While the shape of the new Government was far from definitive on Saturday night, the outcome after vote counting showed Labour candidates strengthening their support in Hawke's Bay.

The result for the candidate vote reflected the highly visible and effective campaigning by Labour candidates in the Napier, Tukituki and Ikaroa-Rāwhiti seats.

National's share of the party vote was much higher in Tukituki, with National taking 50 per cent compared with Labour's 33 per cent, and in Napier National's share of the party vote was 47 per cent compared with Labour on around 37 per cent.

But in the combined three Hawke's Bay electorates (Napier, Tukituki and Ikaroa-Rāwhiti) over 50 per cent of voters gave support to Labour and Green candidates.


In Napier, incumbent MP Stuart Nash increased Labour's share of the party vote from 25 per cent in 2014 to about 37 per cent as of Saturday night. His personal share of the vote was 53 per cent compared with National candidate David Elliott's 41 per cent. While Nash's incumbency gave him an advantage, he has also been a highly visible advocate for his constituents and a tireless opposition MP.

Pitted against a formidable National candidate in Tukituki, Labour's candidate, Anna Lorck, campaigned on a very uneven playing field. Lawrence Yule, in his sixth term as mayor of Hastings District, had a nationwide profile through his role as president of Local Government New Zealand and as a result of the Havelock North water contamination crisis.

He was always going to be a tough opponent for a Labour candidate. However, the sizeable majorities of National candidates in Tukituki since 2005 have been wiped out.

From a majority of nearly 10,000 for Craig Foss in 2011, Mr Yule was returned with a majority of less than 3000 on Saturday night (down from Foss' 2014 majority of just under 6500). Special votes may whittle this down further.

Tukituki looks very winnable for Labour at the next election, especially with a candidate like Lorck. Her visibility in the electorate over several years, and her strenuous campaigning through the winter with street-corner meetings, contributed to an excellent result for her, despite not gaining a seat in Parliament.

Adding to Labour's strength in the Māori seats nationally, incumbent MP Meka Whaitiri took nearly 55 per cent of candidate vote, compared with Marama Fox's share of less than 35 per cent.

Labour's share of the party vote in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti was a very comfortable 65 per cent compared with the Māori Party's 12 per cent share of the party vote.

Green candidate Elizabeth Kerekere received a respectable 1539 votes, just over 8 per cent, on Saturday night.

While the Māori Party's share of the party vote in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti was similar to its share in 2014, Labour's share of the party vote was well up on the 47 per cent share of the party vote it received in Ikaroa- Rāwhiti in 2014.

Labour's refreshed leadership with Kelvin Davis as deputy leader appears to have paid dividends in the Māori seats.

More than 6000 voters in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti who voted for Marama Fox will be disappointed at the demise of their feisty candidate.

Clearly, the Māori Party failed to demonstrate its policy achievements and its closeness to National, which has proved very ineffective in addressing Māori voter concerns about housing and water, has troubled the electorate. Meka Whaitiri has worked hard and very effectively as a constituency MP on a range of fronts including water and Te Ture Whenua legislation.

The success of Labour candidates in the Bay extends to the southern area where Kieran McAnulty has gained a seat as a list MP. McAnulty received more than 12,000 votes on Saturday night compared with just under 15,000 votes for incumbent MP, Alastair Scott.

In Wairarapa, the National candidate 's majority has reduced from about 6700 to well under 3000.

As a new National MP representing Tukituki, Mr Yule will need to shore up his support base. Water and housing were key issues for voters in the Hawke's Bay electorates.

Mr Yule's local-government experience will be valuable as he heads to the Beehive as the Tukituki MP. He needs to continue to highlight the shortcomings of many of National's policies highlighted by the local-government sector in his term as president of Local Government NZ and work closely with local government in Hawke's Bay.

It is imperative Mr Yule works to rejuvenate National's policy in key areas of concern to Hawke's Bay voters. This includes addressing housing need, dealing with freshwater, promoting regional development that is more than investment in roading and ensuring resilient transport, especially for the "wall of wood".

In short, he needs to ensure National is more focused on governing in the long-term interests of all New Zealanders and less on the short-term interests of some sectors.

Associate Professor Christine Cheyne is a local government expert based at Massey University's School of People, Environment and Planning. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz