Labour tightens grip over major cities as divided Right fails to deliver

Labour-aligned mayors control the three major cities after a local government election that favoured incumbent candidates and produced few surprises.

Former cabinet minister and Labour leader Phil Goff comfortably won the Auckland mayoralty, as expected, and official Labour candidate Justin Lester was elected in Wellington ahead of Nick Leggett, a former Labour-leaning mayor of Porirua.

Lianne Dalziel, another former Labour cabinet minister, was comfortably re-elected in Christchurch against radical left wing-campaigner John Minto.

She aced his antiprivatisation policy early on in the campaign by taking one planned asset sale off the agenda.

Labour has always had a strong presence at local government level in metropolitan areas. But this does not always translate into Labour votes at the national level.

In fact, Mr Goff, who campaigned in blue rather than red, and Ms Dalziell label themselves as independents and woo voters across the spectrum.

By contrast, National puts little effort into local government and right-wing candidates and political organisations seldom agree on a single ticket.

In Auckland, runner-up Vic Crone shared the anti-Labour vote with two others, John Palino and Mark Thomas, while Chloe Swarbrick, 22, ran a surprise third on a platform that appealed to both non-Labour voters and youth.

Mr Goff’s win will give political junkies a further fix with a by-election in Mount Roskill.

Labour already has already chosen its candidate, Michael Wood, while National sees the opportunity for an upset given the electorate’s changing demographics and affluence based on high property values.

Although not yet official, National is likely to select list MP Parmjeet Parmar, whom National campaign chairman Steven Joyce says will "be ideally placed to represent Asian constituents" as well as the rest of the electorate.

In Wellington, the single transferable vote favours candidates who “come through the middle” as the first preference votes of polarising candidates are redistributed.

The move toward red was also noticeable in Auckland’s affluent North Shore wards, where one new councillor is left-leaning. Richard Hills, who replaces George Wood, was the unsuccessful Labour candidate against Jonathan Coleman in Northcote at the last general election.

Mr Wood, who stood down from the council, won three seats out of six in the local Takapuna-Devonport board with his team.

Penny Webster failed to be elected in Rodney, which was won by Greg Sayers.

In the south, Dunedin and Invercargill showed no appetite for change, with Dave Cull and Tim Shadbolt returning, while businessman Jim Boult easily won against deputy mayor Lyal Cocks in Queenstown.

Greg Brownless is the new mayor of Tauranga and Hamilton is still too close to call, with Andrew King only a handful of votes ahead of Paula Southgate in a four-way contest.

In both cities, popular mayors did not seek re-election.

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