Green Party co-leader James Shaw and Rongotai candidate Julie Anne Genter were briefly superstars at a campaign stop in Wellington’s Newtown suburb, mobbed for autographs for upwards of 10 minutes. One fan went so far as to ask Genter to sign her arm.

Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, given the stop was at Newtown School where children were excited to collect signatures from people they mostly hadn’t heard of before the classroom visit.

“You’re the lady on the Green sign,” one student thoughtfully noted, about 15 minutes into the visit.

“I know I look slightly different in real life,” Genter responded.

In the final days of the election campaign, Shaw took time to stump for Genter in Newtown, learning to serve coffee at a local cafe and then joining the candidate to take questions from schoolchildren down the road.

Genter’s campaign to flip Rongotai, which has only ever been won by Labour, is one of just a handful of serious electorate races the Greens are running. In 2020, only Wellington Central gave more party votes to the Greens. With the incumbent MP Paul Eagle stepping down and making way for city councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, Genter thinks there’s an opportunity here.

Julie Anne Genter serves up a flat white at the People’s Coffee cafe in Newtown. Photo: Marc Daalder

Shaw does too. When asked whether he thinks Genter will win – and whether Greens councillor Tamatha Paul will take neighbouring Wellington Central off Labour too – he said he was confident she would.

“Both Julie Anne and Tamatha have very good chances. Wellington Central and Rongotai are the two top polling seats for the Greens,” he said.

Overall, the Greens are positive about the state of the campaign. On current polling, Newsroom’s election data tracking page shows, the party would win a record 15 seats in Parliament. Alongside holding Auckland Central, they’re also hoping to take the two Wellington electorates and the Auckland seat of Mt Albert. Certainly commentators suggest Wellington Central is winnable, even if they are less certain about the other two new efforts.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the party will be in a position to govern.

Current polling also has Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori falling short of the 61 seats needed to form a government. Shaw doesn’t seem worried. Instead, he falls back on a line he’s shared regularly in past interviews, media stand-ups and even a TV debate.

“I’m not one of those politicians who trashes polls when they’re inconvenient, but at both of the last two elections, at least, the end result was actually different from the one everyone was calling in advance of the election,” he said.

“As I’ve said many times during the course of this election campaign, it’s actually up to voters to decide what is the makeup of the next Parliament and for the voters to decide, really, therefore, what is the makeup of the next government.”

In 2017, a tight election resulted in an unexpected Labour-New Zealand First-Green coalition – although New Zealand First had always been predicted to be kingmaker. In 2020, polls were generally showing Labour needing the support of the Greens, but the party won an outright majority on the night.

This line from Shaw, which seemed a bit optimistic a few weeks ago, now carries more currency as three polls show Labour may be turning things around.

Last Wednesday, the 1News-Verian poll had Labour flat on 26 percent support, ending a long trend of declining results. On Friday, the Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll had the party rising slightly from its result in early September. Then on Wednesday morning, a poll from The Guardian conducted by newcomers Essential showed Labour again growing its share of the vote to 30.3 percent. 

Asked whether the Green Party’s internal polls showed a similar trend, Shaw suggested they did.

“There does seem to be a bit of an uptick there. We’ve always said, actually, that this election is a lot closer than the headlines would suggest,” he said.

Two more polls are expected on Wednesday evening, one from 1News and one from Newshub.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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