New poll puts Peter Dunne's future in doubt - National has a fight on its hands
Peter Dunne's iron grip on Ohariu may be loosening after 33 years as the MP in the pivotal Wellington electorate.
A snap poll showed the United Future leader has a fight on his hands to make it back into Parliament at the September 23 general election.
The Colmar Brunton One Q+A poll showed new Labour candidate Greg O'Connor was leading the pack on 48 per cent support, while Dunne was more than 10 points behind on 34 per cent.
National's Brett Hudson was on 14 per cent and The Opportunities Party candidate Jessica Hammond Doube was on 2 per cent.
The poll spells potential trouble for Dunne and National, because the two have a cosy deal to try to ensure Dunne retains his seat as a long-standing Government support partner.
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National's Hudson was campaigning solely for the party vote in the area, while encouraging Ohariu voters to give their candidate vote to Dunne. That's because if National was to win that seat itself, it would not result in an additional seat for the party in Parliament because its party vote would be too big.
However O'Connor, a well-known figure as the former Police Association president, was seen as a tough candidate. Combined with what's now being described as the "Jacinda Effect" and the absence of a Green candidate to split the left vote, Dunne and National were looking to be in trouble.
O'Connor said the poll was in line with feedback and messages he and his campaign workers are receiving at regular street corner meetings" and through door knocking.
"We're encouraged, but it's just a moment in time and it would be folly to see it as anything else." The change in Labour leadership was an obvious influence, he said.
The lack of action on any redevelopment the Johnsonville Mall, owned by the Stride Property Group, remained the main issue in the electorate, O'Connor said.
"The feeling is very strong about this, right through Johnsonville and Tawa. What the mall needs is some life and the only life it has got now is life support.
"People here are still having to jump in their cars and go to Porirua or Lower Hutt and the mood here is for [Stride] to do something or get out."
If elected he would work at getting all the parties involved, including the public, into coming up with a solution.
While understanding commercial imperatives there might be the scope for new thinking where the shopping centre remains "but is integrated into something else, into an industrial hub".
But Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was reluctant to reveal whether her Party would make any hard promises on the project, if it came to it.
"Some of those big national messages I'm sure, will be just as important to that community, because issues around everything from water quality, education and health provisions, will equally be things I'm sure that Greg's being asked about on the front doors, as much as he will about local issues."
On Q+A Dunne maintained he still had plenty of support.
"I believe so; I think that the electorate's changed a lot and the feedback I get is still good, and certainly the support I'm getting is still good," he said.
Dunne has held the seat, which comprises suburbs including Johnsonville, Khandallah, Crofton Downs and Tawa, since 1984 and, if he failed to retain it, would find himself out of Parliament altogether - United Future failing to register on post-party vote polling.
National campaign manager Steven Joyce said Dunne was an important cog to stable Government that had worked well for New Zealand for the past nine years.
"We're keen for Ohariu voters to support Peter because he's helped bring the sort of stability that's seen New Zealand really as the envy of the Western world, compared to say Australia or the US or the UK."
The party vote, however, suggested Ohariu was still effectively a blue seat, with support towards National on 46 per cent and Labour trailing on 35 per cent.
The Q+A poll also showed voter support for Dunne among those who had voted for him previously had dropped.
Of those polled who had voted for Dunne at the 2014 election, 63 per cent said they would vote for him again, 27 per cent were switching their vote to O'Connor and 10 per cent were picking another candidate.
A total of 501 eligible Ohariu voters were polled between last Saturday and Wednesday. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 per cent.