Close contest sees National keep seat

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    Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds. Photo: Luisa Girao

    IT was one of the closest margins in the country, but National’s candidate for Invercargill has managed to hold on to win the seat.

    The final election results were released on Friday, following the counting of special votes.

    As expected, the special votes significantly favoured the left, flipping three National seats and adding a new Maori Party MP.

    But it was not enough for Labour’s Invercargill candidate, Liz Craig, who closed the gap but was unable to surpass National candidate Penny Simmonds.

    Ms Simmonds pipped Dr Craig by 224 votes 17,705.

    It was the second-tightest margin in the country, beaten only by the 163-vote margin in Northland.

    Both Invercargill candidates had declined to call the race on election night, saying it was too close.

    Dr Craig trailed Ms Simmonds by 685 votes at the close of play on election day.

    All other southern seats remained unaffected by the final results.

    Further afield, there were some changes.

    The Maori Party increased its share of the vote from 1% to 1.2%, meaning co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer will enter Parliament as a list MP. She will join Rawiri Waititi, whose tight win in Waiariki over Labour’s Tamati Coffey was confirmed yesterday.

    Three seats have changed hands since the provisional results: Labour’s Priyanca Radhakrishnan won Maungakiekie over National’s Denise Lee, Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime won Northland over National’s Matt King and Labour’s Emily Henderson won Whangarei over National’s Shane Reti.

    Dr Reti will remain in Parliament as a list MP, but Ms Lee and Mr King are out of Parliament pending any recounts.

    As for the referendums, the hopes of the pro-cannabis legalisation camp went up in smoke.

    The final referendum results were 65.1% (down 0.1%) supporting the End of Life Choice Bill in the euthanasia vote, and 50.7% (down from 53.1%) voting against legalising recreational cannabis.

    Just 67,662 votes separated the cannabis vote.

    Dunedin/Te Tai Tonga had the second-highest number of pro-cannabis legalisation results with 27,299, behind Wellington Central/Ikaroa-Rawhiti/Te Tai Hauauru/Te Tai Tonga’s 36,933.

    Ms Simmonds, the former chief executive of the Southern Institute of Technology, said she was relieved and very grateful for the Invercargill outcome.

    She was in a meeting in Auckland when the results were released and only learnt of her victory when she received a text message saying “you’re in”.

    She believed the close nature of the Invercargill race was due to the “tremendous red tide” that swept the country and delivered a huge victory to Labour.

    “It was very, very hard to resist that.”

    Her priorities for the term were the transition from Tiwai Point, farming regulations and the polytechnic sector reforms.

    Dr Craig said she would continue to work hard for the area.

    She will remain in Parliament on the party list.

    She thanked the community for its support, and also congratulated Ms Simmonds.

    to work with her, as I have in the past, on things as we advocate for Southland together.”

    The national results, which as expected were positive for Labour, were welcome, she said.

    “I’m really pleased… I think it’s just a really good result across the board,” Dr Craig said.

    Additional reporting, The New Zealand Herald

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