Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Gareth Morgan's party happy with Mt Albert byelection result

Gareth Morgan's new political party has declared itself happy with its showing in the Mt Albert byelection. Photo / Nick Reed
Gareth Morgan's new political party has declared itself happy with its showing in the Mt Albert byelection. Photo / Nick Reed

Gareth Morgan's new political party has declared itself happy with its showing in the Mt Albert byelection and is on track to contest the general election later this year.

The Opportunities Party (Top) stood Geoff Simmons in the Mt Albert byelection, and he recorded 600 votes - 4.6 per cent of the total.

Simmons, an economist who worked for the Morgan Foundation and is now Top's chief of staff, said the party was happy with that result.

"Our target was 5 per cent, so we got pretty much to that . . . we are happy within three weeks [of campaigning] to get to 5 per cent here.

"The question is whether we can generate that kind of momentum over the whole country, but we are going to give it a crack."

Top will need to get at least 5 per cent of the party vote in the general election to enter Parliament without winning an electorate.

At the 2014 election, Craig's Conservative Party received 95,598 votes and still fell short at just under 4 per cent of the party vote.

Simmons, who lives in Wellington, said Top would this week open expressions of interest for its candidate selection process.

Asked if the party would contest the September 23 general election, Simmons said that had not been confirmed. "The next phase we have talked about is . . . hitting the roadshows and seeing what the public reaction is like.

"We are about to go on a road trip and select our list candidates. Certainly, if everything continues in the same direction we are going now, yeah, we will be contesting."

At 29.9 per cent, voter turnout in the Mt Albert byelection is the lowest in recent history.

National did not stand a candidate, and Labour's Jacinda Ardern collected 77 per cent of all votes cast.

"We talked to quite a few people on the trail and [turnout] just seems to be reflective of the fact that people just don't seem to think that politicians make too much of a difference in their lives," Simmons said. "Which we see as an indictment of the Labour, National duopoly."

Speaking at Ardern's victory party last night, Labour leader Andrew Little said the Mt Albert byelection had a "heap of peculiarities", and smaller parties could not read much into the result.

"We are a democracy and we have a great tradition of small parties coming and having a go . . . Gareth Morgan and his team will do what they want. He is a man of great ideas. I'm just not sure that the country is ready for his party."

Asked about Top's result, Ardern said byelections were local campaigns.

"For us it was about having as many individual conversations as we could, and we are very lucky that we have an excellent volunteer base who hoped us to do that."

NEW MP ON THE WAY TO PARLIAMENT

Ardern is a list MP and her victory will mean another Labour List MP will come into Parliament. That will be former MP Raymond Huo.

Huo entered Parliament on the list in 2008 as Labour's first Chinese-born MP, but failed to get re-elected in 2014 because of Labour's poor showing.

It is understood Little had wanted him back in the caucus to help Labour appeal to Chinese voters. Since leaving Parliament, Huo has been working at a commercial law firm in Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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