Advance voting popular as candidates dispute Green poll
Advance votes in the Nelson electorate continue to stream in as candidates for the "bellwether" seat trade claims over a phone poll.
There were queues of early voters at Richmond Mall on Saturday, and a steady stream again on Sunday, as people took advantage of the advance voting places that have been open since last Monday.
As of Friday more than 308,000 New Zealanders had cast their votes, well ahead of the figures from three years ago.
Advance voting places will be open again this week in the Nelson and West Coast-Tasman electorates [for details see elections.org,nz].
Meanwhile, the Green Party Nelson candidate Matt Lawrey has claimed that internal polling has revealed a close race for the Nelson seat between himself, long-term incumbent National MP Nick Smith and Labour's Rachel Boyack.
However, his two rivals have dismissed the poll as lacking any credibility.
Lawrey said an automated phone poll conducted last Wednesday by the Green Party showed 29 per cent support for Smith, 25 per cent for Boyack and 23 per cent for him. Another 23 per cent of registered voters were undecided.
The poll had 824 responses, and a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.
Lawrey said the poll showed a surge in support for his candidacy compared to the 2014 election results that saw the Green candidate win 9 per cent of the vote. It also showed the collapse of Smith's 52 per cent of the vote from three years ago.
"We're convinced that as we head into the last days of the campaign, the momentum is with us," Lawrey said.
However, Smith, who is seeking a 10th term as Nelson MP, said automated phone polls had little credibility, and last week's one was introduced as being associated with the Green Party.
More than 30 National Party supporters had told his office they had simply not taken part when they received the automated poll call, and Smith said many others would have done the same.
National had internal polling but it was contracted out to independent organisations, he said.
"It's more a pr exercise by the Green Party to talk their man up, than any credible assessment of Nelson."
Smith said, however, that he expected the election, locally and nationally, to be close. He was taking nothing for granted, but remained confident.
Nelson was a bellwether seat where the party vote had gone with the Government since 1999.
Boyack also dismissed the automated poll as "notoriously unreliable". Labour members had told her they had hung up after hearing the pre-recorded message.
Boyack said her campaign team had knocked on 6000 doors and phoned about 3000 people. She said the feedback had shown a surge of support for Labour, both nationally, and locally for her positive campaigning on issues such as better access to health services and improved water quality.