Whanganui - candidates:
Alan Davidson, Act
Harete Hipango, National
Steph Lewis, Labour
Nicola Patrick, Greens
Reginald Skipworth, NZ First

Whanganui will soon have a new MP after Chester Borrows retired from politics after holding the seat for 12 years.

National's new candidate, Harete Hipango, is well known in Whanganui where she has worked as a lawyer for more than 25 years, and has been a member of the district health board.

Borrows enjoyed a majority of 4505 in 2014, with National picking up 16,687 votes to Labour's 9012.


However, with Labour surging under Jacinda Ardern the party says its own polling shows the Whanganui race is neck-and-neck.

Its candidate, Steph Lewis, is just 29 years old and grew up in Whanganui, recently moving back after three years working in Wellington as an investigator for the Privacy Commissioner.

According to the Whanganui Chronicle she game "from seemingly nowhere" to snatch the candidacy from district councillor and gold medal rower Philippa Baker-Hogan, who has described Lewis as the "bright future" of the party.

Hipango stopped work in May to campaign full time, and said her career had helped expose her to all sides of life.

"We have high levels of deprivation in pockets in our community. My priority would be around health and education - making sure people have access."

Another focus would be creating opportunities for industry and businesses, although Hipango said she was disappointed with the recent Environmental Protection Authority decision (under appeal) to allow ironsand mining from the South Taranaki seabed.

"[That's] because I grew up with the values of protecting and nurturing the environment, and it will nurture us too."

Lewis cited health as a major concern in the electorate, saying people were on waiting lists for operations and many had to travel to see the doctor because of a low ratio of GPs to population.

She said more job opportunities were needed, and it was time to bring back some public service jobs to the regions.

Lewis said her polling put her within two points of Hipango, with 18 per cent of respondents still undecided.

She believed Labour's rejuvenation under Ardern captured a mood for change.

"It has changed the nature of the campaign in this electorate. But this has been a Labour seat for 64 out of the last 82 years. Chester is the first National MP to have ever held it for more than one term. So I definitely think this is a seat that Labour can win."

The electorate stretches from Whanganui to South Taranaki's dairy and oil industries, including the communities of Patea, Manaia, Eltham and Hawera. Other industries driving employment include manufacturing, forestry and fishing and retail.

Over one-quarter (27.0%) of those aged over 15 stated they had no qualifications in 2013, the highest share in New Zealand and almost one and a half times the national average. The electorate also had the second-highest proportion of people on an invalid's benefit (3.7%).

The Greens candidate is Nicola Patrick, with Reginald Skipworth standing for NZ First and Alan Davidson for Act.