“What's the point of a constituency vote?”
That's the question independent Tauranga candidate Rusty Kane is asking in the lead-up to this year's election.
He makes the point that Tauranga will likely have three local MPs in parliament after September 23, regardless of how the votes are cast, due to the high list position afforded to candidates.
Incumbent MP Simon Bridges will likely romp home in this true blue constituency, although his current fifth ranking within the party suggests he would be a shoe-in anyway.
Meanwhile, his nearest rivals – NZ First's Clayton Mitchell and Labour's Jan Tinetti – are both likely to enter parliament, assuming they retain their list rankings, and their respective parties do not reduce their vote from the 2014 election.
Thus the question from Rusty: Are these candidates campaigning for Tauranga, or for the party vote?
“It's a wasted vote in a sense,” he says. “They're not really accountable to anyone if they're list MPs.”
It's a problem a lot of people have with MMP. In fact, that's why Rusty himself is standing – not to win, but to encourage people to challenge the system.
“I'm standing to make a point – how pointless the system is!”
Ironically, he says it's the local Green Party candidate, Emma-Leigh Hodge, who would benefit most from voter support, even though the party has traditionally campaigned predominantly for the party vote.
“If she was voted in, Tauranga would have four local MPs.”
However, Tauranga's top three candidates all believe in the importance of representing local views, and say they will be campaigning hard for both ticks at the ballot box.
“I think the electorate vote is still incredibly important,” says Simon.
“People should have a local member of parliament they feel is theirs and they can take issues to. It's been a great privilege to be elected for the last three terms for Tauranga. I wouldn't want to be a MP any other way than as the city's local representative.”
Clayton says NZ First campaigned for the party vote at the last election. “Although I was standing in Tauranga, it was more important to get the party vote, because we could do more with that.
“I think Tauranga has major issues that need to be represented in parliament. Regardless of the outcome of the election, I am based in Tauranga and will fight for local issues.”
Jan says she has a passion for both Tauranga and Labour policies – hence the campaign for two ticks.
“Constituencies are absolutely important. We've been door-knocking and meeting people to talk about both local and national issues. Tauranga is where I live and work, and that's where my base has come from to reach the national level of politics.”