National Party candidate Sam Uffindell is in the lead in the Tauranga byelection. Photo / Supplied
The National Party has retained its Tauranga seat with a convincing win in the city’s byelection.
With 100 per cent of the preliminary votes counted a little before 9pm National Party candidate Sam Uffindell took out a convincing win over Labour’s Jan Tinetti.
Uffindell had more than twice as many votes as Tinetti finishing the count with 10,931, 6038 ahead of Tinetti’s 4893. A total of 19,403 preliminary votes were cast.
Act candidate Cameron Luxton finished with 1991 and no other candidates had more than 1000 votes.
National Party Leader Christopher Luxon is in Tauranga at Uffindell’s election night party.
Uffindell has just ended a speech of acceptance as the city’s new MP at an event at Tauranga Club.
Uffindell was celebrated with a rousing chorus of “for he’s a jolly good fellow”.
He said it would be Easter eggs for his children tomorrow – a promise he made them if he was successful in the Tauranga byelection.
Speaking around 8pm, Tinetti said she was “stoked” with the number of votes she had already received.
“I’m really happy with how our votes are turning out so far … I had anticipated we would have about a half turn out to a normal general election and it wouldn’t be an equal half.
“I’m just so happy we are maintaining that 2017 vote. That tells me our messages are resonating, what I was hearing on the ground during this campaign is indicative of what we’re seeing here tonight and people are happy with this Government.”
Tinetti said the votes showed that the Labour messages were getting out and “it tells me we have a really good chance” in the general elections.
“Byelections are traditionally really hard for incumbent Governments.”
In a statement. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern congratulated Uffindell on his win and acknowledged Tinetti “who has returned one of Labour’s better results in Tauranga in recent elections”.
“Jan is a huge advocate for the community she lives in and has campaigned on the work we’ve been doing as a government to support families through the current global financial challenges, as well as our plan for economic recovery as our borders reopen and tourism resumes. Jan has proven why she’s such a valuable part of our team, and why in the recent reshuffle her responsibilities in education have grown.”
The need for a byelection arose when Simon Bridges stepped down as the Tauranga MP earlier in the year.
The 12 people vying for the role were New Conservative candidate Helen Houghton, Act Party candidate Cameron Luxton, National candidate Sam Uffindell, Labour candidate Jan Tinetti, New Nation Party candidate Andrew Hollis, NZ Outdoors and Freedom Party candidate Sue Grey, One Party candidate Allan Cawood, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate Christopher Coker and independent candidates Gordon Dickson, Peter Wakeman, Tony Corbett and Yvette Lamare.
Early voting began on June 4 and as of the end of Wednesday about 12,000 people had cast their vote. There are 51,120 people enrolled on the general roll in the Tauranga electorate.
Today’s byelection comes as the latest Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll reveals National has extended its lead over Labour, scoring 37.4 per cent, up 0.6 points from last month’s poll.
Uffindell, a 38-year-old father of three, is the head of financial economic crime for Rabobank NZ and has nearly 15 years of experience in banking in New Zealand, Australia and Asia.
He also owns New Zealand HuMates, a small local agribusiness that provides soil quality products to farmers and growers.
Uffindell holds a bachelor of commerce and a bachelor of arts (honours) from the University of Otago and a master of international law and international relations from the University of New South Wales. He has completed diplomas of financial planning and applied anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.
He previously told the Bay of Plenty Times he wanted to make Tauranga the best city in the country by 2030 and for the city to be New Zealand’s technology capital.
Tinetti is a current Labour list MP who recently took on extra work in the education portfolio as part of this week’s Cabinet reshuffle.
Tinetti is a former teacher and principal, and her last role before entering politics was at Merivale School.
She first entered Parliament in 2017 as a list MP.
Tinetti’s party was held at the Tauranga Fish and Game Club, where supporters were thanked with a large table of food including oysters and the rugby playing live.
Act’s Luxton previously said Tauranga had “a massive problem with infrastructure”.
As the election date neared, debates candidates participated in centered on issues like crime, infrastructure and health reforms as well as where they stood on same-sex marriage and conversion therapy.
The run-up to election day was not without its heated moments, however.
Moments of note included when NZ Outdoors and Freedom Party candidate Sue Grey was kicked out of a candidates’ debate she was not invited to and when Te Pāti Māori president Che Wilson said it would not stand any candidate due to safety reasons and concerns about white supremacist hate speech.
“A Department of Internal Affairs Report published in April this year confirmed that hate speech from white supremacists on social media is the largest form of hate speech in this country,” Wilson said, adding that Tauranga was a hotspot.
Preliminary byelection results will be progressively available on the Bay of Plenty Times website this evening or at electionresults.govt.nz.
Official results, including special declaration and overseas votes, will be released on July 1.
In the 2020 general election, National’s Bridges won the seat with 18,721 or about 42 per cent of the votes.
It was 1856 more than Labour’s Tinetti who received 16,865 or 38.5 per cent.
Byelections generally attract fewer voters than general elections.
The 2022 candidates who also ran in 2020 are Act’s Luxton who received the fourth-highest number of votes with 1739 or a little less than 4 per cent, and independent Lamare who received 63 votes.
The Tauranga electorate is considered a National Party safe seat. Labour last won the seat in 1935. National has held it since 2005.