"Nervous." Trevor Mallard's response about his chances of holding on to Hutt South seems odd, considering he has held the seat for 21 years.

But boundary changes this year could swing as many as 2500 votes from red to blue. The seat now covers all of the Western Hills, formerly in Peter Dunne's Ohariu seat, and loses Labour-leaning suburb Naenae.

Throw in National candidate Chris Bishop, highly regarded by his party, and a few high-profile visits to the electorate by John Key and Steven Joyce, and the contest heats up.

"We know they are having a go at the seat, but I've never regarded it as safe," said Mr Mallard.


"I am always nervous, and there is more reason to be nervous now."

Mr Bishop is a champion debater who has held adviser roles in Gerry Brownlee and Steven Joyce's offices, separated by a stint as a tobacco lobbyist for Philip Morris.

On current polling Mr Bishop, 30, is likely to enter Parliament as number 49 on National's list.

But National had a 5 per cent lead in the party vote in 2011, and it would take great delight in unseating the Labour veteran, especially as that would eject him from Parliament; Mr Mallard has removed himself from Labour's list.

Mr Mallard cites the 137 state houses that have been boarded up because of earthquake risk as a local issue. "I would require Housing NZ to complete assessments and salvage those that are salvageable, and they almost certainly are. There's room for 300 families there."

Mr Bishop trumpets innovation as his main focus. The Government's Callaghan Innovation is based in the Hutt, and he sees potential for the area as a hi-tech networking hub.

One major issue they disagree on is the Grenada-Petone road.

Mr Mallard says there are four transport projects that are higher priority. Mr Bishop supports it as it would ease the Wellington commute and as an alternative route to the Kapiti Coast.

A factor in the contest will be what Green voters do with their electorate vote. Green candidate Holly Walker is resigning from Parliament for family reasons, but still standing in the seat to chase the party vote.