Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Fixing transport woes Phil Twyford's priority

Labour's Phil Twyford won the Te Atatu seat with a margin of more than 4600 votes.
Photo / Natalie Slade
Labour's Phil Twyford won the Te Atatu seat with a margin of more than 4600 votes. Photo / Natalie Slade

Labour's Phil Twyford will set about fixing his electorate's transport woes after easily winning one of the election's battleground seats.

The party's nomadic Auckland Issues spokesman, who replaced the long-standing Chris Carter, has finally found a home after beating National Party MP Tau Henare by more than 4600 votes.

Mr Henare will return to Parliament as a list MP, an outcome that was almost certain from the beginning of the campaign. But Mr Twyford's parliamentary future was far shakier because his list placing of 33 meant he was outside the comfort zone.

Mr Twyford, who was cleaning up Labour's election-day headquarters yesterday, told the Herald: "I'm very happy to get this kind of mandate. To be honest, I would have been happy with a one-vote win."

He has been keen to improve his standing as a list MP and has moved homes several times to secure that goal.

He ran in the safe National seat of North Shore in the last two elections, placing second both times but entering Parliament off the list in 2008.

The torchbearer for social democracy has an important role in the party's future and if he had failed to be elected, it could have been a career-halting embarrassment.

"You don't go into politics for the job security," said Mr Twyford. "Every three years you put yourself on the line."

One of his election platforms was improving the traffic congestion in his electorate, and he said this was his first priority. He has already tabled a proposal with the Auckland Council for a busway from the west to downtown.

Mr Twyford must contend with a Government that has focused on road-building, but he said there was a huge appetite from Aucklanders and local government for improved public transport services.

Mr Henare said his electorate-seat defeat "paled into insignificance" compared to National's victory on Saturday. National also got a thousand more party votes than Labour in Te Atatu.

"At the end of the day, Te Atatu is represented quite well in Parliament with [Mr Twyford] as an electorate MP and myself as a list MP," said Mr Henare.

He denied cruising during his campaign, saying that he had no security in his placement on National's list. He noted that the election took second priority in the last few days because his father died on Friday.

"These things happen, and it's not what happens, it's actually how you deal with it. But I'm not making any excuses, Phil did a good job."

The "Minister of Twitter" was uncharacteristically reserved in conceding defeat yesterday. "Sweet bro. All the best," Mr Henare wrote to his Labour rival. He later tweeted: "I thought we ran a good campaign but he [Phil Twyford] ran a better one."

14,130 Phil Twyford (Labour)
9477 Tau Henare (National)
1431Gary Stewart (Green)
1029 Cynthia Liu (Conservative)

- NZ Herald

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