Government support partner Peter Dunne faces a battle to keep his seat in the Wellington electorate of Ohariu.
A One News-Colmar Brunton poll released yesterday shows the United Future leader a long way behind Labour’s Greg O’Connor, the former Police Association president originally from Waimangaroa in Buller, running in his first election.
Mr Dunne has held Ohariu since 1984 but scraped in by just 710 votes in 2014.
The poll indicated 63% who voted for him last time were voting for him again, but 27% were switching to Mr O’Connor and 10% were picking another candidate.
Mr Dunne is aware his support may have been eroded but is not voicing any concerns yet.
“I am not going to get too carried away or excited at this stage because I think there is a lot more water to flow under a rather big bridge,” he said before yesterday’s poll.
Mr Dunne has held the west-Wellington seat since 1984, originally as a Labour MP, but held it in the 2014 election by only 710 votes. He has been a support partner of the National-led Government since 2008.
When voters were asked what party they would vote for 46% said National, 35% said Labour, 12% said the Green Party and 4% said New Zealand First, the Colmar Brunton poll showed.
Mr Dunne said he believed the Jacinda Ardern effect was the reason for the bad result.
“The question is, and it is something everyone is trying to figure out at the moment, is how deep-seated that factor is,” he said.
“Is it a phenomenon that will pass by as quickly as it arose or is it something more substantial?
“I am not going to get too carried away or excited at this stage because I think there is a lot more water to flow under a rather big bridge.”
In the past National has campaigned for only the party vote but this time it is explicitly asking National supporters to give Dunne their electorate vote to keep him in Parliament.
Labour and the Greens have done an electorate deal in which the Greens are not standing in order to give Mr O’Connor, the former police union boss, a stronger chance of rolling Dunne. The Greens had 2764 electorate votes last election.
Mr Dunne questioned the “Jacinda effect” in light of Labour’s water tax announced last week by Ms Ardern, which he said was “frankly daft”.
“I’m in favour of a royalty being charged on fresh water exports, which is quite separate from charging everyone who uses water, which is effectively a rental for it, and which is where their policy has gone way off the ropes,” he said.
“The question is, is that just bad policy development or will we see more of this?”
Mr O’Connor has lived in the electorate and played rugby for the area.
He told TVNZ’s Q and A programme yesterday: “It’s the only place where you’ve got the National Party candidate begging on his knees for people not to vote for him, that’s pretty unique.”
National’s Brett Hudson said his message to supporters was clear: give the party vote to National and the candidate vote to Peter Dunne.
National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce believes many Green supporters will have switched their support to Mr O’Connor.
“We’ve got a job to do to encourage people to support Peter, primarily because he helps bring strong stability to the government,” he told Q and A.
Mr Joyce was not yet reaching for the “cup of tea” publicity stunt, which has been used in the Epsom electorate to urge National supporters to vote for Government allies.
“The moves tend to happen quite late,” Mr Joyce said. NZN