New Zealand

Labour’s internal polling has dipped into 20s, PM admits

Labour’s Ōhāriu candidate’s giving nothing away in what looks set to be one of this election’s most fascinating races.

Greg O’Connor won the seat in 2017 after long-serving MP Peter Dunne, the leader of United Future, announced he’d be leaving parliament. In 2020, O’Connor rode the red wave to a sizeable majority of 12,000 votes.

But this time around, he’s got tough competition from a higher profile opponent: National’s deputy leader Nicola Willis.

Speaking to media alongside prime minister Chris Hipkins in Johnsonville today, O’Connor said he believed the two competitors started as equals. “The moment you think you don’t have to earn every vote, you’re on the back foot,” he said. “I’ve been on the ground here… omnipresent and I’m just hoping that being available to the people of Ōhāriu will be enough to entice them to vote for me.”

Asked about what big issues he was hearing from his constituents, O’Connor signalled that many wanted redevelopment of the Johnsonville shopping centre to start quickly. “I’ve been working closely with the owners and that’s something, being in the heart of the electorate… I’d like to think the bulldozers will be in there sooner rather than later,” he said.

Willis told The Spinoff last month that being an electorate MP was something she’d always wanted. “I think the honour of truly representing people – being able to be the one that fights for a constituent, no matter what the issue is, removed from left and right politics but more ‘how can I be your advocate’ – there’s something very rewarding about that,” she said.

Greg O'Connor arrives at parliament
Greg O’Connor arrives at parliament in 2020 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Off the back of a series of poor poll results for Labour, Hipkins said that the campaign was only just starting to ramp up for his party, though acknowledged National had been in election mode for much of the year. “I’ve been focused on running the country. There’s a huge undecided vote out there so there’s every reason to get out there and campaign hard, that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing,” he said.

Pressed on whether or not his heart was really in it, Hipkins refuted that he wasn’t committed to the campaign and said he was getting into areas that didn’t always back him. “We’re not just going to places where people agree with us,” said Hipkins, a possible dig at Christopher Luxon who spent yesterday in the heart of National country: Queenstown.

Writing for The Press today, Andrea Vance noted the visit was a “parachute into friendly territory” and looked more like a holiday for Luxon than a campaign stop.

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