Williams unleashed out east

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 02/12/2013
New Christchurch East MP Poto Williams
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
OLD AND NEW: New Christchurch East MP Poto Williams with former seat holder Lianne Dalziel, who quit this year to successfully run for the Christchurch mayoralty.

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She may not be officially sworn in as Christchurch East's new MP until early next year but Poto Williams plans to use her overwhelming mandate to hit the ground running in the earthquake-ravaged electorate.

Labour was revelling after a dominant result in the by-election many in the party were quietly anxious about. The loss of 10,000-plus people had some in Labour worried about their chances but Saturday night's voting figures gave them and Williams confidence heading into an election year.

Just over 41 per cent of the electorate's 33,555 registered voters had their say but Williams captured 8119 of the 13,318 votes on election night - a convincing 62 per cent of the vote.

National's Matthew Doocey was a distant second with 3506 or 26 per cent of the total vote.

Although thrilled with the win, Williams yesterday said she had a tough job ahead to advocate for residents in an area arguably hit hardest by the Canterbury earthquakes.

Yesterday was a chance to host campaign workers at her South New Brighton home.

Today will be spent at her new electorate office in the heart of New Brighton before she heads to Parliament tomorrow and a date with her new Labour caucus.

It is unclear when she will be officially sworn into office with Williams suggesting it could be late January but she would not be waiting until then to start her new job.

"People have been so generous with their time and sharing their stories. My job now is to be responsible and make sure I start dealing with the issues they have raised with me."

There would be no let-up, even after an exhausting 10-week campaign, she said.

But she and Labour did let their hair down for a while on Saturday night as they celebrated what leader David Cunliffe called a "a stonking win".

About 100 party faithful gathered at Chisnallwood Intermediate School's hall to greet a triumphant Cunliffe and Williams who said the nature of the by-election win should sent a worrying signal to John Key's Government.

"There are a lot of disaffected people in Christchurch East but they're not so disaffected that they are apathetic. They're actually saying it's time for a change," Williams said.

Cunliffe said he had seen "a bit of magic" during the campaign "where there's been real love develop between the people in this town and their new Member of Parliament".

"She [Williams] will take that love and trust with her into Parliament and work as hard as she can to get the people of Christchurch

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East back on their feet because they've done it tough."

The win not only gave Labour confidence it would "win Christchurch" at the 2014 election but sent a clear message to the Government "its days are numbered", he said.

Williams, who has only lived in the electorate for 10 months, paid tribute to the former Labour MPs who had helped hold the seat for nearly a century and especially thanked the most recent Christchurch East and new Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel for her "extraordinary legacy".

She teared up when talking about her late brother, Aaron Marsters, who she said taught her about statesmanship, honour and integrity. Williams dedicated her win to him.

On by-election night, 13,318 votes were counted and a further 573 special votes were cast. The final result will be released on December 11 but for Williams' rivals, the result was telling.

Doocey captured just 26 per cent of the candidate vote compared to former MP Aaron Gilmore who received 36.5 per cent personal support at the 2011 general election.

The other major candidate, Greens' David Moorhouse, failed to pass the 1000-vote mark but that was still higher than its 2011 candidate polled.

- Canterbury

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