Electorate Watch: Hamilton East.
Wackadoodles in the Waikato.
Before New Zealand changed to MMP in 1996 there was a lot more interest in certain local contests. First past the post elections were won and lost in key marginal electorate battles, rendering the votes of those in safe seats largely obsolete.
These days local contests have little impact on the makeup of parliament, other than the occasional result where a party gains more seats than they would have otherwise.
For example in 1999 New Zealand First (NZF) was under the 5% party threshold, but Winston Peters won Tauranga, returning him to parliament, along with four additional MPs on his coat-tails.
There have been numerous times when ACT has remained in parliament due to the Epsom electorate lifeline, even with their party support hovering around 1%. Ironically ACT today would want that fledgling infant of a party to be left overnight on the side of a hill to harden up or die.
The other possibility is an overhang, where a party wins more electorate seats than their party vote would entitle them to.
For example in 2008 Te Pāti Māori (TPM) received just 2.4% of the party vote, but received 5 MPs by winning electorates. By comparison, in that same election, NZF got 4.1% of the party vote, far more than TPM, but as they didn’t win an electorate they received no MPs.
Aside from these possibilities, and the privilege of representing the community, the benefit of winning the electorate is a funded office. That, and the heightened profile from being the local MP, are a great headstart at future elections.
In the lead up to this election I thought I’d take a look at some of the contests around the country. Partially for their relevance to the campaign, but also because local contests can attract some rather interesting characters. I’ll start with Hamilton East.
Hamilton, that much maligned, not quite a city, on the river. The butt of many a joke about STIs and bogan stereotypes, that aren’t helped by being true. I mean the bogan stuff, I have no idea on the STIs.
Locals of course don’t welcome such criticism. They always have the same comeback. Whether you’re mocking the sprawl of malls and roundabouts, or the unironic use of cowbells and chainsaws at rugby games. It’s always the same - “But have you seen the gardens?”
To be fair there are times when Hamilton really doesn’t look that bad. They get a very heavy fog down there. Maybe, with respects to Wellington, they should have a new slogan - “Hamilton, you can’t see it on a good day!”
I’ve spent a bit of time in Hamilton East over the years. My daughter lived there until recently, and our grandson was born there. Years ago I worked on a project for the Waikato Regional Council and would visit their offices on Grey St. It’s quite pretty with the cafes and the trees. Reminds me a bit of Ponsonby. Just a bit mind you, let’s not get carried away.
Hamilton East is what we used to refer to as a bellwether seat. Meaning the electorate tends to be won by the same party as the overall election. In fifty years the seat has switched back and forth eight times between National and Labour. Sitting Labour MP Jamie Strange is retiring, so one of the following candidates will be the next MP:
Realistically only National or Labour have a chance of winning the seat. Georgie Dansey, who I thought did a fabulous job in the Hamilton West by-election last year, will have some competition on the left from the Opportunities party and TPM.
The appropriately named National candidate, Ryan Hamilton, will have a bit more competition on the right from NZF and ACT. Plus there are a series of wackadoodle candidates unlikely to attract government supporters. Speaking of wackadoodle…
Yep, National candidate Ryan Hamilton is the latest in a long list of candidates for National, and ACT, with some interesting views best kept from the wider population. Although, to be fair, if you were going to run an anti-fluoride candidate anywhere, Hamilton is probably the place to do it.
“In June 2013, Hamilton’s city councillors voted to stop adding fluoride, used to protect teeth from tooth decay, to Hamilton’s drinking water. National public reaction and the debate that followed highlight both the need to source quality research-based advice and the importance of scientific literacy when making policy decisions.”
Hamilton does put fluoride in their water today, but some of the councillors have been very unhappy about it. You might remember Councillor Siggi Henry, who was an outspoken critic of vaccines during Covid. She had the following to say about University scientists who sought to introduce actual science to the fluoride debate:
Because they [scientists] think they are so smarty-pants, they think they can say whatever they like and we should just take it.
The more educated you are in a field, the narrower your thinking becomes. I'm not hot on these academics...sitting on comfy chairs up on their hill. I've studied this subject for over 20 years, I know a little bit more than they do.
Apparently National candidate Ryan Hamilton, like the illustrious Siggi, knows a bit more than the scientists too, and has publicly opposed fluoridation for two decades. RNZ have covered this as part of their excellent Undercurrent series on misinformation in Aotearoa.
The quote at the top left is a special one, isn’t it? It really communicates what kind of person Ryan Hamilton is, and the choice voters have. In response to an online discussion on fluoridation he commented “Get rid of fluoride. The poverty issue is redundant, most lower socio economics fill their tap water with raro so pull the other one.”
That says exactly what he thinks about those in poorer socio economic groups. Don’t worry about them, their teeth don’t matter. They don’t even drink water like regular people, they just use it to make cordial.
As with Siggi, and many other fact phobics, Ryan’s opposition to fluoridation goes hand-in-hand with opposition to Covid measures. Seriously, this guy should be standing for Freedoms NZ, not a major political party that wants to be taken seriously.
Ryan described protecting people from Covid as “a carefully constructed manipulative guilt inducing narrative”. He said that data on Covid fatalities reported by coroners “seems set up only to inflate the death numbers for the propaganda machine.”
In 2021, Ryan was the only Hamilton City Councillor to oppose not letting those who were unvaccinated enter some council buildings.
Christopher Luxon has tried to wave this all away by saying the fluoride comments are 10 years old. The worst are, but some are rather more recent than that. But it’s the comments on Covid I find far more concerning. These are of course quite recent, and not “historic” by any stretch.
All this information is publicly available, and would’ve been known by the selection committee if they had spent an hour or two scrutinising prospective candidates.
Let’s give National the benefit of the doubt, that they’ve been doing at least basic checking of candidates, despite recent selections suggesting otherwise. Then we can only assume they’re happy to run a candidate that is anti fluoride, anti Covid health measures and mandates, essentially anti science.
Meanwhile Labour’s Georgie Dansey has switched across the river from where we last saw her in the Hamilton West by-election, following Gaurav Sharma’s political suicide.
Georgie started her career as a secondary teacher, she was a regional and national rep for young teachers and workers before then working full time for the union movement. She was number 84 on Labour’s list in 2020, and this year she’s in position 31. Speaking about the switch to Hamilton East, Georgie said the following:
I do feel quite comfortable in this space. My first campaign was in 2011, the Labour candidate for Hamilton East had an event at a hairdresser, like a woman's meeting and I went along. It was my first Labour event and she was just sensational and so motivating, so then I joined her campaign team.
And I've been involved with politics and Hamilton since.
After the high point of 2020 there will inevitably be a return of some electorate seats, won by Labour, to National, regardless of who wins the election. But having read about Georgie’s campaign, I think if anyone can buck a wider trend it’s probably her.
So what of the other candidates? You could probably hazard a guess as to what they stand for, and who they are appealing to, but who actually are the New Zealand Loyal, New World Order McCann, and the Republic of New Zealand parties?
Not only the parties, but given that even National are fielding a fairly fringe candidate, what on earth are the candidates from these parties like?
New Zealand Loyal - Tanya Ban.
From Policy NZ: “The New Zealand Loyal party is a nationalist populist party formed in 2023 by anti-vaccination activist and former broadcaster Liz Gunn. The party describes itself as opposed to “globalists’ interests”, and its policy platform focuses on opposition to the United Nations, climate change legislation, drinking water fluoridation, abortion and centralised government.”
Yeh. Her, and them. As for their Hamilton East candidate, Tanya Ban, she not only doesn’t believe in climate change she even has posts sceptical about Forest Fires. That’s a pretty hardcore stance, actually questioning whether forest fires are real! Not to mention her suggestion that the terrible fires recently in Hawaii meant it was “Epstein Island 2.0”. As for this…
I can’t even imagine what the image above, which Tanya posted last month, means. Fighting Nazis on D-day was the work of the devil? Tanya, who wants your vote, commented “Horrific to think the world is so evil start praying ask God to protect us.”
God help us indeed!
New World Order McCann Party - Nathan Lee Couper.
The Policy NZ site does not have information on this party. Candidate Nathan registered the New World Order back in 2006 although they had a few issues due to not having the minimum number of paid members, or being able to provide the $1,000 deposit to nominate a party list. It’s registration was cancelled 12 years ago.
There is little information out there about the party, but I did find this tweet from candidate Nathan Lee Couper, who, apparently inspired by that earlier success, thought he’d give it another go. The tweet is, I suppose, their mission statement:
You probably wonder why I founded the New World Order McCann party. Well, I used to deal with drugs a lot and I wanted a way that I could make money legally so I created my own party with help from friends and family. So please come and make a donation.
To be fair to Nathan, at least he’s being honest about his motivation, and I’ll give him another thing - he definitely looks like a local!
Republic of New Zealand Party - Jacobus Gielen.
Republic NZ is an unregistered party which seeks to end the Monarchy in New Zealand. It was registered from 2005 to 2009, contesting two elections in that time, each time receiving the lowest share of the party vote. Since at least 2011 only one person, Jack Gielen, has contested elections under the name.
Gielen has stood in the Hamilton East electorate, under the Republic of New Zealand Party banner, for the last three elections. In 2017 and 2020 he came last, getting 65 votes and then 28 votes. Completing this tale of electoral success Gielen also stood for mayor of Hamilton in 2010, placing last with 404 votes.
While it seems quite reasonable to have a Republican party, based on what I can see from this one the Monarchy can rest easy for a good while yet.
Obviously none of the fringe candidates above will be heading to parliament, but how about the third parties? Do they have a chance of coming through the middle to win the electorate? In a word - No.
Last election the third placed party, for both candidate and party votes, were the Greens, and they’re not even standing a candidate. This gives the Labour candidate a clearer run, although it’s not an agreement between the two parties.
Some might joke that they couldn’t find a Greenie in Hamilton to stand, but the Greens actually received 8% of the party vote in Hamilton East last election.
TOP, ACT, and NZF didn’t get many candidate votes last time, but ACT received 7% of the party vote. If anyone was to challenge the two major parties in the electorate race, it would have to be ACT. But they won’t be focussing on electorate votes, their main concern will be whether the historically high party numbers we’re seeing in the polls will actually stand up on election day.
Although perhaps local booze baron, candidate Ash Parmar who owns four bottle shops - in Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, and two in Cambridge, will appeal. They do like a drink in the Waikato, even naming the region after the local beer.
As for the battle between the two big parties, you’d have to say the National candidate was favourite at this stage. Not on merit obviously. It is hard to fathom that people would elect a candidate with views like Ryan Hamilton, but I’m realistic about current sentiment against Labour in places like the Waikato.
Still with a good ground game, and having the advantage of not being an anti-science wackadoodle, I reckon Georgie Dansey will make it a closer run thing in Hamilton East than many might be predicting.
Hope so anyway, it’s a depressing thought that Ryan Hamilton might end up an MP.