West Coast-Tasman Labour MP Damien O’Connor has been re-elected and hopes he has earned a cabinet posting in the next Labour government.
Re-elected West Coast-Tasman Labour MP Damien O’Connor is stoked by the party vote swing to Labour across his large electorate.
Labour notched up 17,859 party votes in West Coast-Tasman after the preliminary count on Saturday evening, well ahead of National on 9974 – turning the electorate red.
In 2017, National won what was a tight contest for party votes with a final tally of 15,122 to Labour’s 14,015.
“I’m most proud of getting the Labour vote back across the electorate,” O’Connor said on Sunday. “People appreciate what we’ve done as Government.”
MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF
Re-elected West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor offers to carry a 2kg jar of peanut butter for his “boss”, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, who was given the spread when she visited Pic’s Peanut Butter World in Nelson before the election.
The result came despite “scaremongering” by National in the final weeks of the campaign, on the West Coast in particular, he said.
“That hasn’t worked.”
O’Connor himself was a clear winner as electorate MP, collecting 18,275 votes after the preliminary count, 5067 ahead of his closest rival Maureen Pugh, of National.
The Labour victory in West Coast-Tasman was mirrored in other electorates across the country in what O’Connor described as “an amazing result all round”.
“We’ll have to find a bigger room somewhere [for caucus meetings],” he said. “It is a clear mandate and, I think, it’s an endorsement of what we did through the Covid situation, but not just Covid, also White Island and the situation in Christchurch.”
An experienced cabinet minister whose most recent portfolios included agriculture, biosecurity, food safety and rural communities, O’Connor said he would like to think he had done enough to justify being put back into those roles.
“But those are decisions for the boss, and she’ll be facing a lot of new options.”
Damien O’Connor with Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern who he calls an inspirational leader.
When asked how much of an effect he believed Labour leader Jacinda Ardern had on the outcome for Labour, O’Connor said that “without doubt, she is a very unique, outstanding and inspirational leader”.
“Not just for us but for the world.”
One of O’Connor’s immediate challenges as the re-elected electorate MP would be working to help tackle the “tourism dilemma with the closed borders”.
While domestic visitors were filling many of the gaps in West Coast-Tasman, “there’s still a reset for many tourism operators”, he said.
Other sectors in the region had been affected less by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as the primary sector though there were potential challenges ahead for the horticulture industry around staffing for labour-intensive work such as the harvest.
“We’re aware of that and working on that,” O’Connor said. “Perhaps we can attract Kiwis across New Zealand to our region.”