PM says 'get a move on' with recount

By VERNON SMALL deputy political editor

Helen Clark yesterday issued a "hurry-up" to Justice Ministry officials to ensure the judicial recount of votes in Tauranga is completed well before Parliament is due to be sworn in next Monday.

The Prime Minister told her Minister of Justice, Phil Goff, to ensure sufficient staff and resources for a speedy recount after Attorney-General Margaret Wilson, who came third in the seat, lodged a recount application.

National, which came second, yesterday opted not to go for a recount to try to overturn Winston Peters' 62-vote majority.

Politicians cannot be sworn in until all MPs are known and a recount could take four to six working days, possibly delaying the opening of Parliament.

The Government is keen to see Mr Peters lose because it would restore a clear Labour-Alliance majority, removing the need to rely on the seven Greens to pass legislation.

If Mr Peters loses Tauranga, the other four New Zealand First MPs will also miss out because the party failed to reach the 5 per cent threshold needed to win list seats if a party fails to win a constituency seat.

Helen Clark said Labour would always be kicking itself as to what might have happened if it did not pursue the recount.

National candidate Katherine O'Regan has conceded to Mr Peters but is not ruling out taking her seat in Parliament if Labour's recount puts her there.

"I would cross that bridge if it actually occurred," Mrs O'Regan said.

She had not given much thought to what she would do if the recount gave her the seat because she did not believe she would win.

National has said it is keen to get more MPs into the House but is also relishing the prospect of fighting a Government reliant on the Greens for a majority.

Just last Friday, Mrs O'Regan and National deputy leader Wyatt Creech were firm that they would be filing for a recount in Tauranga.

But after Labour announced its plans yesterday, Mrs O'Regan said she would not go ahead. She said in the cold light of day, and after advice from Mr Creech and others, she had decided against a recount.

History showed that, at best, six votes had been gleaned from a recount.

"My scrutineers tell me the count was clean and robust ... I concede to Mr Peters."

Mrs O'Regan said she had not come under any pressure to concede from party hierarchy, which had just set out the options.

"It was then left to me to make the decision and the party, of course, would back me on whichever decision I wanted to make."

If Mrs O'Regan won the seat but then resigned, there would be a byelection.

If Mr Peters won the byelection, he would come into Parliament as the lone NZ First MP.

Yesterday, Mr Peters criticised Labour's call for a recount, saying that under normal circumstances it would be inconceivable that a candidate who came third would seek a recount hoping a mortal enemy would win.

He said the recount would be a waste of taxpayers' money.

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