Otago Daily Times
Act NZ propelled into new realms
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.