24 Sep 2017

'Every little thing got you over the line'

5:42 am on 24 September 2017

Barring a huge turnaround in the special votes, Greg O'Connor is the new Ōhāriu MP - with a 679-vote majority at this point.

Greg O'Connor (centre) talks to RNZ after winning the Ohariu seat.

Greg O'Connor, centre, talks to RNZ after winning the Ōhāriu seat left vacant by United Future leader Peter Dunne. Photo: RNZ

Mr O'Connor celebrated winning the seat - previously held by United Future leader Peter Dunne, who has retired from politics - with family members and hundreds of party volunteers at Labour's Wellington headquarters.

He remained cautious throughout the night, until a staffer tapped him on the shoulder and showed him the results on a cellphone. He then smiled and began hugging family members.

"Wow... right, I'm now the MP for Ōhāriu," he said.

"It's really nice to be standing here with the family, not only my immediate family, but extended family around me too."

Mr O'Connor quickly paid credit to his staffers who ran his campaign.

"The whole crew - what we call the LEC, the local executive committee - so many things go together to make this moment happen."

He said with such a small margin, it showed every handshake out in the electorate mattered.

"When you've got a margin like that, every little thing got you over the line. Everyone of those conversations, out there on those wet Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, will I do another street? It's raining, it's dark. I'll just do one more street, one more house. When you get this close, they count."

He tipped his hat to his opponent, National's Brett Hudson, who he didn't completely rule out flipping the result when special votes came in.

"He put up a good fight. He'll be sitting there now and probably it's close enough that he might be even optimistic about the specials. Brett would have surprised a lot of people. A lot of Peter's [Dunne] vote obviously went to Brett and I had to fight to keep a lot of it with me."

Mr O'Connor's cousin, Damien O'Connor, won West Coast-Tasman by 4834 votes.

"Two of us in Parliament. Our grandmother, Winifred O'Connor, would be very, very proud. She was a stalwart of the Labour Party and we've done this for old Win."

Mr O'Connor wouldn't be drawn on whether his party could be in a position to form a government.

"Worst-case scenario at the moment is looking like Opposition. But never say never. Let's just see how things go. But certainly it will be worked out by people slightly better qualified to do that than I am," he said.

"I'm the new boy on the block. When I was in police we had a tradition that the new boy or the new girl made the tea, so I better take my teabags with me."

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