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Election candidates keen for another crack in 2026

When the Times-Age caught up with the remaining Wairarapa electorate candidates who had yet to provide their post-election debrief, all three declared themselves pleased with the results.

Act Party candidate Simon Casey noted that, with 1566 candidate votes, he “came third, beating both Greens and NZ Loyal – and that was after encouraging voters to party vote Act”.

Casey was also “very happy” with the number of party votes Act received in the region – 4113 or “10.6 per cent, which was higher than the overall party vote of 9 per cent”.

NZ Loyal’s Pete Arnott said that, in the context of a 30-day campaign from go to whoa, the Wairarapa results for both him and his party were “a fairly unprecedented success”.

The party received 843 votes or 2.1 per cent, which was “about twice the national average” and “a great testament to the open-mindedness of the Wairarapa population” while Arnott’s candidate total of 1439 put him ahead of the Green Party’s Celia Wade-Brown’s 1361 and just 127 behind Casey.

From left, Act candidate Simon Casey, NZ Loyal’s Pete Arnott and Independent candidate Jared Gardner. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Arnott credited this to “the great work and dedication of our core team and our teams around our geographically large electorate”.

Independent candidate Jared Gardner, who received 191 votes, said he is “very grateful and appreciative” of those who had “appreciate and I am grateful to all of them for having the confidence in me to serve them as their candidate”.

As far as the campaign in general went, Casey said he “really enjoyed campaigning” and noted that all the local candidates “got on very amicably”.

The biggest challenge, from Casey’s point of view, was that Wairarapa “is a huge electorate geographically”, which made getting around all its towns logistically tricky.

For Arnott, the main difficulty of the campaign – locally and nationally – was “mainstream media’s decision not to give NZ Loyal any exposure, other than some of the local newspapers”, although the upside of this meant a more grassroots approach “and consequently, our following had more and more the feel of gathering a huge family. This gave a lot of satisfaction to what we achieved.”

Gardner said he was “satisfied” with how the campaign played out, describing it as a valuable opportunity to learn lessons that he will “take … into the next campaign”.

The main lessons, Gardner said, was “the need to establish places of healthy public discussion pertaining to government and places for healthy public discussion between the candidates”.

None of the three had run for Parliament before and all three expressed an interest in having another crack when the 2026 election rolls around.

“I am hooked and would love to have the opportunity to represent Act in the Wairarapa in three years’ time,” Casey said.

While Arnott “would hesitate to say I am hooked on politics”, but expressed an ongoing commitment to building on the support the new party attracted this election.

“I will be going forward with the intention of building our momentum and connecting with the people we met on the campaign trail who identified for us some real needs and concerns within our local community,” he said.

Gardner, meanwhile, intends to “run again at the next election and all subsequent elections thereafter” and to establish Momentous Party – Pāti hira – to work on solving what he sees as “the root of all of our problems: the love of money, within government and consequently society”.

The Times-Age has been unable to contact Te Pāti Māori electorate candidate Te Whakapono Waikare, who received 351 candidate votes, while the party received 307 or 0.7 per cent of those cast in the region.

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