Nick Smith wins Nelson seat, electors see red for party vote
National MP Dr Nick Smith has been returned to the Nelson seat after winning his 10th consecutive election campaign.
However, while Nelson voters might have stayed true blue to their National candidate, the party vote took a big swing left to the red corner and Labour.
The Preliminary Count reveals Labour took top honours, receiving 41.1 per cent of the party vote in the Nelson electorate. National was close behind on 40.2 per cent – just 340 votes separate the two. That's a big gain for Labour, which received just 24.71 per cent of the party votes in 2014, well behind National on 44.43 per cent.
Smith was clearly pleased to be returned as the constituent MP.
"I feel enormously privileged to again earn the confidence of the Nelson community to serve it for another three years," he said.
The Preliminary Count shows Smith received 14,966 votes, 4010 more than his closest rival, Labour Party candidate Rachel Boyack.
While his winning margin is down from 7605 in 2014, Smith said he was "very comfortable" with a majority of more than 4000 votes in this election.
"Every election is challenging and tests you," he said. "But this did feel particularly bruising; it was effectively a battle of two on one."
Smith was referring to his two main rivals, Boyack and Green Party candidate Matt Lawrey, who came third with 8324 votes.
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Previously, Smith had generally faced a "two-way contest" with just one main rival, he said.
In response to the swing to Labour with the party vote, Smith said historically, Nelson was a "challenging" electorate.
"National winning the party vote in Nelson is a recent phenomenon," he said, referring to its success in winning the majority of party votes in the previous three elections.
Boyack was buoyed by the 2017 party vote statistics.
"Labour is back," she said "We're delighted with the party vote result."
She was was also keen to see the seat return to Labour and had already turned her mind to the next election, likely in 2020.
"Historically, Nelson has been a Labour seat," she said. "We have every intention of fighting to win the seat back. We know we have three years to build on the work we've started."
The first-time candidate said she would continue to increase her profile.
"I respect those people who chose to support Nick or Matt," Boyack said. "My hope is they will get to know me better."
On election night, when it became clear that Smith was on track for re-election, Boyack visited National Party headquarters to concede the seat.
"It's always been the protocol here in Nelson that the candidates who don't get across the line come in and give their best wishes to those who do," she said.
Nationally, Smith said he believed the Labour Party's "policy reversal" on capital gains tax and "inconsistency" around a proposed water levy "will go down in history as a turning point in the campaign".
"It showed that they had not done the detailed policy work to be able to be a credible government," he said. "When Labour policy was tested, it sounded a bit like policy on the hoof."
National would now turn its attention to coalition talks.
"I think, Bill English goes into negotiations with a strong hand," Smith said.
The re-elected Nelson MP was due to join his colleagues for a Cabinet meeting on Monday as the Government remained in "caretaker mode" until coalition negotiations were concluded.