Greens to contest Clark's old seat

By Claire Trevett

Party says it will contest 'important' Mt Albert byelection despite Labour qualms The Green Party has decided to stand a candidate in the Mt Albert byelection - despite informal approaches by Labour people concerned that it would split the centre-left vote.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman yesterday confirmed the party was in the process of selecting a candidate, a decision that will disappoint Labour and could be critical if the race between the National and Labour candidates is close.

Helen Clark's electorate is a favourable one for the Green Party. Last year it won 3846 party votes, 11 per cent of the vote compared with its national result of 6.7 per cent.

The difference between National and Labour was about 2000 votes for the party vote. Its candidate also got 2019 votes.

Dr Norman said there had been "informal discussion round the traps" between Labour and the Greens about potential vote-splitting, but no formal approach was made for the Greens not to stand. It was their policy to stand in byelections.

"We're an independent party and we'll be running. This is an important byelection and it's important for the Greens to have a candidate."

Labour president Andrew Little said he had expected the Greens to stand.

"Whether or not they will split the vote remains to be seen. We will put in a well-organised, tough campaign. We'll see what comes out but we are prepared to work pretty hard to get the confidence of Mt Albert to elect another Labour MP."

Dr Norman said the party would campaign hard in a "reasonably Green-friendly seat".

The local issues - including State Highway 20's Waterview tunnel and public transport - were important to the party.

"The balance between new motorways and public transport spending is a major political issue. The Greens have been heavily involved in promoting public transport and there are clearly key issues about motorways versus public transport in that electorate in particular."

Act leader Rodney Hide said his party also intended to stand a candidate. He had not considered standing aside to boost National's chances of capitalising on its honeymoon with voters to take the traditionally safe Labour seat.

"Nor have we been asked to."

If Labour had tried to encourage the Greens not to stand or to get their candidate to encourage voters to support Labour's candidate it showed they were concerned about losing the seat.

"It's a bit poor of Labour to be running so scared that they're trying to restrict the democratic options of Mt Albert."

Act candidate Kathleen McCabe got 1392 votes last year and the party 1227.

Mr Hide said it would probably help both National and Labour if the party did not stand but he believed it was important to give people choice.

"They're not going to get it if the Greens bow down to Labour's pressure, so it's good to see the Greens standing firm. We think the people are smart enough in Mt Albert to work out who they want to represent them without Labour telling them."

The focus of Act's campaign was likely to be the economy and law and order.

- NZ Herald

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