Saturday’s general election, though expected to be (and generally was) a one-sided affair, wielded some interesting and unexpected results – Winston’s Lazarus act, Labour’s worst result since 1928, and the dead heat in Christchurch Central – just to name a few!
I think it can be safely assumed that the majority of Cantabs made their decision with the government’s earthquake response at the forefront of their minds. Media coverage of dissatisfied red-zone residents, claims of government neglect by those in the eastern suburbs, and a somewhat stalled rebuilding effort led many (including myself) to believe that there may be a backlash against the government come election day. However, this isn’t reflected by Saturday’s results. Clayton Cosgrove, Labour’s earthquake recovery spokesman, lost his Waimakariri seat to National’s Kate Wilkinson; Christchurch Central, which has been held by Labour since 1946, is set to be decided by special votes, and either way, remains to be very marginal. National managed to pick up just over 50 per cent of the party vote in Christchurch and its surrounding areas. This is despite Labour’s very generous earthquake recovery policy which included compensation for improvements made to red-zoned homes and a promise to purchase and develop sections to on-sell to displaced residents at cost.
Christchurch has generally been a Labour stronghold, however Saturday saw the city turn unequivocally blue. Christchurch voters, with the earthquake recovery effort at the forefront of their minds, generally expressed the view that we’re on the right track. While the red-zone buyout may not have been the best outcome for everyone – where else in the world would you have a government stepping into purchase your property in the wake of a natural disaster? Now time will see whether Saturday’s election has marked the beginning of a change in Christchurch’s political landscape. The rebuilding of Christchurch, I believe, will continue to be an issue of significance to many Cantabs in the next couple of general elections at least.