Local issues the focus for Labour in Northland?

The Labour party mouthpiece blog The Standard has Mike Smith, a former general secretary of the party and the man who failed to declare the pledge card spending as a writer.

He says that Labour needs to focus on local issues in the Northland by-election and if they mimic Labor in Queensland and focus on those local issues then they might steal a seat off National.

The stakes in Northland are potentially very high. If National were to lose, they lose their majority in Parliament. So they will fight hard and they will want it over soon. And they will want it to be fought on national issues. That is obvious.

But it is a by-election, and the lesson of successful by-elections is that they are fought on local issues, of which there are plenty in Northland that are not so favourable for the government. The same is true of successful electorate campaigns against the odds. Taranaki-King Country in 1998 was a good example where trying to fight a by-election as a proxy for a national election was not good for Labour.

Obviously a lot of ducks would have to line up for there to be such a surprise. But I do not think it is a good thing to start by predicting failure. The first place you lose an election is in your head. I’ve known a lot of such pundits over the years – they have the satisfaction of 100% certainty that they will be proved right.    

I think it is much better to start by asking what we would need to do to give ourselves a chance of winning.

One strong candidate, total focus on local issues, and all-out effort on the doorstep. Worth a go in my view – nothing to lose and an awful lot to gain if we begin to shift to community-based campaigning as in Australia.

I can’t wait for their candidate to start telling Northland voters that Labour opposes the upgrade to State Highway One, that they disparagingly call the “Holiday Highway”.

The single biggest factor holding back development in the Far North is the lack of proper infrastructure. The roading especially is appalling.

We will know Labour are serious about Northland when they ditch their opposition the upgrading of State Highway One.

Meanwhile the mouth breathers at The Standard confuse Northland electorate with Te Tai Tokerau.

The issues facing Maori in Northland are not the same issues facing general roll voters…but hey let Labour conflate them.


– The Standard


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  • Spiker

    If Labour were to actually win the by-election & win another electorate seat, what would that do to their overall make up of seats in Parliament?

    • Greg M

      I reckon they would lose one list seat, which means angry Andy would be turfed out. Now that would be hilarious.

      • peterwn

        No. The number of list places remains unchanged. If a list MP wins the seat, the next person on the list for that party (or the next one again if that person declines) becomes the replacement list MP. If it changes the overall balance of MP’s, so be it. A Labour victory for the seat would give John Key a big headache. He could continue to govern, but would be hog-tied on some of the things he wants to do eg RMA reform.

  • symgardiner

    Labour are a bit stuffed on local issues as they can’t actually make a difference, even if they won.

  • Wheninrome

    Roading, roading, roading and, dare I say, it rail with a link to Northland Port. We are not talking Lens trainset here.
    The logging trucks make an appalling mess of the roads which are “patched” to “just” do the job.
    National has given “lip service” to this problem as it probably will always be a “blue” seat, given Maori vote in Te Tai Tokerau.
    Back in time when Gary Knapp stood for Social Credit East Coast Bays – how quick did National take the tolls off the Harbour Bridge.
    (In hindsight probably not a great thing to have done given Auckland’s roading issues)

  • SkeptiK

    Maybe Mike Smith, former general secretary of the Party, doesn’t understand MMP, as he thinks a Labour win in Northland would cause National to lose their majority. The result would be:

    Labour gains one electoral seat, loses one list seat.
    National loses one electoral seat, gains one list seat.

    But surely Mike Smith knows this. What would actually happen if Labour won Northland is quite interesting. Who was the last Labour MP in on the list? That’s right, Angry Andy!

    So unless he stands for Northland himself, a Labour win there would see him out of parliament and maybe Grant Robertson would reluctantly offer himself as leader again, despite having said he would never run again just a few weeks ago.

    So, is Smith in the Little camp or the Robertson camp?

    • Iera

      A by-election result can change the proportionality of Parliament that was determined at the preceding general election (for example, if a by-election is won by a candidate representing a different party from that of the member who vacated his or her seat).

      • SkeptiK

        I stand corrected – what a pity!

        • Iera

          Sadly, it seems you are wrong – but also right: it is a pity!

      • T Mardell

        To be clear …are you saying then that the proportionality of the vote that assigns List MP’s is set at the General Election and cannot be altered by the result of a By-Election?

        • Iera

          The quote, in italics, is from the Electoral Commission website.

  • SkeptiK

    Does anyone know whether the Te Tai Tokerau voters can now change rolls and vote in this election as Northland constituents?

    • KGB

      I was about to ask this same question. It would be disappointing if the system allows a change to General role. Two bites at the same election period.

      • SkeptiK

        In general, I agree – it would just be another illustration of why this system needs a good overhaul. But in this particular instance, the consequences of a Labour win would be just too funny!!

    • peterwn

      No. The option is only ‘open’ for 4 months in each census year. Once a person selects Maori or General, the person is stuck with that for the next 5 years ie up to 2018..

      • KGB

        Thank you. So those who didn’t enrol for the last election can now do so on general and vote in this bi-election? (my electorate so I’m interested in the result and the strategy)

  • Michelle

    l can see the boys and girls at horrid digging feverishly looking for even more dirt to throw at JK and Nats in the run up to this by election, more dirty politics, mind you they haven’t stopped every headline l read with Nats or JK’s name is nasty Horrid need to get a life and start reporting the truth l now class them as a nasty little tabloid with all the sensational headlines but nothing else

    Yes there are alot of issues up here and l hope we get someone who will speak up for us, logging and other heavy trucks being one problem wrecking the roads and the last winter and previous drought didn’t help the roads either

    Still need to get people out to vote for Nats the other options are too scary to contemplate
    want to see this place going forward with stable government not another mish mash and nothing happening

  • Aucky

    I really hope that Andy makes the labour party policy on the ‘holiday highway’ very clear to Northland voters. Goff, Shearer & Cunliffe were in no doubt – it is for the benefit of ‘rich pricks’ only to facilitate rapid transport to Omaha & Mangawahai over holiday periods. The motorway extension is totally irrelevant to the transport infrastructure, port development or growth of regional industry in Northland.

    Sell that policy to Northlanders, comrade and you could sell sandbags to Arabs.

  • Hard1

    Queensland GDP A$283.6 billion (2011-12)

    Northland GDP NZ$5.6 billion (2013)

    Not a lot of similarities to emulate there, Mike, except perhaps that it’s a much better place for Maori to live. Census data from 2011 shows about 28,000 Maori lived in Brisbane, 3000 more than lived in Hamilton in 2006. Throw in the Gold Coast, and Mr Hamer said there were probably more Maori in south Queensland than in Christchurch.
    “Brisbane . . . is possibly the fourth largest urban concentration of Maori in the world.”

    Northland with it’s feuding power-crazy Maori holding back any sort of meaningful economic progress is doomed to perpetual failure.
    All the social issues in Northland stem from the inability of Rangatira Iwi to form a consensus and get the place moving. Horrible people, entitled nobodies with only their own interests at heart. The Sheikhs of Northland are disgusting.