The Green Party's bid to end Nick Smith's time as the MP for Nelson had the contrary effect of ensuring Smith won it again in a race that was otherwise a success story for Labour - Nelson was one of 15 electorates in which it overtook National in the party vote to reclaim much of its traditional turf.

The election results show that for the first time since 2005 Labour did better in the party vote than National in the Nelson electorate and Smith's personal vote dropped to 16735 - its lowest since 2002.

Smith's majority was slashed from 7,600 to 4,300 after a strong run by Labour's Rachael Boyack, who secured 12,450 votes. However, the Green candidate Matt Lawrey got a hefty 9750 votes.

The Greens had targeted Nelson for the electorate vote but Labour refused to give them a clean run - and the standoff between the two may have ruined Labour's very real chance of taking the seat off Smith.


Nelson was one of 15 electorates in which Labour managed to overtake National in the party vote this election.

While it was a very slim victory in some cases, it reclaimed most of the traditionally safe seats where it still had the local MP but had lost the party vote to National during the John Key years.

It is a marked change from 2014 when National was ahead of Labour in 17 electorates which had Labour MPs in them.

There are now just five such seats, including Ohariu which was won by Labour's Greg O'Connor after years of United Future leader Peter Dunne.

The four other seats are Mt Roskill, Napier, Port Hills and West Coast Tasman.

Labour also managed to win the party vote in two seats held by National MPs - Nelson and Maungakiekie - although the margins are slim.

It also won back both the seat and the party vote in Christchurch Central - previously held by Labour but which National's Nicky Wagner won on her third attempt in 2011 after the Christchurch earthquakes.

Labour's candidate Duncan Webb won the seat off Wagner with a 2870 vote majority and Labour's party vote increased from 26 per cent to 41 per cent, overtaking National on 39 per cent.

While some of that came from the Green Party's drop, in 2014, National had commanded 45 per cent of the party vote.

IN return, National converted one Labour seat into a win for its candidate in 2017 - Hutt South was won by Chris Bishop this time round, the first time the electorate had been held by a National MP.

Labour General Secretary Andrew Kirton said it was part of an overall swing to Labour - and back to Labour in some cases.

In Nelson, National got a similar number of party votes as 2014 but increased turnout and the Green Party's drop meant Labour pipped National at the post.

Smith said it was traditionally a Labour seat which National had only won the party vote in since 2008.

He believed the result was partly because of the drop National felt in "urban liberal areas" such as central Auckland and Wellington.

He did not agree Boyack would have beaten him had Lawrey not stood, saying the "dynamics" in Nelson meant Lawrey's voters would not necessarily have voted for Boyack.

The Greens' focus on the constituency vote had come at the expense of the party vote, which dropped by 2000 to 3100.

Green Party co-convenor John Ranta said it was "a possibility" Labour would have won the seat had the Greens not campaigned it, but it did not change the numbers in Parliament which was decided by the nationwide party vote.

"There is obviously change in the air in the electorate and it's hard to know whether we were splitting voters, or taking voters that might have otherwise voted for Nick Smith off him, it's just speculation."

Kirton said the party vote had been a priority. "There is always going to be a situation you can tally up the different candidates and make all sorts of assumptions and hypotheticals about 'what ifs' but at the end of the day it's about securing as many votes as possible."

Despite the Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties, no "accommodations" were reached in any electorates.