The seats that could decide the election, and the people wanting to be your MPs

New contenders are lining up across the country to represent their regions in Parliament. As Glenn McConnell reports, Election 2023 will be a tough campaign in many seats. Scroll to the end of this article to see who’s running to be your local MP.

October’s election is shaping up to bring major changes to Parliament, with about two dozen seats across the country in contention.

In the 2020 election, the Labour Party secured a rare majority in Parliament and turned National Party strongholds red. This election, polling suggests a much tighter race.

At the last election, 19 electorates switched parties – with Labour picking up a whopping 17 electorate seats from National.

Labour lost just one seat, Waiariki, which went to Te Pāti Māori. And the Green Party picked up a rare electorate victory, taking Auckland Central from National.

On top of those 2020 swing seats, there are other electorates where incumbent parties will be challenged. The Green and ACT parties have their sights set on traditionally safe Labour and National seats, while retirements and candidate changes will also heat up competition in electorates such as Ōhāriu, Te Tai Hauāuru, and Ikaroa Rāwhiti.

ACT is launching a new campaign in Tāmaki, with deputy leader Brooke van Velden campaigning against National’s Simon O’Connor.

National leader Christopher Luxon joined Nicola Willis to campaign in Ōhāriu.


National leader Christopher Luxon joined Nicola Willis to campaign in Ōhāriu.

The Greens are also taking the fight to Labour, in long-held Labour electorates across Auckland and Wellington. The Green Party is running two-tick campaigns in Mt Albert, Rongotai and Wellington Central – as well as Swarbrick’s Auckland Central campaign.

For National, one of many seats to watch will be Ōhāriu. United Future’s Peter Dunne left in 2017, when Labour’s Greg O’Connor won the seat. National hopes it has a chance this year, with deputy leader Nicola Willis moving from Wellington Central to campaign in Ōhāriu.

The Swing Seats

Auckland Central was lost by National following Nikki Kaye’s retirement, but Labour was unable to pick it up. Instead, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick​ won the seat in 2020. The Greens are hopeful she’ll be able to retain the seat this year, but National is putting up a fight with Mahesh Muralidhar’​s early billboard campaign.

East Coast, a large electorate spanning some of the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, was won by Labour MP Kiritapu Allan in 2020 after National’s Anne Tolley​ retired. Allan had a convincing win, with a 6000 vote majority over National’s Tania Tapsell, who went on to become mayor of Rotorua.

Hamilton East is an open race. Labour’s Jamie Strange ended the 15-year reign of National’s David Bennett in 2020. But both Strange and Bennett are retiring at the end of this term. Newcomers, Ryan Hamilton​ for National and Georgie Dansey​ for Labour, are contesting Hamilton East this election.

Hamilton West swung to Labour in 2020, but that didn’t last long. Gaurva Sharma won the seat, then lost it when he mounted an attack against his own party. National’s Tama Potaka is now the MP for Hamilton West, having won the 2022 by-election.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins joined Ginny Andersen in Lower Hutt.


Prime Minister Chris Hipkins joined Ginny Andersen in Lower Hutt.

Hutt South had been Trevor Mallard’s seat since its inception. When he left, things changed. National’s Chris Bishop picked it up in 2017, but it went back to Labour with Ginny Andersen​ in 2020. While the Hutt generally supports the Labour Party, this electorate can get behind a candidate rather than party.

Ilam had been held by National’s Gerry Brownlee since the 1990s, before Labour’s Sarah Pallett ended his long streak in 2020. This year, the Opportunities Party (TOP) is betting its parliamentary hopes on this Christchurch electorate.

Maungakiekie is shaping up to be a tough competition, with National’s Greg Fleming launching an early campaign across the Auckland electorate. Labour’s Priyanca Radhakrishnan​ holds the seat, but has a tough competition ahead – given the sheer volume of Greg Fleming posters around Onehunga and Royal Oak.

Nelson went to Labour, leading to Nick Smith’s retirement. The long serving National MP had been the local MP since the 1990s. Rachel Boyack​ is contesting the seat again. She had a 4525 vote majority in 2020, against Smith.

New Plymouth poses another tight race. Labour’s Glen Bennett​ won with a slim 2500 vote majority. He’s up against newcomer David MacLeod this year.

Northcote, on Auckland’s north shore, is a traditional blue seat. National’s Dan Bidois served about two years as its MP after a by-election, but was quickly removed from Parliament when Shanan Halbert won the seat for Labour in 2020. Halbert has made a targetted effort to be seen around Northcote and Auckland as its MP, so will put up a fight to remain the local MP this year.

Northland has never been a favourable seat for Labour, but 2020 was different and Willow-Jean Prime won the seat. She will stand again, up against NZ First’s Shane Jones and National’s Grant McCallum.

Ōtaki went to Labour with a 3000 vote majority, when Terisa Ngobi bet National’s Tim Costley. Both candidates will be vying for Ōtaki’s votes once again this October.​

Rangitata, a Canterbury electorate, went to Labour’s Jo Luxton who secured a 4400 vote majority. National had not performed well in Rangitata during 2017-2020 term, after Andrew Falloon​ quit, embroiled in a scandal having sent an indecent image to a young woman.

Tukituki, in Hawke’s Bay, went to Anna Lork – who had a slim 1590 vote majority. She will face National’s Catherine Wedd​ this year.

Upper Harbour, in West Auckland, had been Paula Bennett’s seat. She retired in 2020, which opened it up for Labour’s Vanushi Walters​.

Wairarapa can see interesting and unexpected election results. Kieran McAnulty won in 2020, and will contest the seat again. He had a solid 6500 vote majority.

Whanganui has seen regular MP changes over the past few elections. Harete Hipango took over from Chester Burrows in 2017, but lost the seat to Labour’s Steph Lewis last election. Hipango will not re-contest the seat, instead moving to the Māori electorate of Te Tai Hauāuru. Lewis is up against Carl Bates​.

Rawiri Waititi and Meka Whaitiri, both now in the Māori Party, will campaign to win more seats for the minor party.


Rawiri Waititi and Meka Whaitiri, both now in the Māori Party, will campaign to win more seats for the minor party.

Whangārei has lost its incumbent MP, Labour’s Emily Henderson, who will retire. National’s Shane Reti will be hoping to win back the seat after his 2020 loss. Labour has moved Angie Warren-Clark up to Whangārei. She is a sitting list MP, who had been based in Bay of Plenty.

Waiariki, a Māori electorate, was the only seat Labour lost in 2020. Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi won the seat from Labour’s Tāmati Coffey. His win brought the Māori Party back to Parliament. Waititi is expected to keep this seat, but the Waiariki voters are not afraid to change their minds. It’s no an electorate where MPs can rest on their laurels.

Correction: Article updated to reflect former Nelson MP Nick Smith retired after, not before, the 2020 election.

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