Blue stronghold split, shaken

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Labour takes Taieri, National wins Southland

JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Even in traditional National heartland Clutha, the inexorable red tide of Labour made inroads during the general election on Saturday.

Clutha recently became split across two electorates — Taieri and Southland — and now has two new MPs to represent it.

Labour candidate Ingrid Leary won her seat in the Taieri electorate, and National candidate Joseph Mooney came out ahead in Southland.

Ms Leary won the new seat with 22,200 votes, comfortably surpassing National candidate Liam Kernaghan’s 11,593.

She said the feeling of victory was ‘‘quite surreal’’, but she was looking forward to ‘‘knuckling down and serving the electorate’’.

Despite being based in Dunedin, Ms Leary said she would make sure she was a continual presence in the lives of her Clutha constituents.

‘‘Well I think although my official title is MP for Taieri, I will probably become known as the MP for State Highway 1.

‘‘I’ve already spent a huge amount of time on the road and I’m planning to continue doing that.’’

Mr Mooney, of Queenstown, took out the top spot in his electorate with 17,817 votes, besting Labour’s Jon Mitchell who had 12,741.

He said he was ‘‘pretty excited, and ready to get to work’’.

‘‘There’s a lot of work to be done and I’m looking forward to getting on with it.’’

Mr Mooney would ensure coverage of his electorate through a combination of methods.

‘‘A mixture of being there on the ground myself, and having staff setting up constituency meetings as well. We’ll advertise ahead of time when we’re going to be in different parts of the electorate,’’ he said.

‘‘Gore is a little bit of a way to go but I’ll be keeping the office open there.’’

An estimated 2,877,117 people had voted by the close of polls on Saturday night, with the Labour Party securing 49% of the vote, giving it 64 seats in total and an independent parliamentary majority.

National garnered just 26.8%, and just 35 seats.

In Balclutha alone, almost 600 more people voted for Labour in 2020 than in 2017. People across the Clutha district made their voices heard at the voting booth, with polling stations in many locations having queues on Saturday.

Margaret Healy, of Beaumont, made her way to the Lawrence voting station to exercise what she considered to be an ‘‘important right’’.

‘‘If you don’t vote, then you don’t get to have your say. I’ve voted all my life.’’

Also casting his vote in Lawrence was NZ First list MP Mark Patterson, although it did not prove sufficient to return him to Parliament.

Mr Patterson — a Lawrence farmer and first-term MP — said it had been a ‘‘massive privilege’’ to serve in the role.

‘‘I would have loved to have had a second term, but I’ll reassess those options later on.

‘‘It’s back to the farm for me, for now.’’