Election 2011: Napier electorate

By ROGER MORONEY


Up until 2005 Napier had long been viewed as a safe Labour seat.

Some would have used the word "stronghold".

But Chris Tremain, riding on what was effectively a countrywide surge behind National, broke the red tape that had surrounded the electorate since 1954 when Jim Edwards (who would go on to serve four terms for Labour) ousted Peter Tait who had given National just the one term from 1951.

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And before that it was all Labour - going back to 1928.

There had been two Labour stalwarts who effectively held the electorate in a tight grip - Gordon Christie, 1968 to 1981, and Geoff Braybrooke from 1981 to 2002.

Both retired from the roles, and when Mr Braybrooke stepped aside Russell Fairbrother stepped away from the courts and into the political arena - taking the 2002 election by a margin of 4157 votes over Anne Tolley.

The margin had been considerably cut back from past elections to the tune of about two-thirds, and was a numerical portent of what was about to emerge in the 2005 elections.

National was on a roll, although leader Bill English was unable to stack up against Labour's savvy and incumbent Helen Clark.

But the signs were there, and Mr Tremain walked into Parliament, albeit as a member of the Opposition.

He picked up 17,955 votes - more than 3500 more than Mr Fairbrother.

The figures that year showed the growing support for the party in blue.

In 2002 - Labour 41 per cent of the votes, National 21 per cent.

In 2005 - Labour 41 per cent of the votes, National 39 per cent.

When the 2008 election arrived, with the beaming and more charismatic John Key at the helm, the gradual turnaround became something of a landslide with National gathering up 45 per cent of the votes and Labour just 34 per cent.

In the Napier electorate Mr Tremain surged even further into the percentage lead scooping up 47 per cent of the votes (16,772) to Mr Fairbrother's 35 per cent (12,621).

However, the Labour foothold in Napier did not disappear, with Stuart Nash securing a place in Parliament in 2008 as one of the party's 21 List MPs across the country.

Mr Nash had been the Labour candidate for Epsom in 2005, coming in third behind Rodney Hide and Richard Worth, and in 2007 contested the Labour Party selection for the Napier seat, which he lost to Mr Fairbrother.

His ranking on the party list however saw him enter Parliament.

He is now standing against Mr Tremain and looking to become an elected MP in this month's elections.

They are contesting an electorate which, while tagged as Napier, covers a wide area to the north. Outside of the city, and the environs of Poraiti and Bay View, it encompasses Wairoa, Mahia and Nuhaka - the boundary also taking in Waikaremoana and southwest across to Te Haroto.

The electoral population comprises 57,269 potential voters, with the latest enrolment statistics showing the 70-plus age group is by far the largest, with 8026 people enrolled.

The second largest age category is 50-to-54 with 4865 potential voters, while at the younger end of the scale there are 4642 enrolled voters in the 18-to-24 group.

The Napier electorate has a history going back to 1861 where the region's first-elected representative was Henry Stark, although William Colenso took the role after a by-election.

Between 1876 and 1881 Napier was a two-member electorate, but from 1881 reverted to the one, with the first three representatives (John Buchanan, John Ormond and George Swan) all independents.

The first "party" representative was a Liberal, Samuel Carnell, in 1893.

The first Labour member of Parliament for Napier was Lewis McIlvride who stood for one term from 1922 before being defeated, by the Reform Party's John Mason.

Labour stepped back in for a 23-year run from 1928 until Peter Tait's one term for National, before the 51-year grip which was finally released, by Mr Tremain, in 2005.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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