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Labour will be a “formidable opposition” as they work to “win back the confidence of more New Zealanders” over the next term, leader Chris Hipkins says.
The party will have 34 of the expected 123 seats in Parliament over the next three years.
Hipkins said he felt Labour had picked up some momentum over the campaign, as evidenced by on-the-day versus advance voting results. But the special votes appeared to reflect the advance voting.
“Labour has been sent a message and we have heard it. We will be working hard to rebuild support over the next three years and continue to stand up for working people, children and the environment,” Hipkins said.
“While Labour governed during an incredibly challenging time for New Zealand, progress was being made. We can’t let that go to waste.”
Hipkins said the party’s economic management was seeing the economy turn a corner with inflation and food prices coming down, low unemployment and growing wages. The former Government also made inroads in climate change and child poverty, he said.
He said the party would hold the expected coalition partners National, Act and New Zealand First to account and “stand up for working people, our children and the environment”.
“The incoming Government made big promises during the campaign and made it very clear to New Zealanders that they will deliver on all of them. This includes tax cuts of $250 per fortnight for many families, significant reductions in crime, greater numbers of frontline health workers and a free trade deal with India.
”We will be holding them to account for these promises but will also remain vigilant against any policies that hurt working families, our economy and the environment.”
Hipkins said the final results meant Labour had lost senior and new MPs who worked hard for New Zealand and New Zealanders, although he believed it was likely there would be a recount in some seats.
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”I want to personally thank those MPs and their families, who have given so much to the country and to the Labour Party. Thank you for working hard to make a difference for your communities and for New Zealand,” he said.
He said he had a brief conversation with Peeni Henare, who lost by four votes, and he fully supported him if he wanted to call for a recount given the slim margin.
Hipkins said there was some “clear vote-splitting” in the Māori electorates, with voters opting to give Labour their party vote and Te Pāti Māori their electorate vote.
On safe Labour seats being flipped or held by slim margins, Hipkins said he felt Labour had to reflect in particular on its loss of support in Auckland.
He said the party’s research showed they lost a lot of support at the end of the Auckland Covid lockdown and had not regained it.
Hipkins assured New Zealanders they still had “great talent and experience” in their team, including a number of former ministers, and they planned to work hard.
”It has been an absolute privilege to serve as prime minister, and I’d like to offer my warmest thanks to everyone who supported me, and our Government over the past six years,” Hipkins said.
On his future as leader of the party, he said he still had a “bit of fight left in me” and was “absolutely committed to the Labour Party”.
He said he had not yet had the chance to seek feedback from colleagues if they would continue to support him but he would continue to “do right” by the Labour Party.
Hipkins said Labour would remain the caretaker Government for as long as it took for National, Act and NZ First to hammer out a coalition agreement.
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