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Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Tamaki electorate: Extremes of rich and poor

The latest in our electorate series focuses on Tamaki, where the huge majority the late MP has bequeathed to National's man has rivals campaigning for the party vote

St Heliers Bay typifies the prosperous part of the electorate. Photo / Paul Estcourt
St Heliers Bay typifies the prosperous part of the electorate. Photo / Paul Estcourt

The waterfront suburbs of Orakei, Mission Bay, Kohimarama, St Heliers and Glendowie are the Tamaki electorate's prosperous smiley faces but they hide its great extremes of wealth and poverty.

Within 2km inland of where a tower construction crane marks the home of the country's richest man, Graeme Hart, a young solo mother in a cold and mouldy state rental house invites visitors to sit on her only piece of furniture, an old couch.

She has received notice from her landlord, Housing New Zealand, that her house is one of 156 to be redeveloped next year and she frets about her chances of getting another home in her northern Glen Innes suburb.

The state agency owns 57 per cent of housing in Tamaki. It thinks this is too much, and wants social housing to be provided by a mix of organisations.

The timing of the unsettling news and the signalled sale of some state houses worth up to $800,000 have given Labour the rallying cry it needs to attract more party votes in Tamaki.

Its candidate, Nick Bakulich, is at a series of "call to action" meetings.

The 40-year-old undertaker, who has managed an Onehunga business for 20 years, is also leading a team in door knocking and checking residents are enrolled to vote and have a ride to the polling booth.

The party vote for Labour in 2008 was 8152, compared with 11,890 in 2005.

This reflected boundary changes in which a chunk of working-class Panmure was consigned to the Maungakiekie electorate.

Mr Bakulich hopes to make that up by working on the 18- to 30-year-old group. Tamaki had 3 per cent unemployed aged 15 and over, according to the 2006 statistics.

Like National candidate Simon O'Connor, Mr Bakulich is a new kid on the Tamaki block, but given the huge 17,020-vote majority of the seat's Government MP, Allan Peachey, who died this month of cancer, his focus is on getting the party vote.

National's volunteer team in Tamaki, too, is making the party vote the top priority. Supporters are being warned not to be complacent and to give their party vote to National if they want John Key to continue as Prime Minister.

Last election, National's share of party votes in Tamaki was 60.22 per cent.

This is to be expected when Tamaki in 2006 had the country's third-highest percentage (40.1) of those who earned family incomes above $100,000.

Despite being a shoo-in to become an MP, Mr O'Connor's name rings few bells here. Mr Peachey was popular and built his personal vote up from a 58 per cent share to 65.74 per cent in the last election.

National's party vote of 23,205 differed little from Mr Peachey's personal vote.

Mr O'Connor, 35, a health insurance executive who holds four university degrees, is engaging shy voters in the shopping centres.

People in Tamaki have high aspirations and there is a feeling that such a blue-ribbon seat should be represented by a top-notch Cabinet minister.

However, Mr O'Connor's supporters point out he has held commercial roles of high responsibility.

And they predict that once he has a parliamentary apprenticeship and some electorate service under his belt, he will be destined for the Cabinet room.

In 2008, only 38,684 of the 47,000 enrolled voters bothered to cast their ballots.

Green Party candidate Richard Leckinger said concern for the environment might just be the kick-start to the polling booth that's needed.

In 2008, he pulled the Greens' vote up from 1400 to 2216.

He reckons this time round he is getting a warmer reception to the party's jobs, kids and rivers policies.

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- NZ Herald

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