Rangitata turns red, Jo Luxton is our electorate MP

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New Rangitata MP Jo Luxton has her own part in Labour’s historic election win and becomes the first Labour MP to represent the town of Ashburton in over 80 years.

Mrs Luxton ended election night with a majority of about 3500 votes over National’s Megan Hands. Special votes have not yet been counted but will not likely change the outcome. The last Labour MP to represent Ashburton was Horace Herring who won in the 1935 election.

Ashburton and the wider electorate has been considered a National stronghold for decades but turned red on Saturday night as part of the landslide win to a Labour party led by popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Ms Ardern sent a special message of congratulations to Mrs Luxton on Sunday morning.

“She sent a text congratulating me and letting me know I should be proud of the work I have done,” Mrs Luxton said. The electorate MP flies to Wellington on Monday for a caucus meeting the following day.

Mrs Luxton polled 18,876 votes on Saturday and Ms Hands 15,392, with ACT’s Hamish Hutton next on 1220. The electorate’s party vote went Labour’s way with 48.4 per cent and National polled 32 per cent.

Nationally, Labour has 64 seats and can govern alone. National has 35 seats, ACT and the Greens 10 each and the Maori party one seat.

Mrs Luxton spent the previous term as a list MP and said she was looking forward to a bigger and new workload as electorate MP. She has an office in Timaru and will talk with the party about an office in Ashburton too.

“I have worked damned hard in the last three years. I have worked away in the background and achieved some wonderful outcomes for this electorate and this district.”

She said being an electorate MP in a governing party would give her a stronger voice in Parliament.

Mrs Luxton, her team and supporters spent Saturday night in Timaru, watching as results rolled in for Labour in Rangitata and across the country.

“We were looking at some of the electorates, including ours, turning red. It was amazing to see.”

Mrs Luxton said the electorate’s strengths were its primary production and manufacturing industries, which had been a buffer to the worst effects of covid.

“Our economy has been able to continue trucking on really well and we are not seeing the issues of other electorates.”

She said her husband Matt had been a rock of support in a campaign team that had worked hard with her. “It has been a real team effort.”

Mrs Luxton polled 6331 behind National’s Andrew Falloon in the 2017 election. Mr Falloon had been intending to stand again, but exited politics in disgrace late July after it was alleged he sent sexually explicit images to a young woman.

Megan Hands

Ms Hands emerged from the candidate selection process and got busy campaigning with 10 weeks to the election.

Today she thanked those who had supported her and said she would be back in 2023.
“I have been part of the National party for a long time and as it rebuilds I hope to be part of the MP contest again in the future. I am committed to the area.
“But this was not our year.”

She said she was pleased with her campaign and support from members, including others that ran for the party nomination. She also thanked campaign manager Alison Driscoll.

Ms Hands said her fiancé Simon and son Jack had kept the home fires burning and that she would continue to be a strong voice for the rural community in her capacity as an Environment Canterbury councillor and in her other roles.

She said the family would be regathering after a whirlwind campaign and she would turn her attention once again to local government matters, including how the regional council would implement Government’s national policy statement on freshwater. She predicted tough economic and regulatory times ahead.

Farmers say the freshwater policy statement is unworkable in its current format and will cost the local economy.

“We have a huge challenge in implementing the national policy statement and I will be a strong voice for our rural community as we embark on that challenge.
“But our community is extremely resilient with strong businesses. My message to the farming community is band together, work out how we can move forward, and to stick together to take care of each other.”

Ashburton has been part of various electorates over the years but the last time the town had a Labour MP was when Horace Herring won in the 1935 elections. He narrowly lost the seat in 1938 to National’s Arthur Grigg and when Grigg was killed in action in World War 2 his widow Mary stood in the 1942 by-election and became the country’s first woman MP.

Geoff Gerard won for National in the 1943 to 1963 elections, followed by Rob Talbot until he retired prior to the 1987 elections.

Jenny Shipley then won the 1987 to 1999 elections, becoming the country’s first woman Prime Minister in 1997 after rolling Jim Bolger for the top job when the party was in power. Brian Connell won the seat for National in 2002 and 2005, followed by Jo Goodhew who retired prior to the 2017 election.

The Electoral Commission says 2,877,117 votes were cast in the general election, including 480,000 special votes that will be counted in the next couple of weeks. Voter turnout is 82.5 per cent, up from 79.8 in the last election; nearly 70 per cent voted in advance.

Preliminary results for the end of life choice and cannabis referendums will be available on October 30.