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The RDU Election Broadcast: Christchurch Central

Written by on 11 September 2017

Christchurch Central

Held by: Nicky Wagner (National)

Labour: Duncan Webb

TOP: Douglas Hill

Greens: Peter Richardson

Christchurch Central is without a doubt the closest electoral contest in Christchurch, and in fact, one of the most interesting in the country. Traditionally a Labour stronghold, it Nicky Wagner squeaked in in 2011, before building a sizeable majority in 2014. The electorate has gone through a number of boundary changes, and at the last revision, ended up being a complete mess, if we’re being honest. The problem is that virtually no-one actually lives in the centre part of Christchurch, which means that to cobble together enough electors, the seat stretches from the banks of the Heathcote at the bottom of Beckenham, all the way up to the Styx River in Redwood. The electorate also takes in Sydenham, Waltham, Opawa, Phillipstown, Linwood, Edgeware, St Albans, part of Mairehau, Papanui and Casebrook.

It is a very difficult electorate to describe as one thing or the other. The leafy streets of Beckenham could be described as Blue-Green, well-to-do voters who liked John Key’s charisma, but also buy Down To Earth dishwashing liquid because they want to feel like they’re doing their bit for the planet. There are some very “traditional” Labour areas – Sydenham, Waltham, Linwood, Phillipstown – where rental turnover is high. Heading further north, the popularity of St Albans is such that real estate agents now use it to describe pretty much any property between Northlands Mall and Bealey Ave. This is an area that has benefited from the rampant property market since the quakes, and many of the people who have watched their portfolio fatten will have been quite happy not to rock the boat. I think that may be changing.

If you’d asked me 2 months ago, I would have said that Wagner was going to win the seat with a reduced majority – probably something under 500 votes. Though Duncan Webb is a strong candidate, when Labour were polling in the low 20’s, and National were twice that, it was going to be a hard ask. A 2,500 vote majority isn’t easy to overturn, and Wagner actually polled *higher* than the National party vote in the electorate in 2014. For Webb to have won, he would have needed almost half the people who walked into the booth and ticked National for the party vote to split their vote and give him their electorate vote. 2 months ago, that sort of change wasn’t going to happen, but now, it seems almost inevitable.

With Labour on the ascent since Jacinda Ardern took over, it feels like change is in the air – and Christchurch Central could be swept red. Even in the most recent comments from Wagner, she seems if not resigned, then certainly circumspect about her chances. Her non-appearance at the debate at ARA was probably a canny move that denied Webb a chance to attack her in front of a friendly crowd and multiple media outlets. She seems to have had an important role in brokering the deal that sees the Cathedral being restored, but that is increasingly likely to be her one and only memorable role as Earthquake Recovery Minister. However, I wouldn’t rule her out entirely – Labour and the left underestimated her abilities in both 2011 and 2014, and she may have one last surprise in her.

Predictions: Duncan Webb to overcome his terrible “YES WEBB CAN” signs and win the seat, whilst Nicky Wagner finally gets her chance to spend a day on the harbour.



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