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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

PoliticsOctober 11, 2023

Who is in and who is out, based on the latest polls (and a bit of guesswork)

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

If the numbers as they appear today play out on election day, what will parliament look like? Toby Manhire gets out his abacus. 

Let’s get the caveats out of the way right off the bat. This exercise – a snapshot of who might be heading to parliament next week – relies chiefly on four polls conducted a couple of weeks before election day. They’re very reputable pollsters (Verian, Reid, Curia, Talbot Mills) but things can change in the leadup to election day itself. Turnout slumps can affect some parties more than others. And polling is not a perfect science; sometimes they get things wrong. Any number of strange things can hapen.

But if we look at the average across those surveys – which are all reasonably consistent anyway – and take that as the party vote for our hypothesis, then extrapolate that shift in mood to the electorates, while chucking into the brew some of the unique features that apply to those electorates, we can sketch a picture of who would make it to parliament, and who would not.

I’ve drawn in part on the excellent analysis and modeling by James Mulrennan of the Overhang, though my assessments are cruder than his, which incorporate more factors per seat. Where there are published polls for an electorate, I’ve chosen to take them as gospel, even though some are in effect a statistical tie and some are gathering dust.

Right then.

Easy calls

Of the 71 electorates for which an MP is being elected (the 72nd being Port Waikato, more on that in a minute), the winner in more than half can be confidently forecast (I’ll definitely get at least one or two wrong). Let’s start with National holds – in almost every case, if it went blue despite the red tide of 2020, we’re saying it’s staying blue in 2023. 

Ring the blue bell then for: Bay of Plenty, Botany, Coromandel, East Coast Bays, Invercargill, Kaikōura, Kaipara ki Mahurangi, North Shore, Pakuranga, Papakura, Port Waikato (in a byelection, see note below), Rotorua, Selwyn, Southland, Taranaki-King Country, Taupō, Tauranga, Waikato, Waimakariri, Waitaki, and Whangaparāoa. Add to that Hamilton West, where byelection winner Tama Potaka will coast home.

On current polling, anything with a majority south of 3,000 for Labour should be a straightforward grab for National. On that basis, National is incoming in: Hamilton East, New Plymouth, Northcote, Northland, Ōtaki, Rangitīkei, Tukituki, Upper Harbour, and Whangārei.

Labour has its own safe seats. Even accounting for the anomalous peak of 2020, we can make an assumption that – for the most part – a 10k-plus majority will be enough to hold an electorate in the red column. Let’s then award to Labour: Banks Peninsula, Christchurch Central, Christchurch East, Dunedin (despite some interesting subplots), Carmel Sepuloni in Kelston, Mana, Māngere, Manurewa, Michael Wood in Mt Roskill, New Lynn, Palmerston North, Panmure-Ōtāhuhu, Chris Hipkins’ home turf in Remutaka, Taieri, Te Atatū, and Megan Woods in Wigram

David Seymour has a majority of more than 9,000 in Epsom and no longer needs any nod or teacup from National to retain it. Finally, based on a poll this week that gave Rawiri Waititi more than 58% support among decided voters in Waiariki, that will be a hold for the Pāti Māori co-leader.

A note on Port Waikato

A curveball in the last week of the campaign was presented by the death of Neil Christensen, the Act candidate for Port Waikato. Arcane electoral law means that while the good people of Port Waikato will have their party vote counted, the electorate votes cast so far are binned, and a byelection held in November. 

That’s fine, but the next bit is weird: in the absence of that MP, an extra, 73rd list MP will go to parliament after the election, and remain there after the byelection, meaning the house will have 121 MPs. Andrew Bayly will almost certainly go to parliament as a list MP, then almost certainly win that byelection, meaning National brings in another from their list. We’ll come back to that.

Reasonable confidence

One of the electorates with a massive Labour majority is Mt Albert, wellspring of many Labour leaders including Jacinda Ardern. Her place as candidate is taken by Helen White, who was defeated last time by Chlöe Swarbrick in Auckland Central but made it to parliament on the list. Ricardo Menendez-March reckons he can repeat Swarbrick’s feat and swing Mt Albert to the Green Party. That’s a long longshot – Ardern’s majority was more than 20,000 – but the Greens’ aggressive push for the seat, plus the presence of National’s Melissa Lee, means it’s not quite an easy call.

Nanaia Mahuta has gone electorate-only in Hauraki-Waikato and though polling shows Te Pāti Māori’s 21-year-old Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke not far behind her, she should retain the seat that she alone has held since its creation in 2008. In another Māori electorate, Tāmaki Makaurau, Peeni Henare will probably hold on. His majority was just shy of 1,000 last time, but he faced more prominent challengers in John Tamihere (TPM) and Marama Davidson (Greens) and has since built his own profile as a minister. (A poll revealed last night gave Henare a 10-point lead.)

Labour’s Rino Tirikatene is highly likely to return for a fifth term in Te Tai Tonga. Kelvin Davis should be OK in Te Tai Tokerau.

Ilam has been a compelling watch, but Raf Manji’s Top challenge is still long odds and National will most likely prevail. Kiri Allan won East Coast by more than 6,000 in 2017, but it will be an uphill battle for Tāmati Coffey; National’s Dana Kirkpatrick is favoured to take it. Katie Nimon should win Napier for National, overturning the 5k majority of exiting MP Stuart Nash. Jo Luxton’s victory in Rangitata in 2020 was a departure from the norm and despite a 4,408 majority the Labour MP is likely to lose out to National’s James Meager.

In Maungakiekie, Priyanca Radhakrishnan scraped in with a 635-vote majority. A strong performance as a minister and the absence of Denise Lee for National means she has a chance, but National’s Greg Fleming is the favourite. Another knife-edge contest is in Takanini, where Neru Leavasa may just cling on ahead of National’s Rima Nakhle.

Ian McKelvie won Rangitīkei by almost 3,000 in 2020 for National. His replacement, Suze Redmayne, is a comfortable favourite, but she does face a wild card in the form of Andrew Hoggard, the Federated Farmers head turned Act candidate, who will not want for name recognition in the rural seat despite no formal campaign by the party as in Epsom and Tāmaki.

Eesh that could be close

In Auckland Central, polling puts the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick, who pulled off an upset win in 2020, ahead but by a statistically insignificant whisker over National’s Mahesh Muralidhar. A similar story in Tāmaki, where Act deputy leader Brooke van Velden’s audacious challenge from the right puts her the breadth of a Paula Bennett eyelash behind Simon O’Connor. 

Another O’Connor, Greg, won Ōhāriu by almost 12,000 votes for Labour last time, but this year faces a tougher foe in National deputy and finance spokesperson Nicola Willis. Some have suggested the number of public servants in the electorate may offset her high profile and allow O’Connor to squeeze through. 

Kieran McAnulty has attracted many admirers over the term and is tipped as a future Labour leader. Is that enough to see him hang on to Wairarapa? We’re guessing he’ll just miss out to National’s Mike Butterick.

Hutt South will be fascinating, with National’s Chris Bishop a warm favourite to beat Ginny Anderson. Nelson is fiendishly tricky to pick, with Rachel Boyack, who ousted veteran Nick Smith by 4,525 in 2020, just-perhaps hanging on thanks to Act’s Chris Baillie drawing some of the vote from National candidate Blair Cameron.

Accomplished Green MP Julie Anne Genter has a real chance in Rongotai, but Labour’s Fleur Fitzsimons has a strong reputation in a seat that Paul Eagle won by a mile. Wellington Central is a genuine three-way race, with just four points separating Labour’s Ibrahim Omer, National’s Scott Sheeran and the Greens’ Tamatha Paul in a poll. 

Can Maureen Pugh strike blue lightning in West Coast Tasman and oust longstanding Labour MP Damien O’Connor? She’ll surely come close. Steph Lewis has her work cut out for her in Whanganui, which could easily return to National via Carl Bates.

A poll last month put Labour’s Soraya Peke-Mason five points ahead of Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer in Te Tai Hauāuru. Ngarewa-Packer’s greater campaign profile may overcome that, but we’ll mark it down in accordance with the poll. 

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti is as intriguing as it is hard to pick, but polling suggests Labour newcomer Cushla Tangaere-Manuel has an edge over the MP who leapt from Labour to TPM, Meka Whaitiri, and for the purposes of this exercise the polls are king.

So. Where does all that leave us? It would present us with the following electorate winners 

The electorate tally: National 39 (we’re not counting Port Waikato), Labour 29, Act 1, Greens 1, TPM 1. Such a result would be remarkable, given the wider dissatisfaction with the two major parties (my gut says there will be at least six electorate MPs from smaller parties, for what it’s worth), but if it did play out that way, who would come in off the list?

A reminder, here’s the polling we’re looking at:

On the above numbers, the total seat entitlement for the parties would be National 47, Labour 34, Greens 16, Act 11, NZ First 8 and Te Pāti Māori 4, a scenario that would leave National requiring the support of both Act and NZ First to govern. 

The top-ups from the party list would therefore amount to 8 for National and 5 for Labour. The Greens would gain 15 seats, Act 10, NZ First 8 and TPM 3.

On that basis, the list MPs joining their electorate colleagues would be:

Who misses out? In the scenario we’ve sketched, senior Labour MPs Adrian Rurawhe, Andrew Little, David Parker, Kieran McAnulty and Ginny Andersen all would be gone. 

Some of those tight electorate contests could change that, however; on the same party vote, all five would be back were Greg O’Connor in Ōhāriu, Fitzsimons in Rongotai, Omer in Welly Central, Boyack in Nelson and Tangaere-Manuel in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti to finish second in their electorates. 

For National, Emma Chatterton would come in to parliament when Andrew Bayly (presumably) wins the Port Waikato byelection, becoming the 121st member. Just missing out: the man tipped as a future attorney general, James Christmas, followed by Dale Stephens, Siva Kilari and Harete Hipango. Again, some of the tight electorate races falling the other way would bring those candidates in. MMP is a fickle beast. 

Keep going!