Bennett won't make way for Craig

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has seen off moves to hand Conservatives leader Colin Craig a free run in a new Auckland seat, turning the spotlight on her veteran Cabinet colleague Murray McCully to fall on his sword.

Bennett was quick to throw her hat in the ring for the newly created Upper Harbour seat, after the release of draft boundaries showed her Waitakere seat would be carved up and cease to exist.

"If the draft changes do go ahead, I would like to make clear my intention to seek the nomination for the new Upper Harbour electorate," she said.

In a clear signal to Mr Craig not to stand there, she pointed to powerful supporters including Prime Minister John Key.

"I have the full backing of the party and the prime minister to make my statement."

Craig took the hint, saying he would not go head to head with Bennett. Instead, he pointed to a number of options in northern Auckland where his party polled best.

They included Rodney, North Shore and East Coast Bays as well as Northland.

Rodney MP Mark Mitchell yesterday flatly refused to make way.

But Foreign Minister McCully has not denied he could step aside in East Coast Bays.

On Tuesday he would only say "it is not a discussion I've been involved in".

Yesterday he refused to comment further.

National has signalled it is open to a deal to give Craig a winnable seat. On current polling his Conservatives could bring in up to four MPs who would be key to a third term for National. But he would first have to win a seat, unless he makes the 5 per cent MMP threshold.

The biggest changes in the draft boundaries, which will be finalised in April, were in Auckland, where population growth has been strong, and in Christchurch, where the earthquake forced thousands out of eastern, central and Port Hills suburbs.

In Auckland a new city fringe Kelston seat, seen as safe for Labour, would be formed by redrawing the boundaries of Waitakere, Te Atatu, Mt Albert and New Lynn. Labour's Carmel Sepuloni, who lost narrowly to Bennett in 2011, is seen as the frontrunner.

In Wellington, Ohariu picks up Wadestown, currently in Wellington Central. That could help UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne hold on, although he, too, would need a deal with National..

Ohariu loses Normandale to Rimutaka, and Korokoro and Maungaraki move into Hutt South.

In Christchurch, the biggest change is in Christchurch East, which has lost nearly 10,000 voters since the earthquakes.

The electorate picks up Labour-leaning Shirley and Mairehau and the working-class area of Bromley.

That should ensure Christchurch East remains solidly Labour.

The Christchurch Central seat, held by National with a narrow 47-vote majority, expands north and south but should be winnable for Labour.

But the changes make it much tougher for Labour's Ruth Dyson in Port Hills, which sheds some working-class areas but picks up wealthier suburbs and the mainly rural Banks Peninsula.

Representation Commission chairman Bernard Kendall said there had not been any significant changes to the draft boundaries drawn up by the surveyor-general.

There are no changes proposed to the seven Maori seats.

In all, 27 electorates were unchanged and 43 are facing changes. The new Upper Harbour seat takes the number of electorates to 71.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

WINNERS

Paula Bennett: Gets to stand in a much more winnable seat in Upper Harbour than her current Waitakere seat, which she held by just nine votes in 2011. She also gets the endorsement of the party and Prime Minister John Key, giving her the inside running for the selection.

Carmel Sepuloni: She has the inside running for the new Kelston seat, which on paper looks safe for Labour.

Nikki Kaye: Auckland Central is looking much easier for her to hold against Labour's Jacinda Ardern.

Poto Williams: Even if Labour's candidate in Christchurch East struggles to win in the by-election at the end of the month, which will be held on the current boundaries, changes should helped her prevail at the general election.

LOSERS

Phil Goff: Some in the party have targeted him for retirement, though he has pledged to stay around. But his Mt Roskill seat is now much tougher to win, with chunks of Epsom and the wealthier areas of Maungakiekie now in the seat.

Ruth Dyson: Her Port Hills seat has shed solid Labour voters in Bromley and the south of the city and picked up Banks Peninsula and Halswell, which has a much bluer tinge. On paper probably a National seat now.

Sam Lotu-Iiga: Holding Maungakiekie was never going to be easy, and the boundary changes have made it harder for the National MP.

Clayton Cosgrove: His chances of winning back the Waimakariri seat have taken a hit, even if he will face a new candidate after National MP Kate Wilkinson's retirement.

Fairfax Media