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Chris Hipkins as PM: What Christchurch's swing voters think

Publish Date
Tue, 24 Jan 2023, 8:50am
Chris Hipkins. Photo / RNZ / Samuel Rillstone
Chris Hipkins. Photo / RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Chris Hipkins as PM: What Christchurch's swing voters think

Publish Date
Tue, 24 Jan 2023, 8:50am

Three Waters, the Covid-19 response and the needs of rural communities were some of the main points Cantabrians raised when discussing the country's new Prime Minister.

In the last election Christchurch's Ilam electorate had a shock result, turning red for the first time since it was formed in 1996.

Add the absence of their long-time National MP Gerry Brownlee this year, and the question had to be asked - is the battle for Ilam a done deal?

Incoming Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was familiar to two locals RNZ spoke to as the Covid frontman.

"I was involved in the Covid response and I think that could have been handled better," one said. "That's probably the only thing that I really know about him, to be honest."

"Yeah, I guess he was the face of Covid for a lot of us, right? So that's kind of my only point of reference," the other noted.

April Finlay said new leader or not, she was unimpressed.

"I will not vote Labour. They need to look after the farmers, they need to look after the small business people and Labour's just not doing that."

But Bernard Thornton thought Hipkins did have potential with the business community. He also believed choosing Carmel Sepuloni as his deputy was a good move.

"It gives a multicultural feel, which is really going to serve everybody I think," he said.

"He's been around laterally amongst business folk and says he's going to draw in the policies that have irritated people and are going to solve some problems, so I'm hopeful."

Chris Hipkins speaks to media after being confirmed the sole contender for the Labour Party leadership.Chris Hipkins. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Self-confessed swing voter Peter Kellan was getting tired of hearing what he felt was 'wokeism' in New Zealand politics.

But he thought Hipkins was a breath of fresh air.

"I must admit, I found him very refreshing. I like his mind, I think he presents really well and I sort of thought yesterday, as a swinging voter, there's a guy that I think would be good for the country."

Matt Stewart also thought Hipkins came across as authentic, with a relatively clean rap sheet.

But he believed the government's plan to reprioritise its policies is overdue.

"The idea of reducing the amount of work they're going to do before the election, focus on the important things and making sure they engage in the right way - Three Waters is a great example," he said.

"Terrible name for a policy. They should have thought about that one in the first place, but [Hipkins] is an opportunity for a fresh start."

Some, like Alvin, wanted to see more democratic decision-making from the next government.

"A lot of things [the current government] does, don't seem to be [as a result of] listening to what people want. It's like, 'We know best, we want to do this, so we're just going to steamroll ahead and just do it regardless.'

"It's things like Three Waters which clearly nobody wants… they're decisions that can have a big impact on the fabric of society."

"Get rid of Three Waters… I live in an area with fabulous water and they're putting chlorine in it next week or the week after… so that would be a given for me. It's got to go," another woman said.

This couple said 'Chippy', referring to Hipkins by his nickname, had resonated well with them so far.

"Who else is there to vote for? I don't think it's Luxon, he's all hot air at the moment," the man said.

"Absolutely. I would be voting Labour," the woman agreed.

"When Luxon comes out with some good policies, then it could be a different story."

It seemed only election results in nine months' time will tell whether Ilam opts for blue or keeps painting the town red.

-Niva Chittock, RNZ

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