Boundary changes and Labour's recent Cabinet reshuffle mark the beginning of a new era for Waikato MPs as they jostle for position ahead of next year's general election. Political reporter Natalie Akoorie takes a look at where some of the key players are at.
Sue Moroney Labour list MP
Labour list MP Sue Moroney has publicly announced she will contest the Hamilton East electorate, the seat currently held by National MP David Bennett.
"I've lived and voted in the Hamilton East electorate for the last 13 years even though I've stood in a different electorate," Ms Moroney said of her decision. "So it makes an awful lot of sense. The other thing that's occurred is the boundaries have changed and it makes it more winnable for Labour than before. We're going to fight very hard to win it back and I'm committing myself to be the person fronting that fight."
Ms Moroney was one of the winners in Prime Minister Helen Clark's October Cabinet reshuffle.
An MP for the past two years, she came away with the role of junior government whip, a position which will see her negotiating with other political parties over the passage of legislation.
"It's a great opportunity because there's only two whip positions in the Government caucus."
Ms Moroney said it was a great opportunity to be involved with MMP-style negotiations.
David Bennett National Hamilton East MP
Hamilton East MP David Bennett said he's already in campaign mode to stand again for the electorate, even though the general election is more than 10 months away.
"I think in the last couple of months you saw the political landscape in New Zealand heat up a little bit."
While Mr Bennett believes the recent local body elections drew voters' attention away from central government, and that a Christmas lull is looming, "everybody is still in campaign mode there's no doubt about that".
"It's going to be a long hard campaign. It's going to be a tight campaign around the country, the polls at the moment will come a lot closer it'll be an interesting one."
He agrees the boundary change will make the Hamilton East seat more "marginal" but believes it can be held by National.
"If you look at the demographics of the seat, it's still a National seat on paper and we'll be working hard to hold it."
Martin Gallagher Labour Hamilton West MP
The Hamilton West MP is committed to standing again but warns voters not to underestimate how marginal the seat is.
In the past the party that wins Hamilton West usually holds the balance of power.
"Hamilton West has always been a highly marginal seat since its inception in 1969. It'll be a very rigorous contest but that's not new."
Mr Gallagher first held the seat from 1993 to 1996 before losing to National's Bob Simcock, now the city's mayor.
He then regained the seat for Labour in 1999 and has held it since.
"I've put my nomination in and it's subject to my party reconfirming me."
The chair of the law and order committee said he believed Labour had a strong team of MPs representing the Waikato. "Hamilton is very much on the radar in Wellington."
Tim Macindoe National Party member
Tim Macindoe came close to unseating Labour MP Martin Gallagher in the 2005 election when he stood for the seat.
After that he took up the position of the National Party's electorate chairman for the area but has since stood aside from the position to seek selection to stand again in the 2008 election.
However National Party regional co-ordinator for the central North Island, Alison Renwick, said Mr Macindoe will face a challenge for the candidate's position from Hamilton businessman Mohammad Hassan.
The pair will face voter delegates at a meeting on December 10 after which a ballot will decide the candidate to go head to head against Mr Gallagher.
National's choice of candidate is important because historically the party that wins the Hamilton West seat usually wins the election.
Because of party rules neither of the duo can speak to the media until after the ballot. In the meantime Peter Osborne takes on Mr Macindoe's position as acting electorate chairman.
Lindsay Tisch National Piako MP
MP Lindsay Tisch has been confirmed by the National Party for the new Waikato seat at the next election.
Recent boundary changes have resulted in the seat of Piako being redefined in a northerly direction and re-named Waikato.
This seat now covers a large area of the Franklin and Waikato District Councils in the north and parts of the Waipa and Matamata Piako Districts to the south.
Mr Tisch said he was confident of his chances in the seat.
"The new seat will present geographic challenges because of its increased size, but the population includes a large number of folk I already represent, and the additional territory is also of a rural nature as well."
Mr Tisch, a former farmer and rural valuer who lives in Matamata, entered Parliament in 1999 in what was then the Karapiro seat.
He said he was "delighted" to be standing in the new Waikato seat.
"Boundary changes in 2002 re-aligned the Karapiro electorate to become Piako and these adjustments are something I am getting used to now. At the next election I will have stood for three different seats without moving towns."
During his time in Parliament Mr Tisch has served as both National's junior and senior whips and is currently the party's spokesman on tourism, racing and small business.
Nanaia Mahuta Labour Tainui MP
Promoted up the list ranks in last month's Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Helen Clark, Nanaia Mahuta has her work cut out for her heading into next year's election, with several new portfolios to get to grips with including local government.
"It's added responsibility, obviously more work. I'm looking forward to the challenge and there's some meaty issues in front of us when we look at the local government portfolio," she said.
The youngest minister in Cabinet at 36, Ms Mahuta said her goals leading up to the next election were to "do a good job" with those portfolios and in particular help create a good central/local government relationship.
However she could face another challenge for her Tainui seat from Waikato University lecturer Angeline Greensill, who is one of four vying for selection as the Maori Party's candidate to challenge Ms Mahuta at the next election.
Angela Greensill Maori Party member
Environmental and land rights advocate for Tainui hapu, Angela Greensill, 59, was the 2005 Maori Party candidate for the Tainui seat and could present another challenge to Labour's Nanaia Mahuta next year.
Ms Mahuta retained the seat with a 1790-vote margin over Ms Greensill.
But the Maori Party has started the candidate selection process for the Hauraki-Waikato electorate seat, currently the Tainui seat held by Ms Mahuta.
The party's candidate will be selected from four nominees at a series of seven selection hui being held throughout the electorate, which began last week and finish on Tuesday.
Hori Awa, 52, from Huntly, the chief executive of the Waahi Whaanui Trust, a member of the Waikato District Health Board's Iwi Maori Council and also a former chairman of Trust Waikato, is another hopeful. Hamilton's Solomon Matthews, 28, a university student, and Richard Te Ao, 63, a disputes mediator and chair of the Hui te Rangiora Marae, are the two others.
Maori Party electorate council co-chair Tureiti Moxon said a Marae Digipoll survey released recently showed the Maori Party and Labour on level-pegging in this seat at 43.9 per cent support each, making this seat "very winnable".
Sandra Goudie National Coromandel MP
The Coromandel MP for the past two terms, Sandra Goudie has been confirmed by the National Party to stand for the seat again next year.
With the electoral boundary changes Mrs Goudie keeps Katikati but loses Omokoroa and Te Puna to the Bay of Plenty. The new boundary for Coromandel takes in Te Aroha, Waitoa, Tatuanui, Tahuna and their surrounding areas just skirting around Morrinsville.
"The electorate geographically is actually bigger in size, covering a far greater area, with the population more spread out. However, I know the farming folk within the new boundary and I am looking forward to both meeting and representing them," she said.
Meanwhile the National candidate for the Taupo seat will be announced after December 14.
- Waikato Times