Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Boundary changes spark Nats' rethink

MP Paula Bennett. Photo / Janna Dixon
MP Paula Bennett. Photo / Janna Dixon

Surprises in draft electorate boundary changes have caused National and the Conservatives to rethink how they might co-operate in the lead-up to next year's election but no one is in any hurry, with decisions being delayed until next year.

Conservative leader Colin Craig had been favourably considering the new Upper Harbour seat after the boundary changes were announced at 10am yesterday.

But that changed 20 minutes later when Cabinet minister Paula Bennett said she wanted it - with the blessing of Prime Minister John Key and party president Peter Goodfellow.

The biggest surprise of the changes was the replacement of her Waitakere seat with a seat called Kelston, strongly Labour on paper, created from parts of Waitakere, Te Atatu, Mt Albert and New Lynn.

Mr Craig said taking on Ms Bennett would be tough and last night said he would not make any decisions on where he would stand until next year.

Mr Goodfellow said last night no meetings were planned with the Conservative Party this year but that would change next year.

"The issue becomes where is he going to turn his sights and maybe that's a point we can have a discussion on, but not until next year."

Mr Key has indicated he intends next year to give an early and more direct steer on which parties National would welcome as support parties.

The Conservatives polled 2.65 per cent last election but did not win a seat. If the Conservatives polled 4 per cent and won a seat, Mr Craig could conceivably bring in four more MPs.

With population increases in North Harbour and Auckland Central, the creation of a new Auckland seat had already been announced but where was not certain.

The Upper Harbour option had been the best bet but no one had banked on Paula Bennett being left without a seat.

An alternative could be Rodney, where Mr Craig stood last time, but incumbent National MP Mark Mitchell has established himself.

Epsom is true blue and has elected Act MPs at the encouragement of National. It could be an option for the Conservatives if Act self-destructs but its urban liberals may baulk at a similar deal for the Conservatives - and Act could put up a more credible candidate there such as Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer.

There has already been speculation East Coast Bays MP and Foreign Minister Murray McCully could go on the party list and yesterday he was careful with his response to the Herald: "It has always been my intention to stand for the East Coast Bays constituency again in 2014."

That is some way short of saying he will definitely be standing.

Labour's Jacinda Ardern yesterday scotched speculation she could take on Kelston, saying she still planned to stand in Auckland Central.

Main Auckland adjustments

Upper Harbour seat is the additional general seat, created from the seats of Murray McCully's East Coast Bays, Helensville and Labour's Te Atatu and on paper is a safe National seat.

Kelston has replaced Paula Bennett's Waitakere seat, and taken in voters from the Labour seats Te Atatu, Mt Albert and New Lynn to make a new safe Labour seat.

Helensville, held by Prime Minister John Key, has lost voters to East Coast Bays and the new Upper Harbour seat and gained rural areas from Waitakere, New Lynn and Rodney but with a 21,066 majority last time will be still be safe National.

Auckland Central held by National's Nikki Kaye has become safer for her with Westmere and Labour-supporting Grey Lynn going to Mt Albert, held by Labour's David Shearer.

Maungakiekie is less safe for National's Sam Lotu-Iiga (majority 3021), gaining voters from Manukau East and Tamaki.

Mt Roskill is less safe for Labour's Phil Goff (majority 7271) having gained sections of Epsom and Maungakiekie and lost some voters to New Lynn.

Hunua has lost parts of its electorate to Botany at one end and Waikato at the other end but is still considered safe National.

Boundary changes

Why now?

Boundaries are reviewed after each census and Maori electoral option. Adjustments are made so that the number of people in each electorate is about the same.

What changes?

Auckland gets a new seat with 110,000 more people than the last boundary review and 43 electorate boundaries have been changed. Parliament will still have 120 seats but comprising 71 electorate seats and 49 list seats.

How important is it under MMP?

Less important than under first past the post. It may affect who your local MP is but it's still the party vote, not the electorate vote, that determines the overall number of MPs in each party.

What happens next?

Objections and counter-objections to the draft boundaries are made; final boundaries are published next April.

- NZ Herald

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