote against Na­tional’s po­lit­i­cal mis­man­age­ment, or to be New Zealand First vot­ers look­ing for a new home.

Party leader David Sey­mour was very good in the House over the past three years, and his shep­herd­ing through of the End of Life Choice Act and foren­sic op­po­si­tion to firearm re­form will have played well to very dif­fer­ent au­di­ences.

The party’s ru­ral spokesman, Mark Cameron, is an ac­tual farmer whose au­then­tic­ity ap­pealed to coun­try vot­ers, and it also did Act no harm to have en­vi­ron­men­tal en­gi­neer Si­mon Court in an electable po­si­tion on its list — the party’s op­po­si­tion to fresh­wa­ter reg­u­la­tion re­form, an­other ru­ral vote catcher, came from an in­formed po­si­tion.

Act Christchur­ch East can­di­date Toni Sev­erin, is orig­i­nally from South­land and prior to her elec­tion on Satur­day from num­ber 9 on the Act list she was the South Is­land rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the party’s board.

As the clos­est MP ge­o­graph­i­cally to the elec­torates south of the Waitaki, Ms Sev­erin will be ex­pected to keep the Act flag fly­ing for its new faith­ful.

Mr Cameron, who farms in Ruawai in North­land, is go­ing to have to get some­one else to milk his cows, as

Par­lia­men­tary re­cess weeks will re­quire him to make ru­ral road trips to stay in touch with Act’s new coun­try con­stituency.

Na­tional might well ex­pect to re­gain much of its bedrock sup­port in three years’ time, but it can­not take that for granted — Act and its 10 MPs have no in­ten­tion of sur­ren­der­ing it meekly.

All par­ties were closely watch­ing their party vote per­cent­age on Satur­day but none more so than the Green party, for whom 5% is the ex­is­ten­tial key . . . although maybe not for much longer, if Chloe Swar­brick can ce­ment her elec­tion­night po­si­tion as the MP for Auck­land Cen­tral.

Dunedin (or Dunedin North, as was) has al­ways been a key seat for the Greens, who main­tained that pri­macy through a suc­cess­ful lo­cal cam­paign.

With 7001 party votes for the Greens, Dunedin was the party’s third­best seat, be­hind Welling­ton Cen­tral (11,697) and Ron­go­tai (8872).

While gain­ing some solid left­lean­ing votes from the Penin­sula helped, as did the na­tion­wide left­ward swing, pick­ing up al­most 2000 party votes more than in 2017 was a tri­umph for lo­cal Greens who lack a fig­ure­head MP to raise their pro­file.

How­ever, re­gion­wide the Greens did not have as strong a night as the party might have ex­pected.

Its vote in Taieri was down on 2017, although bound­ary changes and strong sup­port for Labour can­di­date In­grid Leary were prob­a­ble fac­tors there.

The Green vote also de­clined in Waitaki, and held steady in South­land and In­ver­cargill.

Those fig­ures will have left south­ern Greens won­der­ing whether they have hit the ceil­ing for lo­cal sup­port, or if there is more they can do to grow their party vote tally in 2023.

 ?? PHOTO: MOUN­TAIN SCENE ?? South­ern fast­ness . . . Act New Zealand deputy leader Brooke Van Velden and party leader David Sey­mour in Queen­stown ear­lier this year.
PHOTO: MOUN­TAIN SCENE South­ern fast­ness . . . Act New Zealand deputy leader Brooke Van Velden and party leader David Sey­mour in Queen­stown ear­lier this year.
 ?? PHOTO: FACEBOOK ?? Class of 2020 . . . New Na­tional MPs (from left) Christo­pher Luxon (Botany), Penny Sim­monds (In­ver­cargill), Joseph Mooney (South­land) and Si­mon Watts (North Shore).
PHOTO: FACEBOOK Class of 2020 . . . New Na­tional MPs (from left) Christo­pher Luxon (Botany), Penny Sim­monds (In­ver­cargill), Joseph Mooney (South­land) and Si­mon Watts (North Shore).
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