Vote2020

The Whanganui electorate is one of the oldest electorates in the country, it was formed in 1860 when the Wanganui-Rangitikei seat was split in two.

Whanganui itself is by far the largest town with a population of around 40,000. From there the electorate reaches north and includes many small towns and settlements including Patea, Manaia, Eltham, Hāwera, right up to Stratford at the foot of Mt Taranaki.

With so many towns in its boundaries, courting votes involves plenty of time on the road.

A boundary shift in 2008 to include the town of Stratford compensated for the electorate's dwindling population. A decline that saw rural towns lambasted by media and economic commentators as "Zombie towns" due to their declining population. However, that trend is now in reverse.

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Resident and business owner Marianne Archibald has lived in the region for 12 years. She is the former CEO of the Whanganui Chamber of Commerce and says funding to the regions is making a difference.

The electorate goes right up to the foot of Mt Taranaki.
The electorate goes right up to the foot of Mt Taranaki.

"Some of the challenges that the regions always face are around funding, having enough money to do the things that will really make a difference," she said.

"The New Zealand Government is starting to really understand that and are helping with it.

"It's so valuable to have that support at a national level because the regions are producing most of New Zealand's GDP and let's see some investment back into the regions, it's really great to see that, long may it continue."

In 2020 the profile of the electorate remains similar to previous elections with manufacturing, agriculture and forestry employing the most people.

Energy has always been significant, particularly to the northern regions of the electorate - the natural gas fields supplying energy directly to Fonterra and via pipeline to the North Island.

However, the tourism sector and the Surf Highway is of growing importance to the region.

"There is huge potential for growth on this coast," Archibald said. "New Plymouth is really getting it together, being a really attractive place for people to go. And Whanganui is starting to too. So if someone is going to New Plymouth, for example to WOMAD, it would be great to have a really clear pathway to follow, and to stop and take a day or two either side and really explore the coast, because it's amazing."

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The National Party has held the Whanganui seat since 2005 when Chester Borrows took out the Labour incumbent Jill Pettis. Borrows held the seat for over a decade before resigning.

His successor Harete Hipango is standing again but it will be a tight race with the gap between National and Labour the smallest it has been for more than a decade.

The Labour candidate Steph Lewis needs a swing of less than 2000 votes.

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