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National leader Christopher Luxon has brushed off fears a National-Act movement is losing momentum, saying he is focused on his own party.
Luxon, who is campaigning in Whanganui on Saturday, spoke to media after The New Zealand Herald’s Poll of Polls showed NZ First’s rise means there is now only a 13 per cent chance of National and Act forming a clear coalition.
”I lead the National Party and we’re getting a great reaction across the country and the last few weeks and this year,” Luxon said.
“We’ve been to many places where marginal seats are and we’re getting good movement. We’re a week out, what happens now is up to them [voters] - vote for the change you want to see happen."
According to the Herald's Poll of Polls, National is sitting at 35.8 per cent and Act at 10.6 per cent. Labour has 26.8 per cent, the Greens are on 12.3 per cent and Te Pāti Māori is at 2.8 per cent.
According to the poll, National is sitting at 35.8 per cent and Act at 10.6 per cent. Labour has 26.8 per cent, the Greens are on 12.3 per cent and Te Pāti Māori is at 2.8 per cent.
NZ First, led by past kingmaker Winston Peters, is now on 5.7 per cent - its vote could fall between 4.9 and 6.4 per cent. That means National and Act would need NZ First to form a government if it gets over the 5 per cent mark.
However, the margins remain narrow. If NZ First just misses out on hitting 5 per cent, Act and National would comfortably form a government. If the result is close, voters may not find out who the government will be until after the final vote count on November 3. A mere 31,000 votes could be the difference in National and Act getting there alone.
”If you honestly think Labour, Green and Te Pāti Māori are the way forward for New Zealand - look, he’s putting a brave face on it - but New Zealand wants change. He’s had six years, three with an absolute majority, and he has failed to deliver”.
Luxon said a Labour-led Government would be “an ungodly mess” that would “take us backwards”.
The latest Herald poll of polls shows Labour, Te Pāti Māori and the Greens would also need Peters and NZ First to form a government, but Peters and Hipkins have ruled out working with each other - although the public isn't so sure of that.
In the latest Taxpayers’ Union - Curia poll, 1000 voters were asked whether they believed Peters when he said he would not work with Labour again. Fifty-five per cent of respondents said no, 27 per cent said yes and 17 per cent were unsure.
Working with Māori
Luxon also said he wished to work in partnership with Māori despite wanting to disestablish the Māori Health Authority.
He had been meeting with iwi leaders over the last few weeks in small groups to talk about delivering better outcomes for Māori. He said he had been upfront about his desire to disestablish the Māori Health Authority.
”We discussed that very openly and I’ve discussed it openly with iwi leaders and we have good deployed resources on the ground - that’s what we have in common as a party that believes in local solutions.”
”We will have one single system. We’re all aligned on wanting improved outcomes for Māoriand for Kiwis - in conversations with iwi leaders it’s about how do we empower local services to deliver those services.”
He said National would partner and work with Māori to deliver services.
”As we did in our last Government - we’re not up for two separate systems, there will be one but it will have innovation within there. That is done locally, on the ground with partners that can secure results.”
But his walk was not plain sailing. The first market stall he came to was a Green Party stall, which he walked past as Green supporters called out: “Party vote Green, you can keep your $20 tax cut.”
A man then approached Luxon and criticised his tenure at as head of Air New Zealand for cutting back on regional flights. He said Luxon didn’t deserve to lead the country, and Luxon replied that he should calm down and not be so angry.
National’s campaign strategy has pivoted to urging voters to deliver a clear government by voting National. This plea may have fallen on deaf ears, however, as National’s predicted vote in the poll of polls dropped a bit since September – from 36.1 to 35.8 per cent.
National employed former Prime Minister Sir John Key to promote that message during the week. It was expected more former National identities would do the same in the coming days.
Since Luxon said in September that he would pick up the phone to Peters if he had to, National’s support has dipped a bit and NZ First’s support has strengthened - at the expense of Act.
Luxon has repeatedly stated that he does not want to work with NZ First and his preference is for a National-Act Government.
It could mean the election outcome comes down to the special votes.
The official count for both the 2017 and 2020 elections has resulted in National having two fewer seats than expected based on just the election night count. In 2017, one seat shifted to Labour and one to the Greens, in 2020 Labour picked up one seat and so did Te Pāti Māori.
With one week of voting left, Luxon said he would be travelling around the country to reach as many people as possible.
"We have many, many towns and cities to go to across New Zealand. Even over the last few months, we’ve just been in full-on campaign mode. We have many, many places to visit that we want to take our message to.”
The general election will be held on Saturday, October 14.