23 Nov 2011

Tight National-Labour contest in Waitakere

1:23 pm on 23 November 2011

The West Auckland seat of Waikatere is shaping up to be another tight contest between National and Labour.

Labour says it is determined to win back the seat, which it lost it in 2008 by just 632 votes to National's Paula Bennett.

The contest in the Waitakere electorate is taking a different shape this time, with fewer candidates standing than in 2008.

The New Zealand First, Alliance, Pacific, Family First and the ACT parties, which received a total of almost 2000 electorate votes in 2008, are not standing candidates this time.

The Mana and Green party candidates are seeking the party vote only.

Labour's candidate Carmel Sepuloni says she hopes to pick up most of those votes.

"Where are those votes going to go? That'll be interesting. Can we get the turnout increased this time round? Because we had a very low turnout last time in the Waitakere electorate. If we can, I think Labour will benefit from that."

She says Labour's support dwindled at the last election when there was a big swing across the country towards National.

Controversy during campaign

The contest has not been without controversy. Ms Sepuloni says National's Paula Bennett has not been turning up to electorate debates or public meetings.

As well, she says, she caught Ms Bennett's campaign secretary taking down one of her billboards.

But Paula Bennett says it was a misunderstanding in which her campaign secretary thought he had permission from the home-owner to take down the hoarding.

She also dismissed claims that she hasn't been turning up to meetings.

"I'm doing as many public meetings as I did last time and as I did the time before that. I'm doing a public meeting with Bill English which I haven't done before, so that's open to the public as well."

Ms Bennett says what is important is her record, and what she has achieved for Waitakere over the past three years.

About 80% of enrolled electors have cast votes in the electorate at the past few elections.