Napier used to be a safe Labour seat, held by a Labour candidate from 1954. Then National’s Chris Tremain won it in 2005, with a 3,500 vote majority, rising to just over 9,000 three years later. Last election, rising star Stuart Nash slashed Tremain’s majority back down to 3,700. Of course, despite being number 27 on Labour’s list, Nash missed out on being returned on the list.
With Chris Tremain retiring, the scales had tipped back in Nash’s favour. Nash was selected as Labour’s candidate back in February, and he’s been campaigning hard ever since (not that he hadn’t already been assiduously keeping his profile high in the area during the preceding two years). National’s, Wayne Walford, although a solid candidate, hasn’t exactly been setting the campaign on fire.
And then there’s the amalgamation issue. National supports a local referendum on combining the Napier, Hastings, Wairoa, Central Hawke’s Bay and the regional council. Napier residents are dead against it by a large majority, as they don’t want to see their rates money going to prop up the satellite regions. The satellite regions seem to be dead against it as they don’t want to lose their autonomy and end up as a small, out-voted voice on a big council. Stuart Nash has been campaigning strongly against amalgamation – for months prior to the official election period he’s had billboards everywhere, associating his name with the campaign to say no to amalgamation.
Now comes the final nail in the National candidate’s coffin – Garth McVicar. He’s decided to stand in Napier for the Conservative Party. He doesn’t have a hope of winning it, but he’ll certainly take a chunk of the votes that might have gone to Wayne Walford. A few Nash votes might go McVicar’s way, but I wouldn’t expect it would be many.
The fact that Nash has also declined to go on the Labour list this election surely can’t hurt his prospects either. He’s banking everything on the support of the Napier electorate. I’d expect the electorate will deliver that support to him in spades. Certainly, the sheer number of Stuart Nash billboards throughout the electorate suggests a vibrant, well-supported campaign.
I’m picking Nash by 3,000 votes, almost reversing the current National Party majority.