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The Herald on Sunday editorial

Herald on Sunday editorial: Is there a contest in Mt Albert

Mt Albert byelection billboards in Auckland.  Photo / Doug Sherring
Mt Albert byelection billboards in Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

Auckland's Mt Albert electorate is having one of the strangest election contests New Zealand has seen. The only real contenders are two young women from the same side of the political fence who get along so well they have carpooled on the campaign, one of them tells us in the paper today.

Labour's Jacinda Ardern and the Green's Julie Anne Genter are trying to hold a contest between parties that might campaign as a prospective coalition at the general election in September. The Greens certainly intend to do so, they have decided not to stand a candidate in Peter Dunne's Ohariu seat in the hope that Labour's new recruit, former Police Association spokesman Greg O'Connor, can win it and deprive National of a likely coalition partner.

Two aspects of the Green's decision are interesting. First, it was the Greens' alone, Labour insists it did not ask them to do it and took no part in it. Secondly, it means the Greens expect National to win more seats than Labour in September.

Dunne has always supported the party that has won the most seats when his vote has been needed to form a government.

Technically it does not matter which party wins the most seats under MMP. If Labour and the Greens together emerge from the election with one more seat than National, Act and NZ First, it should not matter if National has won 40 per cent of the vote and Labour 30 per cent. But it does matter to the character of the Government. A coalition on those numbers would give the Greens a powerful hand.

New Zealand could begin to find out what an economy geared to climate change, alternative fuels, ethical investments and environmentally sustainable industries would look like and what the effects on lifestyles and living costs might be. It will be interesting to see how Labour responds to a Green manifesto before the election, if the Greens produce one.

If they do not it would be out of character and suspicious.

Mt Albert ought to be the trial run for the extent to which Labour would agree with a Green agenda. But the carpooling candidates are probably keeping their differences in the car.

Both probably expect Ardern to win the safe Labour seat comfortably, though the absence of a National candidate leaves National voters with a chance to make mischief. Genter could do unexpectedly well. Let's enliven this byelection.

- Herald on Sunday

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