Polity: Boundary changes

Written By: - Date published: 5:16 pm, April 18th, 2014 - 20 comments
Categories: election 2014, elections, First Past the Post, MMP - Tags: , ,

polity_square_for_lynnRob Salmond’s take on the boundary changes announced yesterday. As he (and Ben yesterday) point out in a MMP election system the actual electoral boundaries usually only really matter to a few MPs. It isn’t likely to make much of a difference unless National manages to have a cup of tea with a party with enough electoral muscle to get more than a single MP into the house and an electorate’s voters think this matters. After the John Banks/Act debacle who’d be moronic enough to think that electorate seats in a list do matter? Apart from our silly first-past-the-post stand-in-man for David Farrar of course…

The new electorate boundaries which will govern the election came out yesterday, and I have now had a little time to digest the final changes. Here are my three reactions.

1. Meh
One of the nice things about MMP is that the tortured process of cutting the population up into little chunks no longer has any major influence on the election result. The party vote is what matters, and the party vote has nothing to do with the electorate boundaries. (This is even more true in New Zealand than in many other PR countries, because of our single nationwide district for handing out list seats, and also because our boundaries are drawn by a mainly non-partisan Commission, limiting the opportunities for silly gerrymandering that we see in the US sometimes.) So any huffing and puffing about boundaries really is anorak-only territory.

2. Big picture: A small win for the left.
Until now, New Zealand had 70 electorates. Now we have 71. One National-leaning electorate (Waitakere) has disappeared, and is replaced with a new National-leaning electorate (Upper Harbour) and a new Labour-leaning electorate (Kelston). So the number of National-leaning electorates remains unchanged, while the number of Labour-leaning electorates goes up by one. Hooray!

(Astoundingly, the seat-warmer at Kiwiblog disagrees, proclaiming a complete, humiliating failure for the left. Which is the obvious thing to do when the number of left-leaning seats goes up by one but the number of National-leaning seats does not change.)

3. Swings and roundabouts in the weeds
The people who care most about the boundary changes are electorate MPs, and people who want to be electorate MPs. Looking at those people as a whole, even focusing in on left-leaning MPs only, it is a case of swings and roundabouts:

The final tweaks in the Auckland Isthmus, for example, leave Phil Goff better off than before, make little net difference to David Shearer (losing some good red territory to Mt Roskill, but gaining other red territory from Auckland Central), and make Jacinda Ardern’s task in Auckland Central harder. One gain, one on-the-one-hand vs on-the-other-hand, one loss. Net effect on Labour: zero.

In the Hutt Valley, the changes help Chris Hipkins in Rimutuka, and make Hutt South more marginal, but still with a four figure paper majority for Trevor Mallard. Net effect: Zero.

Christchurch was always going to have a large-scale change following the post-earthquake population movements. By my count, the “paper lead” in each of the electorates hasn’t switched in any particular electorate. Little net effect.

So, now that we have the electorate semi-sideshow out of the way, it is onwards and upwards in the Party Vote campaign.

20 comments on “Polity: Boundary changes”

  1. fisiani 1

    The party vote is indeed all important. National 51% Labour 26% Greens 8% NZF 4.9% Three more years.

    • felix 1.1


    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2

      Yes, Fisi. I shall force feed that back to you in late September.

    • Pasupial 1.3


      It seems that you are incapable of making those percentages you’ve pulled out of your arse sum to 100. Or perhaps you are suggesting that the ManaNet Party will get 10.1% of the vote?

  2. fambo 2

    Fisiani – a pretty lame rugby reference that barely reaches club rugby standards (except perhaps in some struggling provincial unions)

  3. Disraeli Gladstone 3

    “Apart from our silly first-past-the-post man David Farrar of course…”

    Ugh. I hate to be that guy, but it’s not exactly Farrar, is it? Farrar’s relatively competent. His replacement, “Jadis” is barely coherent.

    For instance, take Hamilton.

    Jadis makes the comment that McIndoe is a winner because National-leaning sections of Hamilton East has now gone to Hamilton West. While completely ignoring the fact that actually makes Hamilton East a lot more of a marginal seat.

  4. One Anonymous Bloke 4

    Goff has an 8,000 vote majority.

    Adding Labour votes to his electorate while removing them from Auckland Central makes Labour worse off in terms of electorate seats.

    Making a hard job more difficult is not balanced by making an easy job easier.

    Party vote may be all that counts but being automatically invited to all public events (because you’re the local MP) makes marketing your party vote a lot easier.

  5. karol 5

    Epsomite snobbery and desire for social advantage and status, knows no bounds – well it caused the proposed boundary change to Epsom to be redrawn to appease the snobs, and give a bit of a helping hand to the poser Nikki Kaye. But, Goff has an excellent response.

    Mr Goff said there had been “a degree of moral panic” that it would affect the Grammar zone and property prices, “both of which are nonsense”.

    He suspected there was a degree of snobbery about the proposed change. “If people felt being associated with Mt Roskill was going to affect their social class, that’s tough. People are proud to live in Mt Roskill and if the people of Epsom felt that was somehow beneath them, that’s a real pity.”

    He was not taking the opposition of the Epsom residents personally. “The fact they vote nine to one for National and have opted out of coming into Mt Roskill probably isn’t a huge disappointment for me. Not being arrogant, but I would like to think that perhaps I could not simply match John Banks, Richard Worth and Rodney Hide, but I could perhaps do a better job.”

    National had favoured the Epsom change, and Mr Goff said he suspected they were trying to make his Mt Roskill seat more marginal.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      It may be more than moral panic. If your borrowing is out of control a drop in your house value could have very serious implications for your lifestyle. Creditors will not be impressed.

      • mickysavage 5.1.1

        But the electorate boundary does not affect Auckland Grammar’s enrollment zone. The contention is as rational as supporting Act, oh wait …

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Location location location.

          “…and affect property prices.”

          I suppose because “Mt. Roskill” is a less desirable neighbourhood than living among Tory sociopaths ACT voters. No, wait…

          • Lanthanide

            Who actually looks at electorate boundaries when judging location of a house, though?

            Maybe that’s more common in Auckland, with snobbery and the fact that you have so many more electorates so close together.

  6. James Thrace 6

    Easier to just do away with the party vote entirely (that last hangover of FPP) and have 120 general electorates and 5 maori electorates giving us 125 seats in total.

    Be far easier to be able to hold MPs to account if they can’t rely on being a list MP.

    Would then mean that each and every MP in Parliament would then have an electorate.
    If you suck at the role, your electorate voters will certainly let you know at the ballot box every three years.

    Then it would definitely open the way for independents to be able to enter parliament as 120 electorates + 5 maori electorates, would be a lot cheaper for candidates to canvass. Takes away the control of having large electorates and money to campaign in them away from the large parties.

    Having 125 people making up Parliament consisting of electorate MPs from right across the spectrum would probably be a big bonus for democracy in NZ rather than the meritocracy we have at present.

    Then MPs would be representing around 35,000 people rather than the 60,000 they are purportedly meant to be in Parliament on behalf of with the current electorate divide.

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      Um, what?

      1. FPP didn’t have the party vote. It was introduced by MMP, so it can hardly be “a hangover from FPP”.
      2. What you’re actually suggesting is FPP, which had only electorate seats and no party vote.
      3. FPP is widely held to be less democratic than MMP, so you suggesting that this will be a boon for democracy shows you’re really out of touch (as #1 and #2 did already anyway).
      • I like the idea that electorate-only voting will return ‘MPs from right across the spectrum’. Because that’s exactly what it was like before we had MMP! MPs from right across the National Party spectrum, MPs from right across the Labour Party spectrum. Oooh, and this one time, Social Credit got two seats!

        • James Thrace

          I probably should have clarified that implementing 125 electorates along with STV or PV (still debatable which system is more “equitable”) would probably be a better strike rate of bringing in MP’s from across the spectrum.

          At least with either system, or more so PV, people would have to get over 50% in order to be returned to Parliament. Unlike the 1 tick system of FPP that people with 30% of the vote got returned.

          • Stephanie Rodgers

            What on earth makes you think that ‘people would have to get over 50%’ equates to ‘bringing in MPs from across the spectrum’? And you still haven’t address the serious errors Lanthanide has pointed out in your first comment.

  7. hoom 7

    2. Big picture: A small win for the left.

    This is such a simplistic stupid take. Gain 1, lose 6 or 7, fucking great win that.

    Disappointing as it is I think the Kiwiblog article is right on the money here.

    Labor seems to have been asleep at the wheel or focused on only a couple of seats & its left a bunch of marginal seats getting strong Nat boosts.
    A few Labor seats get stronger majorities but at the cost of nearly surely losing 6 or 7 previously marginal.

    Kiwiblog article also confirms to me a well planned nation wide submission campaign by the Nats.

  8. hoom 8

    Colin Craigs dad organised a gerrymander.
    The father says its not a gerrymander but Colin essentially admits its a gerrymander & is surprised how easy it was.

  9. karol 9

    Jonathan Milne, Deputy editor of Herald on Sunday, made the dumbest comment I’ve seen so far on the boundary changes, this week on The Nation – @ 3 mins 20.

    When he started off saying:

    This week I woke up with a different MP

    For a moment I though he meant it literally, and was making a revelation about his private life. But he went on to moan about the fact that he is now in the Mt Roskill electorate, and now, according to him, he now has an MP who he never voted for. Last election he voted in the Maungakiekie electorate.

    Jonathan, for a deputy editor, and one making comments on a political issue, you are remarkably under-informed. Here’s what the NZ Electoral Commission says of the boundary changes:

    The Representation Commission has released the electorate boundaries to be used at the next two general elections.

    But his biggest gripe is that, if he wants to meet his new MP, he will now have to load his kids in the people mover to go to the Mt Roskill Santa Parade. In the past, he’s always taken his family to meet his MP at the Maungakiekie Farmers’ Market and its Santa Parade.

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