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It was all cheers and celebrations for the National Party on election night but for first time candidate, Cook Islander Angee Nicholas in Te Atatu, ending the night just 30 votes ahead was nail-biting stuff.
She had to wait nearly three weeks for the special votes to be counted and when they came in, it was not good news, Angee losing the seat to Labour’s Phil Twyford by 131 votes. and ending one of the best chances for a Pasifika electorate MP in the National caucus.
“It’s a real bummer when you lose, obviously. But at the same time, processing that and having to come to grips with actually, this is democracy and it’s a hard game, politics. But I would have loved to have secured that win with the special votes; but this is what we’ve been dealt with,” Nicholas says.
Bittersweet too for National List-only candidate Agnes Loheni, the Samoan businesswoman just misses out on a seat in parliament once again, in this her third campaign.
“A bit like déja vu. I’ve been on the cusp before, ultimately, the decision that I wanted and for the National Party was that we are in a position to govern and that’s the message that we’re getting out on the campaign was that people wanted a change of government and now we’re in the position to do that,” Loheni says.
Both women agree, there’s not enough Pasifika representation within the National Party but are optimistic.
“Staying involved, I got into campaigning because I put my hand up not only for Te Atatū but for Pacific. If it means so much to people, we have to ensure that we keep that going,” Nicholas says.
“We did have an impact and although we don’t have an MP of Pacific descent in the party, this is a party, a National party, we’re here to govern for all New Zealanders in the best interests of all New Zealanders,” Loheni says
Former National MP and now “New-Zeal” Party leader Alfred Ngaro, is surprised that there is no Pasifika MP for National.
“Disappointed, probably more so than surprised. Obviously, looking at ACT and New Zealand first and knowing that there was no representation. I mean, the hope was that we had people like Agnes Loheni and also Angee Nicholas, but that’s not our reality now,” Ngaro says.
With no person of obvious Pasifika heritage in the National Party, speculation is rife about who might become the minister for Pacific Peoples and Ngaro has his own theory
“You know, I’m just going to put out a speculator there that, you know, Matua Jones, Shane Jones. He’s been a friend of the Pacific, he’s done a lot of work in the Pacific region as well.”
Not to be deterred, the Pasifika women of the National Party say there is a silver lining.
“We actually made a really good impact like in South Auckland, all those three key electorates there,, pretty much more than doubled their party vote,” Loheni says.
Nicholas agrees. “And even the result from election night, it’s just incredible what’s been achieved here in Te Atatū. It is a labour stronghold and I am so proud of the team that have backed me to get the results that we did.”