Labour edges ahead of National in latest poll, Te Pāti Māori is kingmaker

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi could be in a prime position to choose who governs the country come this year's election. Photo / Marty Melville

By Adam Pearse, NZ Herald

Labour is just ahead of National in a new political poll that has Te Pāti Māori in the kingmaker position.

In the latest Newshub Reid Research poll, Labour is at 35.9 per cent, down 2.1 percentage points.

National is trailing just behind on 35.3 per cent, down 1.3 points.

Act is largely unchanged on 10.8 per cent and the Greens are unchanged at 8.1 per cent.

The poll was conducted over May 5-11, during the time when former Labour Minister Meka Whaitiri defected to Te Pāti Māori and National’s ruling out of working with Te Pāti Māori in government.

The poll sample size was 1040, with a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

Chris Hipkins maintained his position as preferred Prime Minister at 23.4 per cent, up 3.8 points.

Luxon sits behind on 16.4 per cent, down 2.4 points.

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was still preferred by some at 8.5 per cent, while Act leader David Seymour attracted 7.5 per cent. New Zealand First’s Winston Peters and the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick also featured in the preferred PM rankings.

Photo / Marty Melville

The poll reinforces the possibility of Te Pāti Māori being the kingmaker come October 15; a Labour/Greens/Te Pāti Māori coalition would reach 61 seats - enough to form a government.

National and Act would only muster 59 seats, according to this poll.

Te Pāti Māori registered a small jump of 1.7 points to 3.5 per cent so would require an electorate win to enter Parliament. New Zealand First rose 0.8 points to 3 per cent, while the Opportunities Party reached 2 per cent with a 0.5-point boost.

Last week, National leader Christopher Luxon ruled out any governing deal with Te Pāti Māori after the election, even if it was his sole route into government.

Luxon told Newshub he didn’t regret the decision and restated his claim a combination of Labour, Greens and Te Pāti Māori would be a “coalition of chaos”.

Hipkins hit back, saying any National Government would be part of a “coalition of cuts”.

Amid his drop in preferred PM, Luxon told Newshub he was “absolutely” certain he was the right person to lead National into the election, confirming he had “never” thought about stepping down.

The poll also asked people whether they felt the two Chrises were in or out of touch with issues affecting New Zealanders.

It found 50 per cent thought Hipkins was in touch while 35.6 per cent thought he was out of touch. It was near the opposite for Luxon, with 37.2 per cent and 47 per cent respectively.

“I’d just say to you, I don’t think I am. For me, I’m really in touch with what’s going on in New Zealand,” Luxon told Newshub.

Another poll conducted in January, soon after Hipkins took over as Prime Minister, showed a 5.7-point boost to Labour, up to 38 per cent. National had dropped 4.1 points to 36.6 per cent.

The latest poll, released on Thursday by Talbot Mills which also does internal polling for Labour, found the left and right blocs were neck-and-neck with 60 seats each after Labour saw its support knocked back by three points to 33 compared to National’s 36.

Act polled 10 per cent, unchanged from its last poll, while the Greens polled 9 per cent, also unchanged. Te Pāti Māori polled 4.1 per cent, surging 2.2 points on the prior poll. NZ First polled 3.4 per cent, down half a point.

Sunday night’s poll was conducted over a period that included Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ trip to the United Kingdom for the King’s Coronation and the confirmation of the start date of the UK Free Trade Agreement after a meeting with British PM Rishi Sunak.

As he landed in the UK earlier this month, Hipkins learned that Minister Meka Whaitiri had revealed she would be leaving Labour and joining Te Pāti Māori - a move neither Hipkins nor his colleagues in Labour’s Māori caucus saw coming.

Former Labour Minister Meka Whaitiri has joined Te Pāti Māori. Photo / Marty Melville

Whaitiri, who gave up her role as ministerial regional lead for the cyclone recovery in Hawke’s Bay in making the shift, hasn’t articulated any issues with Labour policy that might have informed her decision. She has instead referenced her desire to return to her whakapapa as her primary motivation.

Dramatic and confusing scenes followed as comments made by Whaitiri during her announcement suggested that she had unintentionally trigged the party-hopping legislation that would mean her seat would be vacant and she would have to leave Parliament.

After much debate, Speaker of the House Adrian Rurawhe declared that the criteria to render Whaitiri’s seat vacant had not been met.

Te Pāti Māori leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer later attempted to welcome Whaitiri to the party in the House at Parliament last week with a pōwhiri but without the permission of all parties. It led to both Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer getting kicked out of the House.

On Wednesday, National Party leader Christopher Luxon ruled out any governing deal with Te Pāti Māori after the election - and took aim again at what he described as the potential “coalition of chaos” between Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori.

He has also confirmed he wouldn’t enter into any arrangement with Te Pāti Māori even if it was National’s sole route into government.

The Herald’s poll of polls, published last week, gave a 99.91 per cent probability of National, Act and Te Pāti Māori being able to form a government if the election had been held this weekend (dropping to 93.51 per cent if the election were held on polling day, October 14).

But that grouping had been rendered highly unlikely after Luxon ruled out working with Te Pāti Māori this week.

That meant the next most likely possible governing formation was a Labour-Greens-Te Pāti Māori agreement, with a 78.44 per cent probability if the election had been held this weekend (dropping to 57.57 per cent if the simulation is extended to October 14).