It appears rural voters abandoned their traditional National support, but it may not be that simple.
Electorates with a greater proportion of rural voters were not immune to the wave of red that swept the country – but it appears most farmers stayed true blue.
National’s share of the vote shrank by about 40 per cent to 50 per cent in areas where their dominance had never been seriously challenged.
Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey is one of two remaining National party MPs in the Greater Christchurch region following Labour’s historic election result.
Rangitata, which takes in the Mid and South Canterbury hinterland, was a notably won by Labour’s Jo Luxton after. It is regarded by Vote Compass as the country’s most conservative electorate.
In the North Island, the East Coast seat held by Anne Tolley since 2005 was this year snatched back by Kiri Allan, while Kieran McAnulty claimed Wairarapa after being a National seat since that same election.
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The party vote was dominated by Labour in many others.
National leader Judith Collins said during the campaign the Government was regulating farmers “into oblivion”.
Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard says some farmers were expressing their disappointment with Labour’s win on social media.
National Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said on Sunday the rural community covered a range of views, but most would favour National.
Many had expressed their disappointment about the Labour victory on social media.
“I think there would be a fair few that are upset by it, out-numbering those that are happy by it.”
Hoggard believed there would be a battle over agricultural issues “no matter who’s in charge”.
There were still many positive results for National outside the urban centres.
National MP Matt Doocey held the North Canterbury seat of Waimakariri, which includes the townships of Rangiora and Oxford, but with a reduced margin of 1976 votes – down from 10,766 in 2017.
He admitted it had been a tough fight against Labour’s Dan Rosewarne, who came close to winning at several points.
Eastern Southland farmers hold a tractor protest rally through Gore’s main street over the Government’s new freshwater rules.
National’s party vote was slashed by 45 per cent, dropping to 11,720 votes from 21,398 votes in 2017.
“I think people were voting for continuity,” Doocey said of the swing to Labour.
National support was affected by the party’s lack of “internal discipline”, he said.
“I mean, if you can’t manage yourselves no-one is going to trust you managing the country.”
Rosewarne said Labour’s increased vote was a result of “a fantastic prime minister”, a strong central campaign and the desire for certainty about the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jo Luxton has won the Rangitata seat for Labour.
“They wanted direction and stability, and they saw that in the Labour Party.”
North Canterbury Federated Farmers president Cameron Henderson said farmers were concerned about the substantial shift in support from blue to red, but this was more a reflection of urban voters within predominantly rural electorates.
There were definitely “strategic farmers” voting Labour in an effort to avoid a Labour-Greens government, he said.
Farmers were concerned about the influence of the Greens on policies they felt would disadvantage them, Henderson said.
New Selwyn MP Nicola Grigg, left, and National Party leader Judith Collins on the campaign trail in Rolleston.
While some of Labour’s policies were not popular with farmers, they were more “bearable” than those of the Greens.
Hoggard said in some “flipped” electorates Labour list MPs had worked hard to raise their profile and get involved with the community and this had paid off when they campaigned for the electorate.
In Rangitata, for example, National’s party vote dropped 39 per cent, from 20,106 votes in 2017, to 12,244 in Saturdays ballot.
Luxton, a Labour list MP from 2017 and ranked 41 on the list, had an election night total of 18,876 – 3484 clear of National’s Megan Hands, 67 on her party’s list, who finished with 15,392.
Federated Farmer mid-Canterbury president David Clark said Luxton was well-known to the farming community and had gained their respect over the past three years.
Newly elected Selwyn MP, National’s Nicola Grigg, was surprised by the heavily reduced margin but had not taken a win for granted.
Party votes for National dropped in the largely rural Canterbury electorate by 50 per cent on the 2017 election, when it got 26,003 party votes.
In 2017, Amy Adams claimed victory with a mammoth majority of 19,639 votes. This time, Grigg won by 4943 votes against Labour’s Reuben Davidson.
Grigg said her “gut” feeling was that voters in the townships of Rolleston and Lincoln were more likely behind the switch to Labour than the electorate’s rural voters.
In Northland, National’s Matt King might have held on to his seat, but it was by one of the slimmest margins of the night, at 742. In 2017, his margin was 1389.
Former Tukituki National MP Lawrence Yule says some National voters went to ACT.
The party vote in his electorate swung away from National by 40 per cent.
In Taranaki/King Country, National’s share of the party vote dropped to 37.5 per cent, representing a 40 per cent swing away from National.
National’s Barbara Kuriger’s majority took a whooping 76 per cent hit from 15,259 down to 3632.
Former Hastings mayor and incumbent Tukituki MP Lawrence Yule lost his seat to Labour candidate Anna Lorck by 772 votes, after beating her in 2017 by 2813 votes.
National had a 40 per cent drop in support from 19,166 in 2017 to 11,221 this time.
Yule said about 1500 people had “double ticked” ACT and the New Conservative Party, giving them both party and electorate vote “despite the fact those parties were running party vote only campaigns”.
He believed they would have voted for him, but was not surprised at the shift in party support.
“I think in the rural parts of New Zealand, [with] the gun law reforms, the worry about climate change … some of those people have just said, ‘no, we need ACT to stick up for us’.”