Welcome to the Newsroom rolling analysis of Election Night 2020. Our journalists, analysts and respected leaders say Jacinda Ardern has won an unprecedented mandate. But with great power, comes great responsibility.

3.10am: And that’s us, over and out. Our enormous thanks to all the candidates, volunteers and electoral workers who committed so much energy to making our democracy work as it ought. Most of all to the people of New Zealand … we’ve all seen civil society break down elsewhere in the world but yet again, New Zealanders have showed that they take the same pride in playing fair on the hustings as they do on the sports field. Well done! – JM & LW

3.05am: Despite it only being mid-afternoon, I always feel like I’ve been through the wringer after election coverage, so my last thoughts will not be as considered or as insightful as Jono’s. And it’s not because I’m already getting stuck into the Blenheimer, alas my budget Prosecco is still sitting in the fridge, unopened. Though plenty of time for that…

The irony of covering live election results, is you have very little time to really digest the results. But I will leave you with some very surface-level reckons.

On the surface it’s a pretty clear result; in the words of Split Enz: I see red!

Greens: The strong performance by the Greens, and of course Chloe Swarbrick in Auckland Central, speaks to a shift in who is voting and what matters to New Zealanders. Has New Zealand’s nuclear-free moment really come three years later than announced, but maybe just in the nick of time?

And while the Green Party falls into the ‘winner’ category this election, I feel like they’re somewhat caught in a losing place: they performed well and this should have been their opportunity to get some significant policy wins, and push for that transformation we all keep talking about, but with Labour’s popularity and autonomy, they might not get that chance. 

Māori Party: I’m stoked for the Māori Party, and I have my fingers crossed for them to get another seat. Māori Party MPs have the potential to be the disruptors that Parliament needs.

NZ First: It was a sad and sombre end for NZ First, but something tells me we’ll hear more from Winston Peters in the coming days.

ACT: ACT will be the ones to watch. That massive group of inexperienced MPs, and a range of thoughts on controversial issues like gun laws and climate change, it’s unlikely to be smooth sailing for David Seymour.

National: The National Party needs to get its act together – the people have spoken. In the words of Fleetwood Mac: The landslide will bring you down

And one last massive thank you to our fantastic panellists for making this possible by sharing their insight, experience and wit. And to our audience for sticking with us throughout the evening.

Now, it’s time to pop the cork, and celebrate the end of a very long election! – LW

2.52am: Well, this is Newsroom Pro editor Jonathan Milne, and some last thoughts from me before we wrap up this evening.

1. Labour has received an enormous mandate; if they add in the Greens they have 62 per cent of the seats in Parliament. That slightly overstates their 56.7 percent vote share, because of the 180,000 “wasted” votes for small parties that didn’t make it into Parliament. All of that might tempt this new Government to a certain cockiness, a certain over-confidence. In my view, they would be right to recognise that they have the political capital to quickly and emphatically implement their key campaign platforms. But Ardern would be wise to heed the advice of her predecessor John Key, against succumbing to arrogance.

We must be sure that our focus on Covid-19 doesn’t entirely subsume and consume other priorities; this new government cannot afford to lose sight of key priorities around addressing climate change and socioeconomic deprivation. Right now, we risk worsening those problems in our expensive attempt to eliminate this cruel virus.

She should include the Greens and perhaps even lone Māori Party MP Rawiri Waititi in her new government, either in Cabinet or in a confidence and supply agreement. In the same way that successful companies know the importance of having diverse and challenging voices around the boardroom table, a modern New Zealand needs robust debate in government. What a certain dearly departed political leader called a “handbrake”.

2. Now that the arms race of the election campaign is behind us, we can have a calm and considered discussion about our nation’s response to Covid-19. Rhetoric about who goes hardest, who goes fastest, has no place in a balanced response to the pandemic. In this election result, there is a clearly-stated will to continue along a path of tight border controls in order to eliminate the virus, rather than just attempt to mitigate it as other countries are. This is a luxury we have, in an island nation. But within the frame of an elimination strategy, there are still increments of lockdowns, variants on border closures. We must be sure that our focus on Covid-19 doesn’t entirely subsume and consume other priorities; this new government cannot afford to lose sight of key priorities around addressing climate change and socioeconomic deprivation. Right now, we risk worsening those problems in our expensive attempt to eliminate this cruel virus.

3. We were well advised by writer and pundit David Slack (check out his excellent blog More than a Feilding) that the appropriate Kiwi election night tipple is not beer, nor chardonnay for the socialists, nor even champagne for the winners. It is, of course, a cask of Blenheimer classic red wine. So our thanks to cask wine for ensuring that, whatever the diverse and disparate and dissolute politics of my colleagues and I in our head office in Kingsland, Auckland, we all supped a draught or two of blood-red victory tonight.

Of course, as we in New Zealand head off to bed in readiness for some fast-moving government-building tomorrow, for my London-based colleague Laura Walters it is barely mid-afternoon. Probably just about Blenheimer o’clock. So I’ll leave the last word to her … – JM

2.06am: Here are some final thoughts from economist Ganesh Nana: “The comprehensiveness of the swing provides a mandate that allows sufficient political capital for a significant change in policy. The swing to centre-left is across the country, provincial and rural and a combined proportion of near 55 percent is a mandate that is unprecedented.  This is even more overwhelming when viewed against a combined 35 percent for the centre-right.
“Comments from both the prime minister and minister of finance that they will be the government of all New Zealanders are informative. That has immediately been translated into a move to the centre. But, equally, it could be a move towards those that have for so long been left off the field. The resurgence of Māori Party vote reflects a constituency that will be expecting more from the new administration.

“How the new administration manages the calls for genuine change will be telling. The first signal will be whether the Greens are provided with sufficient status – and a commitment to change – to feel comfortable to join the administration. “The second signal will be in the allocation of portfolios – children, housing, and regional development will be ones to watch.

“The third signal will be in the operation of economic policy – the inequality being exacerbated by the response to Covid-19 will need to be changed. The “plan” that is being rolled out needs to acknowledge that. Tackling the housing crisis and success in putting a lid on house prices and rents will be central. The fourth signal will be resolving Ihumātao”

“The delivery of such an overwhelming mandate brings even more expectations on the administration to deliver genuine change. Much is made of the views of the centre, which have definitely shifted sideways. But the views on those on the periphery should also be considered. The Covid-19 election has delivered a resounding message that people are utmost. Economic outcomes need to be viewed in terms of the wellbeing of people. How the next administration delivers for the prospects of those vulnerable to the economic recession of the coming months (years) will be determined by whether genuine change is indeed chosen.” – LW

1.58am: Things have been flat-out all night, so we have had little time to talk about convention and constitution. But we would love to sign off with some insightful contributions from our experts and experienced political scientists about the next steps in forming a government.

First, it’s important to note, this election was a win for democracy, with great voter turnout. As the Helen Clark Foundation’s Kathy Errington noted: “More than half of New Zealand’s eligible voting population cast ballots via an advance vote. That is higher than the entire turnout for the US Presidential election in 2000, and indeed several other Presidential elections. (And Kiwis were able to vote freely, and without needing to wear a mask!). Before drawing any conclusions about overall turnout, you need to keep an eye on what the final “people enrolled” figure is (you can enrol and vote on Election Day so the current number will grow, potentially by quite a bit). But hopefully we are heading for an increase in overall turnout, bucking the trend in many other established democracies.”

As for the ‘what happens next?’ question, Victoria University of Wellington’s Dean Knight explains the process of forming a government: “We’ve done our bit by voting today. But now the baton is handed to the politicians and our Governor-General. While our votes undoubtedly shape who will be our next government, we don’t directly elect our prime ministers or governments. Instead, constitutionally, the leader of government will be formally appointed by the Governor-General — in accordance with clearly expressed conventions that reflect democratic principle. And the newly elected Parliament is effectively an ‘electoral college’, because negotiations amongst members of Parliament and their parties will dictate who the governor-general appoints as prime minister …

“As we’ve just elected a new House, which party or parties can command confidence needs to be sorted out through negotiations. And that’s for the politicians to do — once that’s done, they can then turn to the Governor-General for formal endorsement. She’ll be looking for both quantity and clarity. Does a party or groups of parties have more than 50 percent of the votes on confidence tied down? And tied down unequivocally — through public statements or publicly released agreements? If that’s sorted, she can formally appoint the prime minister and warrant other ministers. 

“Don’t expect any activity from Government House tonight though. Dame Patsy will be sitting back with her feet up, sipping a cup of tea and cuddling her puppy, Coco. The protocols are designed to keep our most senior — unelected — official away from the political toing-and-froing.”

But as Knight noted later in the evening: there might not be as much time for sitting back and sipping tea as there would usually be. “With Labour support this high, we are unlikely to see the usual hiatus for a couple of weeks while government forms. The usual caretaker convention throttling back the power of executive government doesn’t apply when the result of the election is certain — Labour will be able to effectively govern immediately, even if it still intends to do a deal with the Greens.”

“NZ First ministers can retain their ministerial warrants for up to 28 days, even if they lose their seats at midnight — it will be interesting to see if they resign their ministerial offices sooner.”

And University of Otago’s Andrew Geddis reminds people that while the results from the special votes are yet to come in, the election night numbers are a floor for Labour and the Greens … we should only expect them to go up after specials are counted! – LW

1.51am: Voices from across New Zealand’s political spectrum are posing a question: will the new government step up on environmental issues.

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger tells Newsroom that many people were disappointed at the Government’s “timid response on Green issues” over the past three years, despite having the Green Party in Cabinet for the first time. 

“We’ll eventually, soon, get a vaccine for the virus. But there’s no vaccine for climate change. That requires hard, difficult and often unpopular policy decisions. We have to see whether the new government will want to face up to that.” – Jim Bolger

Newsroom has reported that NZ First acted as a handbrake on the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary, cameras on fishing boats, and ending mining on conservation land.

“Essentially we’ve done nothing apart from passing a Zero Carbon Act, and that had the support of the whole of Parliament. Moving to green vehicles and all that, none of that’s happened,” says Bolger. “And I’m sure that the green-leaning world will be very disappointed.”

Three years ago, Jacinda Ardern described addressing climate change as “our generation’s nuclear free moment.”

Former Labour Prime Minister David Lange made an emphatic statement on the international stage with his nuclear-free policy. And Bolger challenges his successor, Ardern: it was now time to stand up and be counted.

“I think she should move on the policies she laid out three years ago. I’m looking particularly at reducing the pollution that our very large vehicle fleet is emitting; the government has control of a large number of those vehicles and they could make a difference starting tomorrow.

“I hope we do make faster progress on environmental issues. We’ll eventually, soon, get a vaccine for the virus. But there’s no vaccine for climate change. That requires hard, difficult and often unpopular policy decisions. We have to see whether the new government will want to face up to that.”

That view is backed by Greenpeace New Zealand boss Russel Norman – who is also a former Green Party leader. Norman worried that Labour might spend the next three years “watching their polling and taking no risks” because they don’t want to fall below 45-50%. They would have a big cohort of Labour electorate MPs in National-leaning seats who would put conservative pressure on them. “Then, mini-scandal by mini-scandal, their polling is eaten away anyway and they go into the next election with, once again, little to show for it. 

“This is a moment for transformation – we need action on climate change and biodiversity – a price on agricultural emissions, phasing out nitrogen fertiliser, transition to regenerative agriculture, cameras on boats, and end to bottom trawling and so much more. The numbers are there to take action and there are no more excuses for failing to take action.”

BERL research director Ganesh Nana questioned whether Labour would provide a role in government for the Greens, when it has a majority on its own. “The Greens will probably want to be inside the tent; but it will remain to be seen how much the Ardern/Robertson leadership will view this as a mandate for change. Change with regard to climate policy and inequality will be on the table. This is the Covid opportunity – the question for now will be how much of this mandate will be used.” – JM

1.18am: While a big result for Labour was always on the cards in the party vote, the country has seen a real change in the electorate landscape. A number of blue electorates are turning red – few would have predicted just how many parts of the country changed colours.

Canterbury has also seen a massive shift tonight. Something University of Canterbury professor Bronwyn Hayward describes as an “electoral earthquake”.

Hayward is a professor at the university’s Department of Political Science and International Relations, and the director of the Sustainable Citizenship and Civic Imagination Research group. Her research focuses on the intersection of sustainable development, youth, climate change and citizenship. 

“It is hard to describe the historic impact of the shift in Ilam to Labour,” she says.

“Gerry Brownlee has held the seat since 1996 and to be perfectly honest, even as a political scientist, working at the university based in that electorate I did not expect this result. But on reflection I should have. The billboards that unexpectedly popped up on fences of leafy streets for Labour, the mail drops and ground campaign was unusual.

“Brownlee is arguing that his focus was diverted to leadership nationally, this may be true but doesn’t explain the swing to Labour of another traditionally conservative Southern electorate of Rangitata. With a talented local candidate for National  in Megan Hands, the Environment Canterbury councillor, to lose to the equally talented, Jo Luxton of Labour speaks to the depth of this mood shift.

“The dominant narrative is that the National Party lost this election due to Covid-19 and the communication and leadership skills of Jacinda Ardern, who steered the nation through three dramatic disasters in three years. But if we just leave analysis there we miss something else, the rise of democratic local activism, motivated and inspired by leadership.

“The remarkable turnout of the electorate, nearly 2 million voting early, is a remarkable testament to the power of democracy itself. The shift to a very large progressive left-block of Labour and the Greens is a deep political quake in New Zealand’s landscape. But the really hard work of governing through a very difficult Covid recovery, begins now.” – LW

“Governing for every New Zealander has never been so important more than it has been now. We are living in an increasingly polarised world, a place where more and more people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view.” – Jacinda Ardern

1.06am: Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister has been a pragmatic and centrist leader, says economist Shamubeel Eaqub. “Quick and bold to act in crises, but cautious with large scale disruption. I would expect that to be the case this term too.”

Sense Partners economist Shamubeel Eaqub is also an author, media commentator and a public speaker, who lives in Auckland. “The lesson from the pandemic was that you need to take the public with you to make successful and enduring change. This was not the platform for the election – rather it was more of the same. Careful, pragmatic and incremental.

”While that pragmatic, careful leadership may have helped deliver Ardern this landslide victory, and pillage the National Party’s vote, it has also been the thing that’s drawn criticism from much of Labour and the Green Party’s more progressive voters.”

“Labour has to resist the temptation to hold onto popularity for popularity’s sake, and actually do something with the power they have fought so hard to gain. Otherwise, what is the point of all of this?” – Tania Sawicki Mead

And here’s what justice reform activist, and head of Just Speak, Tania Sawicki Mead has to say about Jacinda Ardern and her level of courage: “Labour’s landslide majority shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone who has been watching the polls so far, but if 2020 has taught us anything it’s to take all received wisdom with a pinch of salt. It’s the romp home for the left not experienced in my lifetime as a voter. 

“As to what it means for the rest of us, it’s strangely too soon to say – because Labour’s pledge for transformational change in 2017 has just clearly not been delivered on.Without the handbrake of NZ First it will soon be clear just how much courage Jacinda Ardern’s government has to tackle the challenges facing us in 2020 – from child poverty to climate change to criminal justice.

“There is no question of whether they have a mandate – it is simply about how much they are willing to aim high for real impact. On justice, in particular, there is now a huge opening for the government, and Minister Andrew Little in particular, to step into this opportunity to make historic decisions that will truly make a difference for people, and particularly for Māori. Reject the penal populism that has poisoned our public conversations about justice and build a pragmatic and compassionate system that represents the Aotearoa we live in today. 

“Labour has to resist the temptation to hold onto popularity for popularity’s sake, and actually do something with the power they have fought so hard to gain. Otherwise, what is the point of all of this? 

“The most memorable metaphor of the night so far goes to Chris Finlayson, describing the scale of National’s loss as an ‘enema’ that would run through the caucus. Yikes. Beyond the questions of who will lead the party into 2021, it will be fascinating to see how much – if any – this means a change in the kind of people standing for the party, and their policies.

“Can they navigate being in opposition without ceding to the temptation to use the old politics of fear and division to gain votes? How will they hold an enormous Labour government accountable without throwing marginalised people and communities under the bus? I’m hopeful (perhaps naively) that a generational reckoning for National might mean less denialism on climate change (leave that to the incoming ACT MPs) and more focus on how to shepherd us through the turbulent times ahead.” – LW

12.53am: The Māori Party hopes to return to Parliament with not one, but two MPs. As we reported earlier, Rawiri Waititi is set to take the Waiariki seat from Labour’s Tāmati Coffey. “This is rewriting the political history of our country,” said co-leader John Tamihere, speaking to an election function in Te Atatu.

“I am honoured to be the recipient of John and Debbie’s leadership and to be part of an amazing team of candidates who are liberated and unapologetic about fighting for the rights of our people.” – Rawiri Waititi

In Waiariki, Waititi thanked his supporters. “The people have spoken and I am absolutely overwhelmed that they have put their trust in me to represent them for the next parliamentary term. I cannot thank them enough for having the belief in us as Te Iwi Māori to champion our own Mana Motuhake and to return our authentically and proud Māori voice to parliament, ka nui te mihi aroha e te Waiariki ” said Waititi.

“We have had nothing but fun this campaign, the energy was constant throughout and you could sense there was a real ‘movement on the street’ as our song Maranga Ake Ai sounds. We fought hard to campaign on the pride in being Māori and that in turn we can champion our own initiatives and solutions to achieve outcomes that deliver for us.

He congratulated all the other candidates, but said it was especial fun “running into” both Hannah Tamaki and Tamati Coffey. He was looking forward to seeing Coffey in Parliament, so they could work together for the benefit of our people.

“What we have achieved during this election period with Covid-19 against us is nothing short of amazing. I am honoured to be the recipient of John and Debbie’s leadership and to be part of an amazing team of candidates who are liberated and unapologetic about fighting for the rights of our people.

“The real mahi begins now, and I’m itching to get into it.”

Tamihere himself won’t be back in Parliament – but his co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, at No 2 on the list, might yet make it on special votes. “I think there is a very strong possibility Debbie will get in too,” Tamihere said.

Tamihere thanked Māori Party supporters in the Waiariki electorate, and for voters listening to their calls to split the Māori vote, giving the Māori Party the electorate vote and their party vote to Labour, He said Labour’s Māori MPs, including Coffey, would get in on the list regardless. – JM

Rawiri Waititi has taken back the Waiariki seat from Labour, after former Māori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell lost it at the last election.

12.36am: We don’t yet know the results of the cannabis referendum – those will be counted in the coming fortnight – but Ross Bell says the handbrake has to come off drug law reform under this new Labour/Green government.

Bell is the outgoing executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, a position he had held for 16 years. Bell is heading to the Ministry of Health, where he will take up the role of manager of public health capability. He says this last term has seen potential opportunities for modernising drug policy and law fall short because of stubbornly conservative opposition from within NZ First and Labour.

“Labour’s 100 day promise to “legalise medical cannabis for terminal patients and people in pain” was broken immediately with a rigid medical cannabis regime that doesn’t work for patients. Grand addiction funding promises have not made their way to frontline services.

And an historic change made last year to the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act, which should have resulted in ending criminalisation of people who use drugs, was hobbled by a silly, last minute NZ First amendment which made the reform meaningless.

It’s obvious what this new Parliament will look like. We have to ensure that bold reform is high on the new government’s agenda (regardless the outcome of the cannabis referendum). There will be no NZ First to blame for timid action.” – JM

12.30am: Many in Maoridom will be hailing the return of the Māori Party, albeit with just one seat. However, Jackie Paul says the end to NZ First and the $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund was a loss for Māori communities: “I think it’s definitely sombre seeing NZ First and the legacy of Winston Peters come to an end. I think Shane Jones and PGF don’t get the credit they deserve to deliver and invest in regional communities, and we saw major investment in Te Tai Tokerau and other areas where it was invested in communities for local initiatives which would have had a great impact for Māori communities.” – JM

12.26am: Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger says tonight’s election result was a personal endorsement of Jacinda Ardern’s leadership – a triumph of New Zealanders’ adherence to good science-based decision-making. 

He told Newsroom Pro editor Jonathan Milne he was happy to see the very low vote for the conspiracy party Advance NZ. They got just 0.9 percent of the vote – and he said even that was too many votes.

Bolger was prime minister from 1990 to 1997, and was elected on the promise of delivering a “decent society” following the previous Labour government’s economic reforms. 

He led the National Party for 12 years and was the first prime minister elected under MMP. More recently, Bolger led the last government’s working group on fair pay agreements.

“I think it was a very strong result for the Prime Minister, no question about that, and I think it was primarily based on the Covid-19 pandemic response. Twelve months ago before the pandemic the two major parties were neck and neck in the polls. 

“The Labour Party has surged ahead in the last months, and I think that’s because people believe she’s made the right calls, the right decisions on the Covid-19 pandemic, – and she’s been rewarded tonight.

“I don’t think there’s too many things you can criticise in terms of New Zealand’s response to Covid-19, and she led that response.”

Bolger said Ardern wisely listened to her chief medical advisor, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, which he said was a stark contrast with US president Donald Trump. “Full marks for that.” – JM

12.20am: But for the Māori Party’s Waiariki candidate Rawiri Waititi taking a seat, this would have been the first MMP Parliament divided cleanly into two blocs, left and right. It’s yet to be seen whether Waititi will persevere with that party’s apparent shift to the centre-left in this election campaign. 

Leaving him aside, we have a 64+10 seat Labour-Green bloc, up against a 35+10 National-ACT bloc, and ne’er the twain shall meet. To me, that’s not far removed from an old-style first-past-the-post Parliament – despite having five parties! – JM

12.07am: Now that the hustle and bustle is over, let’s take another look at the results:

 Party Votes% of VotesElectorate SeatsList SeatsTotal seats
Labour Party1,156,02249.0432164
National Party633,61026.926935
Green Party178,4097.61910
ACT New Zealand188,8158.01910
New Zealand First Party62,7792.7
New Conservative35,6311.5
The Opportunities Party (TOP)33,4321.4
Māori Party23,831111
Advance NZ20,6600.9
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party7,5650.3
ONE Party6,4190.3
Vision New Zealand2,7430.1
NZ Outdoors Party2,5720.1
TEA Party1,8450.1
Sustainable New Zealand Party1,4510.1
Social Credit1,3360.1
Total2,358,542 7248120

11.57pm: What does this mean for the business community? We asked Kirk Hope. 

Kirk Hope is the Wellington-based chief executive of business advocacy group, BusinessNZ. Kirk was previously head of the NZ Bankers’ Association, and has been a member of a range of government working groups on tax, fair pay agreements and the future of work.

This is an absolute landslide – Labour are being rewarded for their management of Covid-19 and National are being severely punished for their disloyalty and the perception of incompetence. 

For business the key thing is making sure they understand the goals of the new government and that business is at the forefront of their thinking as we seek to grow out of Covid. 

It was heartening to hear from the prime minister in her victory speech that she wants to move quickly on infrastructure – this is one area that has the potential to be transformational – including developing skills to build it, applying technology to make it sustainable  and enjoying the productivity that it can deliver .

11.55pm: Let’s talk about the Green Party and what tonight’s results mean for them:

As we’ve heard over the course of the evening – from any Green Party MP given half a chance – this election marks the first time a government support party has come back stronger.

At last count, the party had 7.5 percent of the vote, with 10 seats, including Swarbrick’s Auckland Central seat. This is compared to the Greens 8 list seats off of 6.2 percent in 2017.

It’s a strong result for the Green Party. But with the Labour landslide, it won’t necessarily translate into policy wins for the Greens. The party will want to go hard, be bold and try and get any wins that they can in post-election negotiations.Of course, the special votes may deliver the Greens with slightly more negotiating power.

 One of our panellists, Jacqueline Paul (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga), says this result recognises the momentum the Green Party has built   over the past three years, and even more so during the recent campaign.

“The Green Party is a progressive party towards real transformational change. I hope that Labour will go into coalition with the Green Party. Marama Davidson is all of us. “She’s a grassroots campaigner, activist, mum and friend. She’s an advocate for change, for whanau and whenua. She stood with those at Ihumaatao and will fight for the return of the whenua to mana whenua.”

Paul is a landscape architect, part-time lecturer at the School of Architecture, housing researcher at Ngā Wai a Te Tūi Māori and Indigenous Research Centre at Unitec, and an urban development and planning specialist. She’s currently doing her masters in land economy at the University of Cambridge.

 And speaking of the swing to the left: panellist Kathy Errington asks whether this raises the hope for the prospects of the cannabis referendum.

Errington is the executive director of the Helen Clark Foundation, a public policy think tank based at the Auckland University of Technology, and has been an ardent campaigner for a ‘yes vote’.

We won’t know the result of the referendums until October 30, and the final results on November 6, but we know a ‘yes’ for cannabis legalisation was largely contingent on a high turnout from young, left-wing voters.

The election of Swarbrick – the party’s strongest campaigner from drug law reform – and the strong support for the Green Party, which has long-campaigned on cannabis legalisation, may signal that cannabis legalisation is still on the cards.

Here’s some more from Kathy Errington on cannabis law reform:

“I hope that whatever the outcome, it marks the end of a political consensus behind a ‘tough on crime’/prohibition based approach to drug policy. 

“Even the most ardent no campaigners, such as Dr Kate Baddock, advocate decriminalisation now. Noone really got up and defended the law as it stands. The political calculation, it is safe to assume, is that the electoral risk of moving on evidence-based drug reform greatly outweighs the potential gain. It’s not a vote winner. 

“The courts, and to some extent the Police, have taken matters in their own hands by discharging or diverting more and more minor cannabis offenders – thousands of them every year. But this is done unevenly, and results in unfair outcomes. For this to change legislation is needed. Whatever the result of the referendum I hope to see a new era in drug policy.”

11.38pm: Our panellist Brad Olsen, senior economist at Infometrics, says New Zealand has voted for personality, but has Labour got a plan? “What we’re seeing tonight is the New Zealanders are not voting for a plan, they’re voting for a person. This election has been a battle of personality and popularity, not policy. The popularity and character of Jacinda Ardern has meant that the focus on actual policy has taken a backseat. The results back the approach taken to COVID-19, and a want from the electorate to continue the current direction of travel in the fight against COVID-19. 
We can’t lose sight that the current vote is validation of the government’s approach to COVID-19. But this focus will soon fade. Moving ahead into the new term, there will be a rising focus on what the plan is going forward for New Zealand. Labour has rightly been questioned on its ability to deliver on key policy planks during the last term, with KiwiBuild, light rail, and the PGF all under scrutiny. New Zealanders will be looking for a plan and direction out of COVID-19. Part of this plan can be “keep on moving” with the current pathway. But Kiwis will also be looking for more details about what comes next. How do we increase jobs? How do we address housing issues that are not only still around, but getting worse? How do we shift the dial on child poverty?”

New Zealand has entrusted Labour with leading the country for the next electoral term. They’ll want to see more progress, and soon. The next government will focus clearly on how to shift from announcements to actual execution.”

Speaking about child poverty, we’ve brought in Dr Jin Russell to talk a bit more about what this means for child poverty and health. Russell is a developmental and general paediatric registrar at Starship Children’s Hospital, and a previous member of the NZ Policy and Advocacy Committee within the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Her PhD is in epidemiology and population health.

“This is turning into a huge landslide for Labour. Here is the mandate for truly transformational change. Labour has tinkered at the edges of reducing child poverty, held back by coalition delicacies, yet voters know that addressing this is part of Ardern’s agenda and longstanding commitment. She should take the bull by the horns and deliver the change children need. Poverty negatively impacts children’s brain development from the earliest ages, we cannot afford to let another generation of Kiwi kids down.”

11.25pm: Speaking to media after her speech to the masses, Ardern said it was too early to talk about whether Labour would seek some form of coalition with the Greens or look to govern alone.

“Tonight’s result does give Labour a very strong and a very clear mandate. I do however, just want to wait till we see those final results come through and take a bit of time to take stock, but it is still very clear that Labour does have that mandate to lead.”

She had not had an opportunity to speak to vanquished New Zealand First leader Winston Peters yet, but spoke warmly about their time in coalition.

“I absolutely believe we should acknowledge the decades that Winston Peters has given to New Zealand politics, regardless of whether or not you were someone who supported him or didn’t, and he did make a contribution to New Zealand politics.

“Now I for one am proud with what we achieved in a government together and I hope he was too.”

Ardern said she would spend her Sunday catching up with family who had made the trip to Auckland, as well as partner Clarke Gayford and their daughter Neve, but would also be making calls to and meeting with senior colleagues.

“I did say that the work would start tomorrow, and it will.”

11.21pm: Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson with Davidson’s baby, who gets to stay up late on election night. Photo: Marc Daalder 

What do these results mean for New Zealand – its community and economic stability – when it comes time on Monday to form a government? Click here to comment.

11.15pm: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hailed the Labour Party’s greatest performance in at least 50 years, promising to govern for all New Zealanders. Newsroom political editor Sam Sachdeva reports.

Taking to the stage of the Auckland Town Hall to rapturous applause, Ardern thanked Labour’s candidates, volunteers, and those who had supported the party for the first time – “and the results tell me there were a few of you”.

“I cannot imagine a people I would feel more privileged to work on behalf of to work alongside, and to be Prime Minister for.” – Jacinda Ardern

The party would not take their support for granted as it looked to the next three years and beyond, she said. “Governing for every New Zealander has never been so important more than it has been now. We are living in an increasingly polarised world, a place where more and more people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view.

“I hope that this election, New Zealand has shown that this is not who we are as a nation, we can listen, and we can debate. After all, we are too small to lose sight of other people’s perspective… elections aren’t always great at bringing people together, but they also don’t need to tear one another apart.”

Ardern said the Government would build back better from Covid-19, with a mandate from the public to accelerate its response to the pandemic.

“Policies, ideas, and having a plan matters, but it will only be as good as the people that it works to support, and I cannot imagine a people I would feel more privileged to work on behalf of to work alongside, and to be Prime Minister for.”

Jacinda Ardern has been reelected Prime Minister with overwhelming support; tonight she thanked New Zealand. Photo: Getty

11.14pm: Alexia Russell, producer of Newsroom’s The Detail podcast, reports from a packed pub in Beach Haven, Northcote, where Labour’s Shanan Halbert has won Northcote from Dan Bidois. This is his third attempt at the seat and he says it’s more than just the country’s red wave that has swept him in. Halbert has a strong and highly visible presence in the electorate. Tonight was bitter sweet for Halbert as his father died this morning of cancer. 

After he lost the 2017 election to Jonathan Coleman and a 2018 byelection to National’s Dan Bidois, Halbert said he had no thought of giving up. “I’m committed to the long game in politics, and to the local community,” he said.

He has a special interest in tertiary education but says he intends to spend the next three years working for his electorate, being “a very strong local voice”.

11.09.pm: Nick Smith has been an MP since 1990, and Tasman MP since 1996. He has conceded defeat in a devastating result for National – though not as bad as the result he experience in 2002, when National won just 21 percent of the vote under Bill English’s leadership. “Man it’s been a privilage to be the voice of this region for the best past or 30 years,” Smith said.

He may squeak back in on the list. – JM

11.07pm: Aliya Denzeisen has acknowledged the big changes in the Waikato electorates, and notes the hard work National’s David Bennett has done in his electorate.

“I know both David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe, having connected with them at numerous events over the years.  In particular, I consider David Bennett to be one of the members of parliament who consistently connects with his electorate. He has welcomed and supported our youth when we visited UPA a while back and is held in high regard by them. Only rarely I have attended a school or public event within the wider Hamilton that he did not show up and connect with those in attendance—irrespective of party association.  Even outside of election periods he visits his electorate and door knocks just to check on the community. I can attest to opening the door to have a discussion with him, and while we often disagree on policies, he is willing to discuss and to listen. People will be surprised and many will likely be disappointed if David Bennett does not return to parliament.”

11.05pm: Newsroom’s Nikki Mandow is watching the votes roll in at the Green Party’s headquarters, where Auckland Central candidate Chloe Swarbrick is on track to win the seat.

It’s 10.30pm, and 95 percent of the votes have been counted in Auckland Central and Green candidate Chloe Swarbrick has inched her lead from 400 to 500 votes. Special votes are going to be crucial. In 2017, Auckland Central saw close to 7500 special votes cast – 5400 in New Zealand and 2100 overseas. Swarbrick was suggesting earlier in the evening that an unexpected run on special vote papers in central city polling stations could have been from a bigger-than-expected turnout of young people registering to vote on the day, which could push up the Green percentage of special votes.

Given the relatively youthful population of the central city, she could be right. Newsroom couldn’t find out where the special votes went in Auckland Central in 2017, but overall, the Greens and Labour picked up one seat each, and National lost two after special votes were counted. “I can’t take anything for granted, but I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve cast their vote overseas, and it’s looking positive,” Swarbrick says.

11.01pm: Advance NZ co-leader Billy Te Kahika Jr has won 829 votes. I guess he’ll be back singing the blues.

I’m being facetious, but I heard him and his dad, Billy TK Sr, play at Canterbury University back in 1997. These were two extraordinary musicians. I interviewed them afterwards in a smoke-filled old tour bus; we talked music. I don’t recall any mention of 5G or banking cabals.

I really, really wish he had stuck to music. That was somewhere that he made the world a better place. To misquote Keats, music is truth, truth is music, that is all ye know and ye need know … – JM

10.54pm: Mark Boyd, a journalist and academic at the University of Auckland who specialises in TV election coverage, says one of the surprises of this election is the failure of many of National’s local candidates to shore up their personal vote.

“High profile figures like Deputy Leader Gerry Brownlee, 24-year veteran Nick Smith, and bright star Chris Bishop have all lost their seats. Emma Mellow, the new hope to retain Nikki Kaye’s hold on Auckland Central has been beaten into third place with less than 30 per cent of the vote. So on the latest count, National has 25 electorate seats, and 10 on the list. Compare that to 2014, when Labour had a similarly dire party vote of 25 percent, but got 27 electorates and just 5 list seats.Part of National’s poor showing might be attributable to the departure of experienced figures like Kaye, Paula Bennett and Amy Adams.But in this election, New Zealand’s voters have largely turned their back on National, both the party and its partisans.” – LW

10.52pm: Immediately after her speech, Collins walked out of the room, says Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy. She retreated to an upstairs room without speaking to media, without giving any public interviews. She was planning to have her first drink in three months – and her staff said, she wanted time to think.

She is expected to give a media conference at lunchtime tomorrow. She has “some firm ideas” she wants to consider, then discuss publicly. – JM

“I imagine I’ll take a little moment later this evening, and then first thing in the morning crack back into work.” 
– Jacinda Ardern is PM again

10.47pm: There are chants of “Labour, Labour, Labour” at the Auckland Town Hall. Jacinda Ardern says she is “very pleased” with tonight’s results. “Everyone worked so hard and our message through this campaign has been very simple.”

“I imagine I’ll take a little moment later this evening, and then first thing in the morning crack back into work.” – JM

10.45pm: The Māori Party looks to be back. Rawiri Waititi is 300 votes of Labour’s Tamati Coffey, the former TV weatherman, in the Waiariki electorate. This electorate comprises the two main confederations of iwi in the Bay of Plenty-Central North Island area, the Te Arawa and Mataatua waka. This electorate comprises the two main confederations of iwi in the Bay of Plenty-Central North Island area, the Te Arawa and Mataatua waka.– JM

10.40pm: Newsroom political editor Sam Sachdeva is at Labour HQ at the Town Hall, where Labour Party president Claire Szabó has tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to downplay expectations about just how spectacular the party’s night is going to be.

Speaking to media, she described the result as a reflection on the quality of Jacinda Ardern’s leadership in the last three years, as well as a record-breaking grassroots campaign in terms of donations and volunteers.

The party was in “territory that we haven’t been in before, we have seats in play that…we haven’t seen in play for quite some time”, she said, but cautioned against calling too many races too early.

“You have to be really clear in politics that putting too many hopes to things too early on is probably foolish. So we do need to be a bit circumspect, and I think particularly when it comes to individual races, the likelihood is, I would guess, that some races are going to be very close: we’re not going to know them until very late in the evening, or until after the specials are counted, and I’d probably be picking a recount or two as well.”

Szabó was equally unwilling to write off Helen White’s chances in Auckland Central, where Green MP Chloe Swarbrick is continuing to hold onto a slim lead.

Asked whether Labour supporters would prefer the party to govern alone, she said it was too early for that discussion.

But she was willing to highlight the diverse, multicultural caucus that Labour will now bring into Parliament as a result of this resounding victory.

Labour Party president Szabó was unsuccessful in playing down the Labour landslide. Photo: Sam Sachdeva

10.30pm: Jacinda Ardern is now addressing a crowd at Labour HQ. She’s thanking everyone for their support and hard work.

She has directly addressed those who have voted Labour for the first time, “and the results tell me there were a few of you”.

She says she doesn’t take those votes for granted: “We will be a party that governs for every New Zealander.”

Ardern says the election result was strong. And with Labour leading the government for the next three years, the country would “build back strong”. – LW

“After these results, we have the mandate to accelerate our response and our recovery, and tomorrow we start.”

10.25pm:  The party vote alone gives a pretty good idea of just how dominant Labour is looking, but that’s further supported by the electorate results so far.

The last time Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva checked, Labour candidates were ahead in an astonishing 18 National-held seats – both urban and rural.

“Some are relatively predictable, like East Coast, Hutt South and Nelson, but there are astonishing names on that list, including Ilam – held by Gerry Brownlee since 1996 – and Rangitikei, which has been blue for 35 years.

Again, we are still relatively early in the count and it’s possible the urban booths are being disproportionately represented in the early returns. 

But Labour still looks set to snatch up a good proportion of new electorates – which is obviously great for the party, but perhaps less so for those lower down the list who might now miss out despite Labour’s huge party vote.”

Labour candidate and human rights lawyer Vanushi Walters. Photo: Sam Sachdeva

Among Labour’s class of 2020 will be human rights lawyer Vanushi Walters. She is high enough on the list to be guaranteed a seat, but is also leading National’s Jake Bezzant in Upper Harbour, a seat Paula Bennett won by about 9000 votes in 2017.

“It’s still early but really positive signs and obviously very excited ground team who’ve done an incredible job for the last several months so they’re all really excited,” Walters told Sam Sachdeva, from Newsroom.

“To an extent I think it’s reflecting what we’ve heard a lot on the ground and the electorate, so real support for the Labour government and what’s been done so far.”

While it may have seemed a tall task to flip Upper Harbour blue – and it’s not guaranteed yet – Walters said her team had treated the campaign as a genuine race from the start.

“As soon as we started doing things like phone banking and door knocking, what I was hearing on the ground was a lot of support for the Labour-led government and and so I knew that it would be a different election from three years ago so we were really hopeful.”

As for her first priority when she arrives at Parliament, Walters said she would be speaking to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Labour leadership team about where she could be best put to use for the party’s plans.

“I think my background in human rights provides that versatility: a lot of people believe that human rights is sort of a siloed subject in a way, but really it’s at the heart of employment law, it’s at the heart of health law, at the heart of education, it’s at the heart of foreign affairs, it’s at the heart of justice.

“And so really I’ll be looking at where I can add the most value to the Prime Minister’s team.” – LW

10.16pm: Jacinda Ardern has arrived at Labour Party HQ. Before we hear Ardern speak, we will be treated to one of Kelvin Davis’ special speeches.

Davis has impressed at recent conferences and events with his speechmaking. While he often struggles in media interviews, you see his skills as an orator comes out when he stands behind a podium. And tonight he’s presenting a 10-minute rhyme, expanding on his very stretched metaphor of Labour’s path to power. It includes taniwha and “nine dark blue years”. – LW

10.14pm: Finlay Macdonald is the New Zealand editor in charge of politics, business and art at The Conversation. He is a writer, editor and publisher, who has been working in NZ media since 1986, including as editor of the Listener and commissioning editor at Penguin.

“It’s a truism by now, but this isn’t the kind of result MMP is designed to deliver. It is clearly a product of Covid-19 and Ardern’s reassuring leadership. You have to wonder what might have happened if National had chosen to be an “opposition of national unity” and held on to the soft support that has bled red.”

“Not so much a swing as an entire playground.” – Finlay McDonald

10.12pm: Dr Siouxsie Wiles is an Associate Professor and head of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland. She is a microbiologist, a gifted science communicator, and has been on the frontlines of NZ’s fight against Covid-19.

“I’ve made no secret of my concern that a change of government may have meant a change to our strategy for dealing with the pandemic. Now the country has spoken and it’s a resounding vote of confidence in the government’s Covid-19 response.

With cases of the virus surging overseas once again, it’s very reassuring to know that with by returning Labour to power we’re most likely to stick to our elimination strategy. I’ll sleep well tonight knowing that.” – JM

10.08pm: Here’s the latest on the distribution of seats based on the count for far, created by political journalist Marc Daalder.

10pm: National leader Judith Collins has addressed her party’s gathering. Tim Murphy was there.

“We will make you so proud that you supported us. It was a gruelling campaign. For those who are leaving us this election, can I say that you will be missed. You’ve contributed to New Zealand and a team with the most comprehensive platform of any opposition I have seen.”

Addressing Jacinda Ardern, Collins said: “Congratulations on your result, which I believe is an outstanding result for the Labour Party.

“New Zealand is in for a tough economic ride and it’s going to need better fiscal policy than we have so far seen.

“We will reflect and we will take time and we will change. We will be a stronger, disciplined and more connected party and I promise you the National Party will be a robust opposition.

“We will push on behalf of all New Zealanders for the government to do better on behalf of all Kiwis.

“Tonight has been a very tough night …but three years will be gone in the blink of an eye and I say to everybody: “We will be back.”

“To avoid any doubt – tonight is the start of the next campaign.” – LW

National leader Judith Collins, supported by husband David and son James, concedes defeat.

9.55pm: David Slack is an Auckland author, columnist and commentator. He’s also been a speechwriter in the prime minister’s office, a breweries executive, and a kitchen hand at KFC. He’s also one of my favourite writers in New Zealand! Here’s his take on tonight’s extraordinary results. – JM

“What a bloodbath. In a memorable scene in Finding
Nemo, Bruce, the great white shark, leader of the Fish-Friendly
Sharks support group recites the motto “fish are friends, not food”… and the group intones their
pledge: “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine”

At next week’s National party caucus meeting
there may be a need for people, who have long felt themselves to be the great white sharks of government, to recite and intone some unfamiliar words. For example:

“The last three years have been shambolic.”
“A revolving door of leadership spells doom.”
“This campaign was a shambles.”
“We have been unwilling to accept that a majority 

took their vote elsewhere in the last election.”
“We have failed, and continue to fail, to grasp
the significance of the way this Prime Minister goes about her work, and the significance of the connection she has made with people at a time of crisis.”

There is evidently still, tonight, some belief
that but for the Covid-19 outbreak, they were destined to return to power. And this is possibly believed by not only Gerry Brownlee. There also seems to be some assumption that Covid-19 was a lucky break for the Prime Minister. This overlooks how grievously
difficult it has been, and continues to be, for other governments grappling with the very same pandemic.

It must surely be true that the pandemic dominated
all considerations. People are anxious, of course. People want to feel protected, of course. They look at the economy and they see things reassuringly near-to-normal, all greatly-abnormal and difficult things considered.

It’s felt, much of the time, like an election
in the way of the pandemic. Now perhaps we turn our attention back to how best to handle things, and how to capitalise on the chance to change for the better.We’re all capable of changing.”

9.45pm: Judith Collins is due to arrive at National Party HQ. But things aren’t looking good at the pale blue party.

As David Cunliffe said earlier on Newshub, this is a blue blood bath.

As National Party’s Paul Goldsmith said: “We put our heart and soul into it but politics is a tough business and you don’t always get the result you want.”

Pale blue balloons sum up the deflated feeling at National HQ. Photo: Tim Murphy

9.40pm: He hasn’t conceded, but former Mana Motuhake leader Sandra Lee has paid a powerful tribute to Winston Peters.

“Its the end of an era for the unique political enigma that is elder statesman Winston Peters who first entered Parliament in 1975. This was his worst campaign in all those many years. Like an old prize fighter his age was showing, his wick was even shorter than it normally is.

Promoting Shane Jones to deputy leader over Ron Mark was a big mistake. Marks been a capable well loved minister for the NZ Defence Force. Even when dishing out millions for regional development Jones came across as way too casual and almost disengaged.

Winston should have played up the elder statesman, experience, safe hands for foreign relations in the age of Covid this campaign. Instead he was quite Trumpesque in the way he treated journalists and that’s all the public saw.

For all that he carried his party through three decades, held his mana, fought neo liberalisms dogma, was never mealy mouthed, and has always been courageous in his beliefs.
Mihi kau atü e te Rangatira Winston, a, mihi hoki ki a Ngati Wai”.

9.33pm: There is still a chance that the Māori Party could make it in. We are seeing an incredibly close race in the Waiariki electorate. Māori Party candidate Rawiri Waititi and Labour’s Tamiti Coffey are neck-in-neck. This could be a reflection of a big Māori advanced vote, and, of course, it’s too early to call. But don’t write off the Māori Party just yet. – LW

9.24pm: Let’s dive a bit more into what these results mean for the regions, with our panellist Brad Olsen. Brad Olsen is a senior economist at Infometrics. He has become a well-known economics commentator, with a focus on housing, infrastructure and regional economic development. 

“The numbers are clearly showing that voters in Northland aren’t keen, at all, to have Shane Jones represent them in Parliament. Even after attempting to spend $3b in the regions, Jones couldn’t even get a roundabout near his house completed, which aptly reflects his current performance. 

As last week’s Newsroom article from Dileepa Fonseka and Farah Hancock shows, there’s a lot of money committed to the regions, which hasn’t yet been spent out yet.

So what’s the plan for the regions under what looks to be a Labour or Labour-Greens government? With the self-titled “Champion of the Regions” kicked out of Parliament, there’s no one who has shown interest yet in getting support into regional NZ. There is a considerable stack of cash that hasn’t yet left the Crown account, and without Jones as Minister, there’s a question of who else will champion and honour the current commitments to regions, that are waiting for projects to get moving. 

More importantly, what’s the future direction of regional support? Labour have considerably downscaled expected funding available, offering only $200m next term, but have also mused about sending government departments and workers out to the regions to work. 

There are considerable issues across regional New Zealand needing to be addressed in the next term, including support for tourism-dependent areas and how to keep rural areas in a strong position to support the economy. The next government will need to renew its efforts to get outside of the Wellington elite bubble and work with regional areas to push ahead. There needs to be a clear leader to champion this work – this task will need to be a priority for this new term.” – LW

9.20pm: Winston Peters is addressing NZ First faithful now. He has thanked them for their support over many years. NZ First had sought “to provide certainty and stability in a changing world”.

The Covid-19 lockdowns had been like nothing this nation had ever seen, even in wartime. “For 27 years there has been one party that has been willing to question authority, and tonight that force is still needed.”

Peters does not seem to be conceding defeat! – JM

Shane Jones urges caution to NZ First supporters in Russell, Bay of Islands.. Photo: Dileepa Fonseka

9.14pm: Newsroom’s reporter on the ground in Russell, Dileepa Fonseka, listens to Shane Jones tell the audience at NZ First’s election party their leader will arrive soon. “Let’s not do anything or say anything in terms of the result,” Jones said.

Jones is trailing a very, very distant third in the Northland electorate – the party’s one hope of getting back into Parliament.

A gas balloon popped as he spoke. Which he took as an omen he should be careful about what he said (some in the media had termed him “gaseous”).

With the reality of the party’s exit becoming clearer, they are already beginning to talk about their legacy with the warm-up MC highlighting Winston Peters’ long career in politics and Jones telling the audience he stood before the crowd as somebody who had delivered for the “province of Northland”. – JM

9.06pm: The crowd at National Party election HQ at Westhaven in Auckland is looking pretty sparse, Newsroom’s Tim Murphy writes, with former leader Jim McLay and the British High Commissioner Laura Clarke the biggest names in the room.

The 1News broadcast on the big screen is progressively sapping the colour out of the room, even the balloons are a strangely pale blue. Those party vote numbers keep appearing – no longer shocking at 50.5 plus percent Labour to 25.8 percent National. – JM

What do these results mean for New Zealand – its community and economic stability – when it comes time on Monday to form a government? Click here to comment.

9.05pm: National’s deputy leader Gerry Brownlee is conceding defeat in the seat of Ilam, in Christchurch. “I don’t think it’s so much that things have gone wrong for us, it’s just than once the lockdown came … the main discussion has been around the issue of recovery and where we’re going, without looking at the other issues we’d normally look at in an election period.” – JM

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson, alongside James Shaw, congratulates Jacinda Ardern on her historic victory at the Greens election night gathering on Auckland waterfront. Photo: Nikki Mandow

9.01pm: The whole country is keeping an eye on the Auckland Central electorate. It’s a close race and if the Green Party manages to snatch the seat, it’ll be the first time the Greens have won an electorate since 1999 – when Helen Clark gave the nod to Labour supporters in Coromandel.

Sophie Handford is one of the leaders of the New Zealand branch of the School Strike for Climate. And in 2019, at 18 years old, she was also elected to the Kāpiti Coast District Council in the Paekākāriki-Raumati ward councillor. Hanford says if Swarbrick takes Auckland Central, that will speak volumes: “It’s awesome to see Chloe Swarbick with a slight majority in Auckland Central and the Greens and Labour leading the Party vote. This is part of the ‘youthquake’ we’re seeing rattle politics and those in New Zealand’s largest city waking up to the importance of this election for climate justice.”

And while we’re talking about climate, former Green Party co-leader, and now Greenpeace NZ executive director, Russel Norman says now is the time for climate action:There are no more excuses for the lack of action on climate change. NZ First was often used by the last government as the reason that they failed to take transformative action on climate change. Jacinda Ardern said she wanted transformation and she said that climate change was our nuclear free moment. Well, now she has the power to make this happen, alone or with the Greens. – LW

8.59pm: Greens co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw have arrived and are speaking to ecstatic supporters at The Grid AKL. Davidson tells them, “this success is all of ours to share”.

The Greens are sitting on 8.1 percent.

“We can have an Aotearoa where we can protect our precious Paptuanuku,” says Davidson. – JM

“This success is all of ours to share” – Marama Davidson

8.55pm: Chlöe Swarbrick talks with family and campaign manager. She is leading in Auckland Central. Photo: Marc Daalder

8.53pm: Former National leader Simon Bridges has launched an implied attack on Judith Collins’ leadership, saying candidates didn’t know what they were meant to say on the campaign trail, what the party actually stood for. He will be back, in Tauranga, but many of his colleagues are looking down the barrel of defeat, and are saddened, he says. 

Labour and the Greens will have “unfettered power” he warns, and it will be very difficult for a a shrunken National and ACT alliance to mount an effective opposition. – JM

8.52pm: Carmel Sepuloni and Jenny Salesa. Photo: Sam Sachdeva

8.49pm: Newsroom’s political editor Sam Sachdeva is at the Town Hall in Auckland, where Labour’s Auckland-based MPs are beginning to stream in from their own electorate events. Calling them jubilant would be putting it lightly. 

Labour’s New Lynn MP – and Newsroom campaign diarist – Deborah Russell opted for a classic Kiwi understatedness, saying she was “pretty pleased”. “It’s going to be a great night for Labour…it’s a little bit ahead of what the polls were saying.”

While Russell’s electorate is a fairly safe seat, some of her West Auckland colleagues are outstripping expectations – Labour’s Upper Harbour candidate Vanushi Walters is high enough on the list to come in, but she is also leading National’s Jake Bezzant in what looked on paper like a pretty blue seat. “Well, Upper Harbour ought to be going to the National Party so it’s really interesting that she’s going good.”

As for the mood of the room? “Look, I think it’s going to be a tremendous night. We’ll wait and see what it settles down at but at this stage is looking fantastic for us so I think a lot of people will be partying hard tonight.”

Not Russell though: she says she’ll be “a little bit grown up and responsible”.

Less keen to chat at this stage is Auckland Central candidate Helen White, who declined to speak to Newsroom for the time being. She is in a nerve-wracking second place at present with just under 40 percent of votes counted, about 400 votes behind Green Party frontrunner Chloe Swarbrick with National’s Emma Mellow some way off the pace in third.

What do these results mean for New Zealand – its community and economic stability – when it comes time on Monday to form a government? Click here to comment.

8.40pm: With nearly a third of the votes counted (32.1 percent), Labour is on 50.6 percent. If those number hold, Labour would have the first absolute majority of seats in the quarter-century history of MMP. National is on 25.7 percent, tracking for its worst result since Bill English won just 21 percent of the vote in 2002.

The Greens and Act are both tracking around the 8 percent mark. What that means it that Labour would win a massive 66 seats in a 120-seat Parliament. That’s kinda bad news for the Greens, is that they will only be in Government at Jacinda Ardern’s gift; Labour doesn’t need them. – JM

 Party Votes% of VotesElectorate SeatsList SeatsTotal seats
Labour Party662,94550.6481866
National Party337,15325.7221133
Green Party106,9618.211011
ACT New Zealand100,0427.61910
New Zealand First Party30,6162.3
New Conservative18,7101.4
The Opportunities Party (TOP)18,0131.4
Māori Party12,4200.9
Advance NZ10,7500.8
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party3,9220.3
ONE Party3,3240.3
Vision New Zealand1,4900.1
NZ Outdoors Party1,3700.1
TEA Party9200.1
Sustainable New Zealand Party7750.1
Social Credit6970.1
Total1,310,772 7248120

8.33pm: Ganesh Nana is research director at BERL. He has over 35 years of economics experience, and these years have taught him economics is more than numbers. This is his message to the business community:

“This is a phenomenally clear statement by the country. Even in the strongest National constituencies, the party vote is being headed by Labour. Given this was the “Covid election”, this result is a resounding approval of the ‘go hard go early’ elimination strategy. The health v economy argument never held water, and this result is a strong statement from New Zealanders that they really don’t want to hear about “Plan B” again. For businesses, this should be seen as a clear signal that the elimination strategy is here to stay. Plan for it.” – LW

8.32pm: Here’s the latest on the distribution of seats based on the count for far, created by political journalist Marc Daalder. 

8.19pm: Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy says there will be a wary eye in the side-rooms at the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron where the party president Peter Goodfellow and others are watching the incoming results: “If Judith Collins stays under 30.5 percent of the vote (Jenny Shipley in 1999) tonight would be National’s second worst result ever, after Bill English’s 20.9 percent in 2002.

“If National was to hold many of its electorate seats, at the mid-20s percentages there would be room for only perhaps three or four list candidates – Paul Goldsmith, Chris Bishop should he lose in Hutt South, Michael Woodhouse and David Bennett (if he loses Hamilton East).

“At risk could be Nicola Willis, Melissa Lee, Nick Smith, Harete Hipango, Kanwalit Singh Bakshi, Paulo Garcia, Nancy Lu, Parmjeet Parmar, Agnes Loheni, Alfred Ngaro, Brett Hudson, Jo Hayes.” – JM

Littered with mistakes, a leak, a poor ground game and repeatedly poor ‘optics’ for Collins on the mighty television networks, the Collins campaign was a Wreck of National Significance. 

8.10pm: Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva says the real party at Labour’s campaign HQ is currently in the foyer of the Town Hall – by the bar, funnily enough – as supporters watch TV coverage and erupt with cheers as the latest good news comes in. There was a bit of dissent however over the fate of New Zealand First.

“One supporter attracted an outcry when he seemed to suggest that the party and Winston Peters would make it back in. ‘Winston? Winston?’ a woman cried. ‘He’s coming back!’ the man yelled in reply. On polling so far, with NZ First not even halfway to the 5 percent threshold, that optimism may be misplaced.” – JM

8.08pm: Here are some, quite personal, thoughts from our panellist Aliya Danzeisen. Aliya is the lead coordinator of the Women’s Organisation of the Waikato Muslim Association (WOWMA) and served as the assistant national coordinator of the Islamic Women’s Council for five years. Aliya chose to leave a high-powered legal career in the US to focus on education and community, and has become a household name due to her advocacy in the wake of the March 15 terror attack.

As one ages, people have to decide if they will fight the process, just accept it or learn to adapt to it. What we are seeing tonight, in the early results, are the parties that have adapted are benefiting from that.  Labour, Greens and Act looked for new, better approaches and are moving ahead. The parties that have decided to just toe the line or revert to old strategies are being left behind.  Parties need to listen not just to their party members, but to the nation as a whole. Those currently leading in the early vote have longevity to go along with their future focus. Those in the back and falling behind need to evaluate who they have to guide them.” – LW

8.07pm: National Party president Peter Goodfellow talks to media in Auckland. At National’s very subdued gathering, media out-number the faithful at this early stage. When ACT’s David Seymour was on the big screen but he was muted and people tended to look into their drinks rather than at the yellow party’s triumphalism just across the water at the Viaduct. Photo: Tim Murphy

8.03pm: Labour list MP and Environment Minister David Parker is already at the Auckland Town Hall – one of the perks of not having an electorate race to contest. Parker has been standing for the party since 2002, but tells Newsroom political editor Sam Sachdeva that 2020 is already looking like the pick of the bunch.

“I always have a slightly out of body experience on election night, but I’ve never experienced one like this in all the time I’ve been standing, so it looks like a Labour landslide.”

He’s particularly excited by Nelson, where Labour’s Rachel Boyack is streaking ahead of National incumbent Nick Smith, but is trying not to get too far ahead of himself.

Parker puts the big swing towards Labour down to the “strong contrast of leaders”, but he does also believe the Government as a whole has performed well in the last three years. “I ran into someone in South Auckland today because I was out in South Auckland, and a young woman came out to me and said there’s noticeably fewer homeless people on the streets in the last three years, and…that moved me actually.”

Could winning by such a large margin, and potentially commanding a single-party majority, put added pressure on Labour to deliver more, and faster in its second term? “I’d call that a high-quality problem, and you should talk to the Prime Minister about those things.” – JM

ACT leader David Seymour arrives at the party election night headquarters, aptly held at Headquarters bar in the Viaduct. Photo: Mark Jennings

7.59pm: It’s early days yet – with just over 2 percent of the votes counted – but it looks like the fight is on for the two Hamilton seats. National is behind in both the Hamilton East seat they have held since 2005 and the seat of Hamilton West. Due to their unique makeup, both seats have a reputation for reflecting national voter trends. The party which won and held both seats has been the largest party in Parliament in all but one election. – JM

What do these results mean for New Zealand – its community and economic stability – when it comes time on Monday to form a government? Click here to comment.

7.52pm: Here are some early thoughts and picks from Matt McCarten, and he’s not holding back. This is what we’re looking for: frank and insightful analysis.

McCarten (Ngāpuhi) is the Auckland director for the Labour Party. He is the former president of the Alliance party, former Labour chief of staff, and longtime unionist. McCarten is often described as an all-round master strategist.

“There was a time when it seemed Labour might get over 50 percent. That was never going to happen. It will be a shock if at the end of tonight it wasn’t a Labour-Green government. 

Opportunities: Labour should pick up Auckland Central and the new south Auckland seat, Takanini. Shanan Halbert’s a real chance to pick up Northcote. But this could be a bittersweet night if he wins as his dad died this morning.

Whanganui is a possibility too. The local Labour team say the National MP is a nutter and they reckon they can win it tonight. We shall see. 

Threats: Not winning Auckland Central with a centre-left split and allowing National through. In the unlikely chance the Greens win it will change the whole relationship with Labour. Peeni Henare in Tamaki Makaurau, Tamati Coffey in Waiariki and Adrian Rurawhe in Te Tai Hāuaura could all get a fright. But it’s unimaginable any of them lose – at least this election. 

Greens: the liberal vote swung away from the Greens earlier in the campaign. But they have returned to get the Greens over the line. Hopefully they’ll get over 8 percent. That means their three new MPs will get in. They are outstanding candidates and will bolster the talent pool in parliament.

NZ First: They have had a late run. A lot of National Party voters have swung to them this week to prevent the Greens entering government with just Labour. Given half of NZ voted before today, NZ First will need to get 8 percent today to get to the 5 percent threshold given their low support until this week. If Winston got back, he’d be unbearable to the media. Trump could use his Lazarus act as an inspiration for his campaign. 

National: Being on the other side of victory I know how National must be feeling. When a roll is on, it becomes unstoppable. Collins’ leadership  is safe no matter what. They have no choice. It would be a disaster if she National goes under 30 percent. I had assumed Collins could have got them to 35 percent a few weeks ago. No chance now.

ACT – They are the benefactors of Nationals doom. Next election National will get them back. They aren’t the party of Douglas, Prebble, Hide and Brash. Maori Party: ran a good campaign. Quality candidates. Will get second everywhere. Will pick off seats next time. If they win a seat tonight that would be extraordinary. I will be paying attention to the early returns. Everyone else is toast.”

7.49pm: This through from Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron beneath the preciously displayed America’s Cup. “The feeling is already more San Francisco and the gutting anguish of failure, than Bermuda and a return to the top,” he says.

“The earliest results showed National down 17.9 percentage points to 26.6 percent – with Labour gallingly in the 50s. There are reasons everywhere why such a result is not a shock to the party faithful. Judith Collins got the leader’s job too late, in circumstances too dire, for even her to conquer.

“The campaign was too restricted; too long. It was too unfair that the Labour leader Jacinda Ardern had a daily or twice weekly 1 pm live Covid-19 briefing on national television and online sites.

“Stardust. Jacindamania. Unfair media.

“But the realists in blue know an always unlikely chance – New Zealand hasn’t tipped out a one-term government for 45 years and that was when Prime Minister Norman Kirk had died in office – was made all the worse by a campaign that looked and felt like it was being made up as it went along.

“Littered with mistakes, a leak, a poor ground game and repeatedly poor ‘optics’ for Collins on the mighty television networks, the Collins campaign was a Wreck of National Significance.”

7.46pm: Sandra Lee-Vercoe (Ngai Tahu) was the first Māori woman to win a general electorate seat and the first person to lead a kaupapa Māori party – Mana Motuhake – into Parliament. As a minor party candidate who took the Auckland Central seat, she is keeping a very close eye on Chloe Swarbrick’s chances in that seat! “The Greens will be feeling relieved that the last poll results for them are being confirmed at this  early stage,” she says. 

Lee served in Parliament alongside a previous generation of MPs – including the long-serving Nick Smith and Winston Peters. “Nick Smith’s long reign in Nelson is finally coming to an end with a significant swing to Labour,” she warns. “Nikki Kaye’s resignation and Smith’s demise will be a big loss for National’s ‘blue greens’.” – JM 

7.40pm: A slow start at the Labour Party election function at Auckland Town Hall. But the coloured lights leave no doubt whose party it is! Photo: Sam Sachdeva

7.30pm: Andrew Geddis says the second major count will be at the end of the night, likely to be earlier than usual given that there simply are fewer polling day votes to be counted. “This final ‘provisional vote’ tally will tell us if there was any difference between the sorts of voters who voted early as opposed to on polling day. There hasn’t really been in previous years, but who knows … maybe things will be different this time?” – JM

7.27pm: His colleague Dileepa Fonseka is up state highway 1 and across the Bay of Islands in Russell. He tells us a slow guitar-backed version of ‘Stand By Me’ is playing at the NZ First election night party with the early election results lit up on a projector screen. “Nobody is watching it. Most are standing on the verandah grabbing a drink or chatting quietly while media stand on the road opposite wait hoping to grab a snap of one of the more recognisable faces from NZ First. Media are being kept at more than an arms-length at this party. Confined to a media room and largely only authorised to take pictures from a spot across the road or within the room itself.” – LW

The party is already getting underway at the Green Party headquarters in Auckland. Photo: Nikki Mandow

7.24pm: Our political journalist Marc Daalder reports that Chlöe Swarbrick has been received at the Green Party’s Auckland CBD election night part like a celebrity. “She was mobbed by Greens supporters in a scene reminiscent of Jacinda Ardern’s own public appearances, for those who have been following the prime minister on the campaign trail. Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is also present and co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson are expected later in the evening. Spirits (and hopes) are high here after Thursday night’s TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll had the Greens on 8 percent – that’s well above the 5 percent threshold and would improve on their showing in the 2017 election, if accurate. Last night’s Newshub/Reid Research poll had the Greens on just 6.3 percent – quite a bit closer to the line – but that doesn’t seem to have dampened morale here.” – JM

7.18pm: On early count, it does appear that Advance NZ have been taken out by a conspiracy involving the CIA, the banking cabal and the 5G network operators. They’re on 0.8 per cent. – JM

7.16pm: It shows Labour on a healthy 50.2 percent, and Nats trailing on barely half that. Just 26.1 percent. Greens are tracking at 8.9 percent, Act on 7.4 percent and “other” combined are 7.3%. I’m not even going to tell you what that means in seats in Parliament. It’s just too early to read that much into it. Go to Newshub if you want that kind of early reckon. (No don’t! Stay right where you are). – JM

7.14pm: And the first count of advance votes is in – with just 1.4 percent of results counted. Not the big dump of nigh-on 2 million advance votes we thought we might get at 7.10pm. – JM

7.11pm: Tight rules that bar anyone from doing anything that could influence voters for the 19 hours before the polls close (this includes media) means election day coverage is usually filled with sweet, but neutral, pictures of politicians voting – usually with their families.

This year, tradition has been somewhat thrown to the wind, thanks to all the political leaders who decided to cast their vote early. We’ve already seen the picture of Ardern (dressed in bright red) heading to the polls with partner Clarke Gayford, and Judith Collins praying ahead of casting her vote.

But one man who is unlikely to deviate from tradition is Winston Peters. Peters said he would be waiting until election day to cast his vote. He criticised other parties, including Labour, for waiting until after many Kiwis had already voted to publish their full election manifesto.

While Newsroom’s Northland/New Zealand First correspondent Dileepa Fonseka did not have eyes on Peters at the time, we expect that the New Zealand First leader cast his vote earlier in the day.
And in the absence of pictures of politicians voting, there have also been a lot of pictures of puppies at polling booths filling the New Zealand internet. – LW

7.06pm: First things first, there is no Election Day. Not any more. 

Professor Andrew Geddis is the co-ordinator of external affairs at the University of Otago’s Faculty of Law. As he points out, we now have an Election Fortnight.

“The Electoral Commission reports that just short of 2 million advance votes have been cast. It also reports a total of 3.5 million enrolled voters. If we assume an 80% turnout of those voters (a figure slightly up on the last election), this would translate to some 2.8 million votes in 2020. If that is so, around 70% of the total vote already was cast before today’s polling places opened.”

Geddis says there will reallly be three “vote counts” to pay attention to – and the first will be reported very soon – by 8pm at latest. That’s all the “advance ordinary votes”, which have been being tallied since 9am today.

“Given just how many of these there are this year, it ought to give a very good indication of what the overall provisional vote tally will be.”

6.00pm: Hi! We’re your hosts tonight, and we’ll be here till as late as it takes. I’m Laura Walters, a senior political reporter, and I’ve been with Newsroom since 2018, after working as a political reporter for Stuff. I joined the gallery two days into the 2017 election campaign – talk about a baptism of fire!

I’m currently based in London in some form of quasi-lockdown (please don’t ask me to explain the rules!). I moved here in March, and while I haven’t really had the chance to do all the travel, sightseeing and show-going that I’d hoped for, it has meant plenty of time following New Zealand politics from my work-from-home desk, made from Amazon delivery boxes.

Of course, Covid-19 meant no trip to New Zealand House to cast my ballot. Luckily, I was still able to vote in my old Rongotai electorate by uploading a picture of my voting forms to the Electoral Commission site. Almost too easy! – LW

6.00pm: And kia ora, and kia orana, I’m Jonathan Milne, just returned a few weeks ago from Cook Islands to take up the role or Newsroom Pro managing editor. I’ve covered every New Zealand election for nearly 25 years, and I’d secretly hoped to skip this one – to watch it with my family on TV from a managed isolation hotel. You see, I didn’t expect to be back on the ground, in time for it.

But what do you know, the election was postponed and so, I’m here with you tonight covering my eighth New Zealand election. I used to be in the Mt Roskill electorate, but with boundary changes our home is now in Maungakiekie. So last Saturday, I popped into the Onehunga library with my three boys to cast my vote. The four of us (the boys are aged 10, eight and five) spent about 15 or 20 minutes in the booth, debating all four decisions – party vote, electorate vote, and the two referendums on the End of Life Choice Act and legalising cannabis. After all, these decisions impact on their generation.

And I’m kind of proud that we completely failed to reach a consensus! – JM

Newsroom Pro managing editor Jonathan Milne covers business, politics and the economy.

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