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Should National earmark a new electoral seat for the Conservatives' Colin Craig?
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has thrown her hat in the ring for the newly-created Upper Harbour seat, after her Waitakere seat was dismembered in proposed new electoral boundaries.
The proposed changes, announced this morning by the Representation Commission, take into account big population swings in Auckland and Christchurch.
The move by Bennett suggest National will steer Conservative leader Colin Craig towards one of the other northern Auckland seats if it wants to help a potentially crucial support partner.
"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.
Bennett said she had discussed her plans with Prime Minister John Key.
"I have the full backing of the party and the prime minister to make my statement."
She would talk to her electorate committee tonight to discuss what the changes meant.
She did not yet know if she would put in a strong objection to the current boundaries.
Under the draft boundaries 35 per cent of her seat would go into the new Kelston seat, 45 per cent into Te Atatu and 20 per cent into Helensville.
Bennett was expected to lose the Waitakere seat anyway, if it had survived, after holding it in 2011 with only a nine vote majority.
She said she had loved working for Waitakere.
''I passionately campaigned in this area, have strong support and I will continue to represent National across this region."
She would campaign hard for National in Upper Harbour and West Auckland.
''I am seriously up for it".
The Upper Harbour seat draws from East Coast Bays, Prime Minister John Key's Helensville seat and Te Atatu.
Waitakere disappears into the three neighbouring electorates of Te Atatu, Helensville and Kelston.
Auckland Central loses Westmere and Grey Lynn to Mt Albert. A new Kelston seat is created by redrawing the boundaries of Waitakere, Te Atatu, Mt Albert and New Lynn.
DUNNE LOSES SOME GROUND, GAINS WADESTOWN
In Wellington, Ohariu picks up some voters from Wadestown, currently in Wellington Central, one of the city's more exclusive suburbs, which could work in the favour of United Future leader Peter Dunne, who holds the seat.
Ohariu loses Normandale to Rimutaka, and Korokoro and Maungaraki move into Hutt South.
Dunne said today he might be "slightly" advantaged by the proposed boundary changes but "it's difficult to be more categorical than that".
Because United Future did not stand a candidate in Wellington Central there was no gauge of how the party might do among Wadestown voters.
He was losing a key part of his electorate, meanwhile, with the loss of Korokoro and Maungaraki, whose voters had been with him for 18 years.
"I've had [that area] since 1996, it's been a long time and I've established some links there but I accept the logic of what's proposed....obviously I'm a bit disappointed to lose people I've represented for so long."
Dunne, who first entered Parliament as a Labour MP in 1984 but struck out in 1996 under the United New Zealand banner, has remained in Parliament ever since thanks to his strong support in the Ohariu seat, which was previously called Ohariu Belmont.
At recent elections National has tacitly endorsed him in a nod to its supporters to help get him over the line in the seat.
Given National's strong party vote at Wadestown booths in 2011 that is likely to help Dunne if National endorses him again - however the United Future leader said today it was too far out from the next election to take that for granted.
"Those sorts of decisions are a long way off being made and I'm not really factoring those into the equation at this stage."
CHRISTCHURCH POPULATION SHIFT
In Christchurch the biggest change is to Christchurch East which has lost nearly 10,000 voters since the earthquakes.
It picks up the Labour-leaning areas of Shirley and Mairehau from Christchurch Central and the working class area of Bromley from the Port Hills electorate.
That should ensure Christchurch East remains solidly Labour.
The Christchurch Central seat, held by a narrow 47-vote majority by National, expands north into Redwood, which was previously in the Waimakariri electorate, and south into Sydenham and Beckenham which move from the Port Hills seat.
Sitting MP Nicky Wagner had hoped the electorate would move west rather than north and yesterday said any move north, as has happened, would make her seat almost "unwinnable'' at next year's election.
The changes suggest Labour's Ruth Dyson will have a tougher job in Port Hills, which picks up the whole of Banks Peninsular and Halswell from Selwyn. She had a majority of 3097 in 2011. The other notable change is in the fast-growing Selwyn electorate which has shed Banks Peninsula and Halswell but has picked up the Hei Hei area from the Wigram electorate.
Representation Commission chairman Bernard Kendall said major boundary changes were needed in Christchurch because of "significant population movement'' from Christchurch East, Christchurch Central and Port Hills electorates.
He said there had not been any significant changes to the draft boundaries drawn up by the Surveyor-General.
DUNEDIN CHANGES 'FERTILE GROUND'
Changes to electoral boundaries will see a large chunk of Waitaki, a strong National seat, moved into Dunedin North, which consistently votes Labour.
As well as its existing boundaries, Dunedin North is proposed to expand as far north as Herbert, not far south of Oamaru, and will also include Hampden and Palmerston, and smaller rural communities.
Dunedin North will also now take in the large and spherical Moeraki boulders. Jacqui Dean, the Waitaki MP for National since 2005 said she was resigned to losing part of the seat because its population was over the quota, while Dunedin North was under-populated.
While Palmerston was likely to be pleased to be tied to Dunedin, ''some of the rural areas closer to Oamaru will feel as if they are a bit mis-mothered, so that would be my only concern,'' Dean said.
She predicted that the changes would see Dunedin North become more marginal.
''All of the booths that are going into Dunedin North, I consistently win them.''
Dean had a majority of more than 14,000 votes over Labour candidate Barry Monks in 2011.
Labour's David Clark offered a different view of the changes, claiming the new areas were ''fertile'' ground.
In 2011, Dunedin North elected Clark with a majority of almost 3500 over National's Michael Woodhouse.
The first term MP has responsibility for parts of the Waitaki electorate, and was door knocking in Palmerston and Hampden last weekend where he says there was a level of discontent with the current government.
''There is a level of disaffection there that makes me think they may well be Labour leaning seats this time around,'' Clark said.
''To be honest, it feels like fertile ground, so I'm not particularly worried.''
THE NEW BOUNDARIES
- By Vernon Small, Tracy Watkins, Hamish Rutherford and Glenn Conway.
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