Invercargill’s new electorate MP says she’s going to need to be “forceful and vocal” to save the Southern Institute of Technology and extend the life of the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter.
These, and the problems farmers have with the new freshwater reforms, would be National Party MP Penny Simmonds’ main focus as she begins her first term as electorate MP.
Simmonds took 17,929 votes with Craig trailing just behind on 17,705. In total 40,338 votes were counted.
Invercargill’s party vote went to Labour, with 47.7 per cent, and the National Party taking 29.7 per cent.
Provisional votes released on October 17 cast Simmonds as the winner, but with a margin of just 685 votes, neither candidate was willing to call it a day until final results, which included at least 3000 additional special votes, were announced on Friday.
Simmonds only heard the official results after 3pm on Friday, when she stepped out of a National Party meeting in Auckland.
She said she was relieved more than anything “but grateful to those who voted for me”.
She had heard there was a small margin, but upon hearing it was just 225 votes, said, “I’ll take that”.
Simmonds had taken leave from her position as chief executive of the Southern Institute of Technology while campaigning and said there would be a process to go through to appoint her replacement.
SIT board chair Allison Broad said “we congratulate her and wish her well. We thank her for her dedicated work for SIT.”
The board were looking forward to continuing the legacy that Simmonds – who instigated the zero-fees scheme – had created, she said.
Craig also congratulated Simmonds on her win and said she looked forward to working with her.
“It was incredibly close,” she said, thanking Southlanders and Invercargill residents for their support.
Craig will remain Labour’s Invercargill-based MP and said she would continue to work hard for the region on the issues she raised during her campaign.
These included negotiating a longer shelf life for the smelter, pushing government to invest in social housing in Invercargill and improving water quality; particularly for the New River Estuary.
She would make sure Invercargill, and Southland, had strong representation in Wellington, Craig said.
She has been a Labour Party List MP for Invercargill since 2017.
Simmonds and Craig endured a tight tussle on election night when the margin between them shrunk to just 13 votes at one point, before Simmonds overtook Craig’s lead minutes later.
National has held the Invercargill seat since the 2005 election.
The last election in 2017 gave National’s Sarah Dowie a 6000 vote lead over Craig, putting this year’s 225 vote margin into perspective.
Green Party candidate Rochelle Francis, who had asked supporters to give their candidate vote to Craig, won 1137 votes.
The Southland electoral seat was taken by National Party’s Joseph Mooney, who won by a margin of 5645 votes over Labour Part’s Jon Mitchell.
The party vote for the traditional National stronghold, however, turned red, with Labour claiming 38.7 per cent of the Southland electorate’s vote.
The Southland electorate was expanded this election to include Alexandra, Clyde, Roxburgh and Millers Flat.
Balclutha and Kaka Point residents are included in the newly named Taieri electorate with the former Dunedin South.
The MP seat for the Taieri electorate was won by Labour’s Ingrid Leary who beat National’s Liam Kernaghan by 12,398 votes, while the party vote went to Labour with 58.9 per cent of the vote.
National Party candidate Penny Simmonds: 17,929 votes
Labour Party candidate Liz Craig: 17,705 votes
Green Party candidate Rochelle Francis: 1137 votes
New Conservative candidate Joshua Honiss: 757 votes
NZ First Candidate Joshua Gunn: 735 votes
Advance NZ Party candidate Kurt Rohloff: 417 votes
One Party Candidate Jacky West: 237 votes
Social credit candidate Winsome Aroha: 206 votes
Independent candidate Basil Walker: 187 votes
Independent candidate Zy Hayden: 102 votes