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When the Taupō electorate was re-established in 1996 it was held by Labour's Mark Burton for four terms, before National's Louise Upston won it in 2008. Upston herself has held the electorate for four terms and is looking for a fifth, with Labour candidate Ala Al-Bustanji is hoping he has done enough to convince residents that it's time for a refresh.

In 2017, Upston won the race by more than 14,000 votes with 24,611 compared to Al-Bustanji's 10,276, and she says she is continuing to fight to help Taupō recover in the wake of the economic impacts of Covid-19.

"Taupō is a town that depends quite highly on tourism still, and after the first lockdown we had a boost in domestic tourism but with the second most recent lockdown in Auckland that has kind of stopped and business confidence is now shaken," Upston said.

"There has been a reduction in work hours for staff and if you think about the increase in jobseeker numbers across the Waikato region of about 29 per cent, a big focus for me is how these small businesses can continue to operate."

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National Party leader Judith Collins and MP for Taupō Louise Upston. Photo / Supplied
National Party leader Judith Collins and MP for Taupō Louise Upston. Photo / Supplied

Upston said National's focus will remain on the economy and supporting small businesses to help with staff retention.

She said that in terms of infrastructure, the extension of the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere needs to happen.

"It was crazy to have it under way and then cancelled by the Labour Government. The further extension of that is to have that highway extend into Tauranga, it's not just about safer roads but it's about making the economical hub of the North Island more connected.

"We then also need to improve the quality of State Highway 1 throughout the North Island. There are some sections in Taupō that are lovely to drive on and then there are others where if there is a crash, it closes the whole road down or there are loads of potholes, it's just hit-or-miss and it's not good enough for our number one highway."

Upston said high schools in the Taupō electorate also have issues around funding.

"It seems I am constantly having to fight and fight and fight for more funding for these schools and then even when we have secured the funding it's still a fight. There is one school in Cambridge where we secured the funding in 2015 and they still haven't started building."

Her opponent Ala Al-Bustanji said the contest against Upston has been exciting and tiring at the same time, with his most recent challenge dealing with the number of his signs that have been stolen.

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"I am currently in contact with the police about the situation, I doubt they will be able to do too much as there are more pressing things to get round to but it should still be reported," Al Bustanji said.

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"It's tough because across New Zealand there is now a shortage in the materials used to make those signs so the ones I have are the basically the ones I have left so I will have to make do."

Al-Bustanji said his focus for the electorate is on housing and the environment.

"We want to build more houses and improve the housing market for first-home owners and this will be the main thing I will be advocating for in this part of the country. In Taupō we have some of the lowest rates of home ownership under the age of 40, rentals are now also hard to find and are expensive so these are the things locals are concerned about.

The Taupo Electorate Map. Image / Election NZ
The Taupo Electorate Map. Image / Election NZ

"The recovery from Covid-19 is still the main focus, there are a lot of shops in town that have said they are doing well but they are still uncertain over their long-term futures."

Al-Bustanji said his drive for politics was pushed even further by the response from New Zealand after the Christchurch terror attacks.

"The community displayed so much love for our Muslim community and it filled me with a great amount of pride and made me want to represent these wonderful people even more."

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