By ROBYN BRISTOW
North Canterbury’s two members of Parliament – Matt Doocey (Waimakariri) and Stuart Smith (Kaikoura) – have been returned to Parliament with handsome majorities.
However, while Doocey’s majority has increased by over 7000, Smith’s margin was been cut by nearly 3000 votes, according to the preliminary vote count on election night.
As the Kaikoura MP headed for Wellington yesterday he said he was a “little disappointed” in the turn out of voters in the huge electorate which was down by nearly 2000 on the 2014 turnout – 34,975 (2017) compared to 36, 712 (2014).
“We will just have to see what happens with special votes,” says Smith who polled 18,738 votes in the preliminary election night count, 9766 votes clear of Labour candidate Janette Walker who polled 8972.
However, he sees his win as a “vote of confidence” in him.
“I have a lot to do and I am really going to relish the challenge of the next three years.”
Being re-elected was a “humbling experience.
“It is a privilege and not a right (to be an MP),” he says.
One of the major tasks ahead was to deal with the damage from last year’s earthquake, particularly in North Canterbury and Kaikoura and to a lesser extent in Marlborough,” says Smith.
The quake had come on top of a significant drought for North Canterbury farmers.
“After having been really dry it has now been very wet. This brings its own issues for the farming community which is really trying to stabilise – both financially and geographically – after the effects of these natural events,” says Smith.
Meanwhile Doocey was also headed to Wellington because as a Government Whip he was required to run the induction for new MPs over the next two weeks.
“It doesn’t seem that long ago since I was elected myself. I am humbled by the support, especially to go from a 2500 vote majority to just under 10,000,” says Doocey who believes the increase could be one of the largest individual increases in the country.
He says his team of volunteers had made an amazing commitment over recent weeks.
But he reserved special thanks for his wife Viki, who with two young children and a terminally ill father in Hungary, had been by his side and lending support throughout his campaign.
“We (National) are now heading into a new role, whatever that may be.
“But regardless I have absolutely loved the past three years.
“The Waimakariri is a bouyant area and the party vote, which held up, and
the electorate vote demonstrated that,” he said.
He says he is committed to work with community groups, individuals and the council and continue to make himself accessible through his Rangiora, Belfast and Kaiapoi offices along with his Caravan clinics in Oxford and Woodend.
“And then I will continue to do my night meetings to make myself as accessible as possible,” says Doocey, who with his background in mental health says he will continue to work hard in this area.