National candidate Tama Potaka is the favourite to win the Hamilton West byelection, according to a new poll.
The Taxpayers’ Union/The Working Group Curia poll found 46 per cent of decided voters would vote for Potaka, compared to Labour’s Georgie Dansey at 33 per cent, from a poll of 400 people.
Voting for the byelection, triggered by the resignation of former MP Dr Gaurav Sharma, would close on Saturday and given its reputation as a bellwether seat, the result could give an indication of the political mood of the country ahead of next year’s general election.
It comes as tonight’s 1 News-Kantar poll shows National and Act have a clear majority and could govern alone.
The Taxpayers’ Union/The Working Group Curia poll, released after the 1 News-Kantar poll, pointed to a National win on Saturday with 46 per cent of decided voters opting for Potaka, formerly the chief executive of Auckland iwi Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki.
Thirty-three per cent would choose Dansey, 12 per cent would choose Act MP Dr James McDowall and 4 per cent would go for Sharma - now representing his Momentum Party after he was kicked out of the Labour Party.
The 400-person poll was conducted on Sunday, November 27 - 320 people took part by phone while the remaining 80 did so online.
Asked what party they would vote for if the general election was tomorrow, 46 per cent of decided voters went for National, 34 per cent would vote Labour, 9 per cent Act and 5 per cent Green.
The most important issue according to respondents was law and order (29 per cent), followed by the high cost of living (23 per cent). A number of other issues including housing, health, Covid-19 and roading came in at 6 per cent or under.
By demographic, 35 per cent of respondents aged 40 years old or younger saw the cost of living as the most important issue, while people aged 60 and above considered law and order more important.
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union campaign manager Callum Purves said the poll was a “snapshot not a prediction”, highlighting the large number of undecided voters.
“With 28 per cent of voters still undecided and the fact that byelections usually have a much lower turnout than general elections, the outcome of this race is by no means certain,” he said.
“The result will be determined by the effectiveness of the two major parties in turning out their supporters between now and Saturday.”
The poll results preceded a debate, hosted by the Taxpayers’ Union and The Working Group, which included Potaka, Dansey, McDowall, Sharma and The Opportunities Party’s Dr Naomi Pocock.
The five candidates were thoroughly probed on several issues including the high cost of living, crime, the economy, the Reserve Bank and the environment.
The event was a step up in intensity compared to previous debates as the vocal crowd wasn’t afraid to heckle the candidates during or after their answers, Dansey seemingly the most targeted of the five.
The intensity reached its peak when candidates discussed crime, which included Potaka being sworn at by one of the debate’s hosts.
Potaka stood beside National leader Christopher Luxon in Hamilton last month when the party revealed its policies to address youth crime, which featured sending 15 to 17-year-old repeat offenders to military academies and enabling children between 10-17 to be fitted with ankle bracelets.
While explaining those policies, Potaka was interrupted by debate co-host Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, who exclaimed: “Your solution is ankle bracelets on f****** 10-year-olds!”
Potaka, who had to quieten a riled-up crowd before responding, said his party “would not give up” on those teenagers at the core of Hamilton’s problem with violent crime and would “give them a chance” by linking them with community groups to help them re-engage with education and work.
McDowall, who rarely appeared ruffled throughout the debate, referenced his party’s position favouring the use of ankle bracelets preceded National’s policy.
He accepted electronically monitoring children “sounded harsh”, but he felt it was “not bad in the grand scheme of the harm” repeat offenders were causing.
Nationally, youth crime was decreasing but a spike in violent crime had occurred this year, particularly in Auckland and Hamilton which had seen an increased incidence of ram raids and aggravated robberies.
Pocock, who stayed true to her party’s ethos of advocating for “evidence-based” solutions, opposed harsher penalties such as prison for offenders, saying it was a “school for criminals”.