NZ's political fishing season begins: Labour casts for the urban middle class, English baits soft Nats off Winston and the Maori Party's out on a lake they should own

NZ's political fishing season begins: Labour casts for the urban middle class, English baits soft Nats off Winston and the Maori Party's out on a lake they should own

By Alex Tarrant

With our 51st Parliament finishing up last week, it’s now political fishing season. The latest triennial event was kicked off by the traditional sounding of a ‘game changing’ poll – this time being Thursday’s 1 News Colmar Brunton.

As things stand – based on this poll alone – the Green Party would not get into Parliament, with a 4.3% reading coming in below the 5% threshold. I’m going to say early on that I do think they will make it. But the result has certainly set off some interesting discussions.

These include: on the potential wasted vote, on Labour’s fishing for Green and soft National middle class votes, on National fishing for soft New Zealand First votes, and the Maori Party fishing for Maori New Zealand First votes. More on these further below.

First, that poll. One Radio NZ pundit on Friday cautioned against reading too much into things – going as far as to say our democracy isn’t robust enough to deal with focussing on individual polls. This poll was simply reporting on the reporting of the week of 12-16 August, she said. I have some sympathy with that.

But it certainly did indicate that the general direction shown by the previous Three Reid Research result was correct. Labour’s leadership change has seen a massive spike in support for the party, with votes coming from the Greens and National (and potentially NZ First).

The 1 News poll was as follows: National 44%, Labour 37%, NZ First 10%, Greens 4.3%, Maori Party 1.7%, TOP 2.1%, ACT 0.4, UF a no show and ‘other’ 0.5%. This gives us 100% (yes, we’ll get onto why this isn’t the case shortly).

Plugging this in to the MMP calculator would give, in a 121-seat Parliament: National 56, Labour 48, NZF 13, Maori Party 2, ACT and UF 1 each.

On this, National would not be able to govern with the Maori Party, ACT and UnitedFuture – the same bunch as before. Labour would be able to govern with New Zealand First. Peters is the Kingmaker – just.

Isn’t MMP fun?

There are a few things about these polls, though. The poll as reported did not take into account the undecided vote of 13%. The headline results only included people who had mentioned one of the above parties as the one they’d vote for. So, let’s take 13% off each party’s headline vote and create a new party.

That 13% represents 17 seats if the wasted vote is 6% (Greens, TOP and ‘other’). If the ‘undecideds did not want to enter coalition, then National (49 seats) would be the only major able to govern (forget about the politics for a minute) with NZ First (11 seats) and the Maori Party (2 seats) or NZF, ACT and UF (1 each) in a 122-seat Parliament (Labour 41 seats).

If we boost the Greens to 5% exactly (6 seats) in this scenario by giving them a portion of the undecided vote, then National (47 seats) would need NZF (11), the Maori Party (2) and both ACT and UF in a 122-seat Parliament. The point here is, a smaller wasted vote (now just TOP and ‘other’ at 2.2%) works against National.

Now, it’s unlikely we’re only going to get a 2.2% wasted vote (even if the Greens make it across 5%). More of that 13% unallocated vote is going to be wasted. Last election 6.25% of the party votes cast did not turn into representation in Parliament. The Conservative Party’s 3.97% was the largest of this block, which also included Internet Mana (1.42%), Legalise Cannabis (0.46%) and Ban1080 (0.21%).

Plug that in again as 6.25% and assume the Greens get 5%. On paper, it is easier for National to form a government than Labour. Bump wasted vote up to 10% by assuming the Greens aren’t getting over the line, and you’ve got National only needing NZ First.

So, there is not as much hope for Labour unless it manages to grab a good chunk of that undecided vote and the Greens get over the line. Meanwhile, if Bill English doesn’t want to go with Peters, then National needs to pick up the larger chunk of the undecideds. Its current partners could help as well.

That was a very round-about way of coming to my main point: This is why we open a special Spring Political Fishing Season every three years. Isn’t MMP fun?

The undecideds will decide whether we see an election result anywhere near the 1 News and Three polls. I would guess that the majority of undecides are now leaning away from the fringes and towards either Labour or National, versus before the Greens’ July AGM when I reckon undecides were more leaning away from the centre towards either the Greens, NZ First or TOP.

Goin' fishin'

The Greens’ demise has quite clearly been to Labour’s gain – when you look at their individual polling numbers. The fact that Jacinda Ardern isn’t Andrew Little has had a massive effect. The Greens’ urban-liberals have been attracted back to a party that now looks progressive, fresh and more representational of them than Labour did before.

Ardern has caught a couple of big ones. Labour’s freshwater announcement appears to have worked in terms of rallying the middle-class urban vote the party now depends so much on. The urban middle-class faction of the “John Key personality” voting block has also been attracted back across from National.

And more of the middle-class “BA’s are great” vote might also come on the heels of a tertiary education announcement which is expected to bring forward a promise for three years free university education (oh, and polytechs too) which will mainly benefit middle class children.

This, the water policy, personality and potentially tax policy (as well as rallying calls from James Shaw) will serve to keep TOP out of Parliament – the more Labour can get of this potential ‘wasted vote’ all the better for them. Keeping the Greens down somewhere near, but over, 5% means the greater the chance Winston Peters will go with Labour (at the moment the Greens are still required - so the lower their vote, the greater leverage Winston has and the greater the likelihood he'll feel comfortable in some sort of arrangement with the Greens).

Bill English has cast a couple of lines as well. Last week’s boot camps announcement clearly indicates where National is focussing its efforts: soft Nats who had drifted to Winston Peters or undecideds that were leaning towards Peters from National.

This will be the focus of National’s campaign. While pandering to this voting block might annoy some upper-middle class (Auckland) urban liberals not taken by Ardern, these voters would likely turn to ACT, which would be to National’s gain if this boosts David Seymour’s party vote above the 1.2% needed to trigger a coat-tails scenario.

One other fishing expedition could also be key. Don’t forget about the Maori Party. If they can hang on to Te Ururoa Flavell’s seat and get enough party votes to bring in two or three coat-tails MPs, then this could ensure the current government’s survival, particularly if the wasted vote is high. National might need this if Peter Dunne loses in Ohariu to Labour, although I’m still not sure that’ll happen.

Where would the Maori Party get extra votes from? Labour’s installation of Kelvin Davis as deputy was not only a good move in that he was the right person for the job, but also in that Labour is less likely to lose Maori votes than under Andrew Little. Yes, all Labour’s other current Maori MPs are still off the list, but this isn’t so much of a discussion point any more with a Maori deputy.

If not from Labour, then Maori Party attention needs to turn to the fringes. Specifically, will Winston Peters’ bagging of the Maori seats and one-law-for-all be the trigger for the (quite considerable) NZ First Maori voting block to turn to the Maori Party? Will debate over water ownership trigger undecided Maori to rally foreshore-and-seabed-style around Flavell and Fox?

The message there is easy: A National-NZF govt could mean goodbye Maori seats. Let’s not forget that their eradication was National Party policy until they were forced to turn to the Maori Party for support. Anyone wanting to argue the Maori Party has done nothing for its people over the past nine years needs to explain whether they think those seats would still exist right now if the Maori Party hadn’t been around the table.

So, as fishing season enters full swing, Labour will be lowering its fresh, organic feed to attract as much of the urban middle class as it can. National will be baiting NZ Firsters with meaty, populist politics which will see ACT snap up some of the more upmarket catch. The Maori Party will have the Hei Matau out meaning New Zealand First might find its school of support nibbling away at hooks cast from two sides of the lake.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Maori seats need to go. Small numbers choose to enroll or vote there. Meaning there is over representation for the electorate. Undemocratic and unfair.
I looked at just one locality. 37K voted in the general electorate. 20K in the Maori. That means the democratic number of Maori seats should be 3 or 4.

I used to think that. But without Maori seats there would probably be no Maori in government except the ones with European values like winston. Is that really fair? Maori should have a right to have some representation in parliament.

You are right, and I have to come to think of the Maori seats as more representation of Maori Tikanga or kaupapa. Of course Maori can get themselves elected as an individual but as you say, if they stood representing Maori culture, law and agenda, they would not have a hope in Hades.
People who are in privileged need to start doing a whole lot of walking in the shoes of others, so they can maybe begin to understand that their way of thinking is not the only way of thinking.
An interesting one is this, I listened to it on RNZ it may give someone a modicum of understanding

I disagree, If Maori don't want to vote for a Maori that has interest in their "native" population then why should there be Maori representation? Allocating them seats at parliament is borderline token black guy in movies level.

I often don't decide until I am actually in the polling booth. Labour/National not much difference really. Labour tax and spend more while National try to cut costs and be more responsible with people's money but the differences are fairly minor.
There is no actual party running that I philosophically agree with. I would be attracted to a no government option. Just leave all laws/taxes/policies as they are, set in stone and leave a computer running things.
I would be tempted to cast a vote for an Ultra-Right Green party that would bring back Wicker man ceremonies.
Since the advent of MMP and party lists I'm pretty much opposed to the whole system and suspect that a truly intelligent man would void his vote thus avoiding any disappointment and blame over the outcome.

So, um, no KKK party, then?

The swamp is getting in the way ....

Liking Steve Bannons assessment of Trumps presidency saying
Trump's failures are because the swamp is getting in the way.


People should vote based on policies of opposition parties and what National has done over last 9 year and not what they are throwing now to get vote likr Dunedin Hospital.

This election has to be vote for change and has had enough of national. After 9 years they still blame labour for all their failure who was in government a decade ago.

If 9 years is not good enough for national than why give them one more term.

No ones getting in without peters , peters with bill English is the boy, peters with Jacinda ardern is the man, PETERS ISNT STUPID, also on Election Day the unsure will quickly have 2 choices, nationals 9 years of lies and now killing housing or a young fresh face who is very intelligent with the support of peters , both with great plans, labour will keep climbing massively right up to Election Day with no down side, or dirt like bill, no brainier really

A $20/hour automation subsidy comes across as pretty stupid.

There'll b hundreds of things different people like or dislike, if u can't filter threw maybe you shouldn't vote

Yeah we've had since 1978 to filter through Winston. If he was going to do something for the country he would have done it by now.

He's done ok for the leader of a small party, how many leaders have the other party's spat out

Winston has done more than ok for himself - without MMP political dinosaurs like Winnie wouldn't exist. He is looking to take it into his fifth decade on the teat. Impressive. Only 30 odd entry level workers tax take to cover his base salary so a bargain.

Perhaps like putting a lot of time and energy into the Winebox Inquiry? People who want what is best for the majority of New Zealanders know that Winston Peters and NZF are a good idea.


It's cyclical.Nine years ago Clark & Cullen & others looked sour & dour & were opposed by a new modern looking leader of the Nationals. Now Bill & Stephen & co look old & tired, stale if you like, and are opposed by a new energetic leader of Labour. If it remains like this WP will go with Labour firstly because it worked out OK with them last time, whereas with National it didn't. Secondly because he will see better status for himself there and better opportunity to influence. Accordingly vote for NZF, if only to stop Labour taxing NZ to a standstill.

yes a stronger NZF will help temper some of labours policy, they also agree quite a lot, but the big difference is immigration between the two parties.
or as I would like the conversation to be about what size population is good for NZ by 2030 and what size do we want our cities to be.
by then we will be well and truly hit by the new wave of tech which will be changing the way we live.
some of the things down that road will be
autonomous vehicles
cultured meats
cheaper home based electricity generation and storage

Yes sharetrader, & to me it looks almost done & dusted especially as looking like Labour will take Peter Dunne's seat & there may be too be possibilities of Shane Jones winning one too?

Winston should be sticking to his knitting - immigration, foreign investors and consequent stressors on housing and infrastructure. Some of his recent policy announcements are sending voters scuttling back to National.

We're about to go through what has the possibility to be the biggest correction nz has seen and all the gains anyone who owns a house could loose the lot over nationals hole 9 years, simply because of these world wide problems over overseas investor slack rules and the hope of growth with housing, Could labour and peters really do any worse, hopefully nzers will get nz back, if national had any brains they'd drop out because it's not going to be easy over the next 3 years fixing what nationals created

National's bequest - a poisoned chalice

Not sure there is going to be a monster correction - the big sleeper is the huge spending hole brought about by that safe pair of hands Billy Blunder, deferred maintainence in Hospitals and Health and Education

I don't think people appreciate just how big those holes are in pursuit of a surplus

In years to come National will repeatedly trumpet its achievement of surplus

Oh dear, and good comment, but beyond that, I can tell you something for nothing. Every Canterbury EQ claimant that has been persecuted by EQC under the guidance of this National Government does know exactly how big those holes are, because they are in the foundations, walls and roofs of their family homes which are now stuffed, and it would appear this National government, under the sub leadership of the Right Honourable Brownlie considers that to be, a job well done, and go whistle!

A stronger NZF will also temper National policies, I can't see the Greens polling under 5% so they will be involved with Labour and Winston won't want to work with Greens.

The differences between labour and national on taxes aren't that great, if you want labour to win vote labour, peters is likely to get in anyway but not 100% which way he'd go, I'd say 75% to labour, also does peters really get on with smug bill, haven't seen it

My guess is that the unions who are the backbone of Labour would be secretly delighted to have Winston in coalition. They could then get rid of low skill immigration which sets low wage standards that impact their members and pass any blame to NZF. Remember cutting immigration by 20k to 30k was Andrew Little's first election policy.

Greens 8 % in latest UMR poll just announced.

Always was

Somebody needs to tell Helen Clarke to back off a bit. She has had her turn and pushing in to be too supportive may actually end up hurting Jacinda's straight forward, breath of fresh air image. Helen's brand is quite different, people got sick of her and voted her out. Best for every one if she stands back and is only quietly but sincerely supportive.

Chris-M. Exactly!

This election is for change and everything happening and will happen will only help in it as the more the national minister faces people and media more they will be exposed.

Bill English huh ! ... we gotta spend another 3 years staring at a face wot looks like a mummified sloth from Jurassic Park .... but with less wit , intellect or charisma ....

... shag !!!

On a related topic, I note that the election coverage is sponsored by EY.

This is the same EY that sponsored a business journalism award. That is, until one award candidate was blacklisted by EY. EY has since decided to cancel the business journalism awards this year, after multiple journalists and journalism groups withdrew from the awards. A quick google will provide further details.

In my view, it is not a positive that EY is sponsoring the election coverage here on Interest. This sponsorship results in questions regarding the fairness of the reporting, as EY could possibly be influencing the coverage.


Several media organisations have withdrawn from the annual EY business journalism awards after an entry about one of the consultancy firm's clients was removed.

The entry by journalist Karyn Scherer at NBR was an investigation published last year into alleged accounting irregularities at photocopier and printing company Fuji Xerox.

Following Scherer's coverage, Japanese parent company Fujifilm last month released an independent report which found "inappropriate accounting" in operations in New Zealand and Australia between 2011 and 2016

Fuji Xerox was one of EY's audit clients.

EY withdrew the entry from this year's awards, resulting in independent judge and journalist Rebecca Macfie's resignation from the judging panel.

NBR today announced it would be withdrawing from the EY Business Journalism Awards entirely.

The Herald has also decided to withdraw its entries from the awards.

"It is important that journalism awards are independent and the removal of Karyn Scherer's entry without adequate explanation calls into question the process at this year's EY awards. ​The situation is regrettable but the New Zealand Herald feels it has little choice but to withdraw its own journalists' entries," said Herald Business Editor Hamish Fletcher.

Following NZME's withdrawal, Fairfax has also decided to withdraw from the awards.

NBR Editor Duncan Bridgeman said:

"It's a sad outcome because EY's original idea to sponsor the awards was so well-intentioned. Unfortunately, the integrity of the programme has been compromised by this disqualification and a big question mark now hangs over the future of these awards."

Voting for either the two larger parties only ensures more of the same old same old rubbish that has set NZ on a backwards course for decades but especially over the last nine years. It's too soon to know if Jacinda Ahearn will change this, so mine will still be a vote for a small party.

It's all very predictable if you believe Winnie's bottom lines are just that.

Labour could never agree to eliminating the Maori seats as this would eliminate 6/7 certain Labour seats forever and that's not going to happen. Winnie of course knows this full well - he's no fool !

I'm therefore picking NZF / National on confidence and supply only - Groundhog Day ?

If Winnie's bottom lines are shall we say a little flexible - all bets are off but one thing we can be sure of is that if he decides to go Labour then the old silver fox will have JA for breakfast.

Shane too ? At brunch though, not breakfast

I have voted for National in the past but feel they have been slack over the last 9 years re housing and immigration. I think the idea of voting for Winnie may be a good one to give him an upper hand in dealing with either of the two major parties. I agree that WP will not work with the Greens, so Labour will have to repudiate the MOU signed earlier or not be in the Govt. So I think my vote with WP will give National a kick where they need it and cause them to look at what Peters wants.

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