The race to be Nelson’s member of parliament has turned nasty with a scrap between the region’s front runners over a “push poll” released by the Green Party.
On Monday morning, Green Party candidate Matt Lawrey released an internal telephone poll that he said showed a close race between National’s Nick Smith, Labour’s Rachel Boyack and himself.
But it then emerged that the poll was a “push poll” or done by an automated voice. The method is unscientific and can’t tell who has answered the phone.
Political commentator Patrick Gower called the poll “fake news” and Smith and Boyack teamed up to condemn it.
Boyack was the first to react taking to Twitter saying that many Labour party members in Nelson simply hung up when contacted by the automated voice.
Smith then sent his own press release saying the poll was an attempt to “manipulate Saturday’s result with alternative facts”.
“This sort of polling is banned in some countries and it reflects poorly on the Greens that they have resorted to this tactic to try and save themselves.”
The poll showed that Smith gained 29 per cent of the vote, with Boyack in second at 25 per cent and Lawrey on 23 per cent.
But Lawrey says the poll showed that there is a desire for change in Nelson and he believes he is the best person to bring it.
“I’m not going to say it’s as scientific as a Colmar Burton poll, but it does show a trend. We’re convinced that as we head into the last days of the campaign, the momentum is with us,” he says. “Whether the poll is accurate or not, it shows that Nelson is a prized seat for any of the parties.”
Last month Nelson has had visits from National leader Bill English and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, while Labour’s Jacinda Ardern was in town last week and Greens leader James Shaw was in Nelson yesterday.
With the Greens polling slightly above the 5 per cent threshold needed to return to parliament, a win in Nelson would secure its place in the Beehive.
For Labour it would be seen as a huge coup to regain the party vote in Nelson, which it last held in 2005. To win the seat would be cause for huge celebrations.
And for National’s Nick Smith who has held the seat since 1996 and won 53.4 percent of the vote in 2014, a win would further enhance his legacy while a loss would be a big fall from grace.
But it isn’t just the politicians that are showing an interest, Nelson voters have cast more early votes this election than ever before.
As of last week a record 51,472 Nelsonians were enrolled to vote – that’s 95.41 per cent of the estimated eligible population and staff at early voting booths have reported plenty of activity.