THE South is all but guaranteed of having a new MP following the October election, after Act New Zealand ranked its Southland candidate Todd Stephenson at four on its party list.
Mr Stephenson, Lumsdenborn and Invercargillschooled, vaulted ahead of five sitting MPs to be placed at four, and was also higher ranked than Act’s marquee candidates former Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard (5) and one-time National MP Parmjeet Parmar (9).
On current polling, Mr Stephenson would comfortably make it to Parliament, as Act New Zealand sits well over the 5% threshold. Even if the party’s support cratered during the election campaign, the strong likelihood of party leader David Seymour retaining his Epsom seat would probably offer a long enough lifeline for Mr Stephenson to also become an MP.
‘‘I am very humbled to have been chosen at the fourth position on the Act list,’’ Mr Stephenson told the Otago Daily Times.
‘‘I think we have a talented team with lots of different skills which can contribute to Parliament and hopefully to a future government . . .I’m looking forward to the challenge . . .We’re not interested in being in government for nothing, we want to implement our policies and build a more prosperous New Zealand.’’
Mr Stephenson, a first-time candidate, has been involved with Act since its inception and worked for the party from 1997-2000. For the past 17 years he has lived overseas and worked in the corporate field, mostly for healthcare companies.
He is living in Sydney, but he and his partner will relocate to Queenstown next month.
“I was born in Lumsden and we lived all over Southland growing up . . . I went to high school at James Hargest [in Invercargill] and . . .to the University of Otago, so I’m looking forward to getting back to my southern roots.’’
Act’s 7.6% support and one electorate seat in the 202 election netted it 10 MPs. Christchurch’s Toni Severin was its southernmost representative.
The 2023 list has broader southern representation: apart from Mr Stephenson, Banks Peninsula candidate Laura Trask is ranked at 10, Ms Severin (who is standing in Christchurch East) is at 14, Selwyn candidate Ben Harvey is at 15, and Nelson-based MP Chris Baillie is at 17.
The five Otago and Southland electorates and Te Tai Tonga provided about 10% of Act’s total party vote in 2020, and Mr Seymour said the high placement of Mr Stephenson was a reflection of that strong support.
Other local candidates on the list were Sean Beamish (Waitaki, 40), Scott Donaldson (Invercargill, 46) and Burty Meffan (Taieri, 53).
No Dunedin candidate was listed: Mr Seymour said that the party hoped to confirm one within the next few weeks.