National's MPs - the scramble is now on to join them

The scramble will now be on to win selection as the National candidate for what looks likely to be at least two — possibly three — safe seats in Auckland.

First up will be Botany, the Jami-Lee Ross seat which POLITIK understands will go to selection next week and then will follow Upper Harbour being vacated by Paula Bennett and what Naitonl Party officials believe will be a new seat somewhere between Helensville, Northcote and Warkworth.

Their view was supported by former Labour Party President, Mike Williams, speaking on Radio New Zealand yesterday.

The new seat comes out of the 2018 census results which were released yesterday.

The seats will more or less guarantee whoever gets them a long political career and party officials will be looking for candidates they believe can eventually become Cabinet Ministers.

The former President of the Labour Party, Mike Williams, yesterday told Radio New Zealand that he was expecting that about-to-retire  AirNZ CEO, Christopher Luxon, would be a candidate for either Bennett’s old seat or the new seat.

Luxon has received strong support from former Prime Minister, John Key, and has been spoken of as a future leader of the party.

What will be interesting will be whether the party elects to go with an Asian candidate in the heavily Asian Botany seat. So far its Asian MPs have all come in off the list.

The new seat comes from the release yesterday of census data from the 2018 census.

“While Auckland had the largest population increase between 2013 and 2018 (over 156,000 people), regions around Auckland are growing at a faster rate, with Northland, Bay of Plenty, and Waikato leading the way,” census general manager Kathy Connolly said. 


Under electoral law, the population of the South Island is divided by a guaranteed number of seats (16), and then that figure (65,458) becomes the size for North Island general electorates. Because the population of the North Island has increased, there will now be one additional seat to bring the total number of general seats in Parliament up to 65.

That means there will be 48 list seats; one less than now

The Representation Commission will now allocate the new electoral boundaries; it has till April next year to do that.

But there are questions about the StatsNZ data which have led to the proposal for the new seat.

One in six New Zealand residents did not complete a questionnaire for the 2018 census.

Stats NZ says this was largely due to operational failures that made it difficult for a significant number of individuals and households to access census questionnaires.

“In response to this unexpectedly high level of non-response, Stats NZ initiated a large-scale census mitigation project that involved the extensive use of alternative government data to fill the gaps,” says Stats.

“ This resulted in a significant delay in the release of results from the Census 2018.”

National has questioned this approach.

“It is difficult to have confidence in today’s population figures and the decisions on the allocation of General, Maori and List seats when 16 per cent of New Zealanders did not complete Census 2018 and when Statistics New Zealand acknowledges eight per cent of people cannot be placed in a specific place,” said their electoral law spokesperson, Nick Smith. 

“National’s preference was for Election 2020 to be conducted on the same boundaries as for 2017 and for a new census to be conducted in 2021. 

“The timetable is becoming incredibly tight with the new electoral boundaries now not to be finalised until April 2020 and the election scheduled to be only a few months after that. 

 “National has doubts as to whether these numbers are sufficiently robust for determining the boundaries for electorates for the 2020 Election. 

“We will be closely scrutinising today’s reports and the process through the Representation Commission to determine whether we can have confidence in the final outcome.” 

The surprising fact to emerge from both the census and the results of the Maori option in which Maori are invited to decide whether to enrol on the general or Maori roll was that there is to be no change in the number of Maori seats even though the Maori population ( 775,836) has increased  from 14.9 to 16.5 per cent of the total population. 

There are other challenges for political parties in the census results — Asians (All Asian ethnicities) now make up 15.1 per cent of the population; up from 11.8 per cent in 2013; not far off Maori but far behind in terms of seats in Parliament. 

There are currently seven Asian MPs and 26 Maori MPs.

 The release of the seats information yesterday means the race for selections can now begin; ironically yesterday was 24 months since the last election and highly likely to be 12 months till the next.