National's Jonathan Young has put the loss of his New Plymouth electorate down to a local Labour base "revitalised" by Jacinda Ardern, and a Covid-19 crisis that's overshadowed anxiety over the future of Taranaki's energy industry.
In one of last night's bigger surprises, Labour's Glen Bennett secured the long-blue seat with 18,072 votes to Young's 16,553.
The community stalwart's victory gave New Plymouth its first Labour electorate MP since 2008 - when Young narrowly edged out Harry Duynhoven - and came amid a widespread swing to the left among electorates.
Labour also picked up 47.7 per cent of the party vote in New Plymouth, clearly beating National's 31 per cent.
In the nationwide wipeout, Young lost not just his electorate seat, but also his seat in Parliament.
"I'm going to miss the job, but I'll make sure I find a way to be a solid contributor to our community," he told the Herald today.
2020 had been "Covid-19 election", he said, and that came through in the voting results.
"I think that National didn't have as a cohesive team as we would have liked, just through this last year, and a lot of that is because of the Covid-19 epidemic and the situation we found ourselves in," he said.
"And I guess underlying that is New Plymouth is one of those seats that has a strong support base for both National and Labour. I think Jacinda has revitalised the Labour contingent here, which we saw in the last election to a certain degree, but obviously massively this time around.
"I think there are still major issues for Taranaki and I hold a lot of concern for our region - particularly now with a Labour government that doesn't have the same level of checks and balances that it had in the last parliament, with a strong opposition."
The Government's 2018 decision to ban new deep-sea oil and gas exploration permits was met with shock in the electorate, and was at the time described by New Plymouth's mayor as a "kick in the guts for the future of the Taranaki economy".
Young said there was still "huge anxiety" locally among the oil and gas sector, adding local civic leaders were disappointed about the Government's planned "just transition" to clean energy sources.
"I think it's been an exercise to placate an upset region but it hasn't delivered - and if the Government was serious about it, I don't know what they can do, because you can't just say to one industry, your horizon is set and there it is, when they have no answer to replace those jobs," he said.
"It's become a lot harder for these companies to make progress, they find it difficult to get finance and joint venture partners and they've lost the capacity of some of the companies that have left New Zealand. It's a major issue and I think it's just going to get harder for them."
But he said Covid-19 had become a more dominant issue than the oil and gas ban.
"And that's now two and a half years ago - people have got used to that decision - whereas they are still living in the shadow of Covid."
Bennett, meanwhile, said he'd met stakeholders in the energy sector during his campaign, and pointed to developments like Ara Ake, which has been set up in New Plymouth to guide low-emissions energy innovation and technology.
"I believe there are still jobs here - as at the end of last year there was the same amount of jobs there were in 2015," he said of the sector.
"Oil and gas is here and it's not going anywhere any time soon - we need to realise that - and I just need to now knuckle down and work closely with the energy sector to ensure that we have a future and we retain jobs, while we diversify into clean energy."
Another priority would be progressing the Taranaki 2050 roadmap for the economy, and working with businesses, iwi, workers and education providers.
Asked whether his win was down to Ardern's popularity more than it was local issues - as Young suggested - Bennett disagreed.
"I think the swing was very much because of the hard work of myself and my volunteers.
"We had a really motivated team this year, but we've also got to factor in the swing to Labour nationally, and Jacinda Ardern and the previous government's leadership.
"That was a huge part of it, but also our volunteers, the work we did, the doors we knocked on, the phone calls we made. I also thought we were really innovative and ran a positive, future-focused campaign. And I think that made a real difference."
Still, was he surprised at the result?
"We knew that if we weren't going to win, we were going to give Jonathan a really close race. It was affirming of the work that we've done, and that I've done, that we won."