Clear mandate to make ‘really big difference’

Following her landslide win on election night, National MP Penny Simmonds is keen to get back into action.

Mrs Simmonds took home 18,578 of the Invercargill electorate’s total vote, 8889 votes ahead of Labour candidate Liz Craig’s with 9689 votes.

The final count came to 33,052, with National taking the lion’s share at 42.78%, while Labour took 25.76%.

The margin was notably wider than that of the 2020 election, when Mrs Simmonds first defeated Dr Craig by just 224 votes.

Mrs Simmonds said the result gave her a very clear mandate.

"I was always very aware over the last three years that [Dr Craig] and I were so close in the final count that whenever we went to things together, she had as many people that she was representing as I was ... To get that good, clear mandate, and to be in government, that’s going to make a really big difference in what can be done," she said.

She likened her campaign to a very long job interview, and was now ready to get stuck into work.

"I certainly wasn’t up there just to fill the space.

"I wanted to be up there to get some things done in areas that I’ve got some experience in."

Mrs Simmonds was Southern Institute of Technology chief executive from 1997 to October 2020, remaining a vocal champion of the facility during her time in politics, and standing firmly against its absorption into Te Pūkenga.

"It’s all in the hands of [National Party leader Christopher Luxon] and what he decides he wants to do with me there.

"I’m hopeful that I’ll get an opportunity to work on that, and work on it very quickly, because it needs to be dealt with very quickly," she said.

Winning by a significantly wider margin than in the 2020 election, National MP for Invercargill...
Winning by a significantly wider margin than in the 2020 election, National MP for Invercargill Penny Simmonds says her campaign was like a very long job interview, and she is now ready to get stuck into work. PHOTO: BEN TOMSETT
She was under no illusion about the extent of the work ahead.

"I’m not underestimating how tough it’s going to be ... the Te Pūkenga thing, the economy.

"We’re going to have to work really hard.

"It’s a very difficult financial situation we’re in, so we’ve got a lot of hard work in front of us."

Inflation was a key issue that would be addressed, particularly as it affected those who were not high-wage earners in Invercargill and Southland, she said.

"We really have to work hard to give them the ability to be able to have a good life on those average wages," she said.

"The other thing is we don’t have huge unemployment here, but really working hard to ensure that we get the support in place to get a young people into employment."

As Dr Craig looks to exit parliament, she said she had appreciated working as the Labour list MP for the past six years, though she would now take some time to recalibrate.

She said she left a message congratulating Mrs Simmonds on the outcome the night before and looked forward to speaking with her in due course.

"I’ve been really passionate about Invercargill, and I know she has too, and I think there’s a lot of work that we need to be continuing just in the way of supporting people with high cost of living and environmental impacts — so I hope that she will be working hard in many of those areas."


The numbers

Electorate vote
—  Penny Simmonds 18,578 (majority 8889)
—  Liz Craig 9689
—  Scott Donaldson (Act) 1689
—  David Kowalewski (NZ Loyal) 1507

Party vote
—  National 14,133
—  Labour 8512
—  Act 3516
—  New Zealand First 2499