Speculation has been rife, but the National Party has finally put rumours to bed by confirming that Mike Butterick will contest the Wairarapa seat in this year’s general election.
Butterick will be hoping that second time’s a charm, with Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty confirming yesterday he will be standing for re-election – setting up a repeat of the 2020 election.
In 2020, McAnulty secured the Wairarapa seat for the Labour Party with a comfortable 5000-vote margin, winning 19,519 votes to Butterick’s 14,108, the second-highest polling candidate.
Speaking to the Times-Age yesterday, each candidate was determined to conduct an amicable campaign, maintaining politics was about “playing the ball, not the player”.
Butterick, a well-known Masterton farmer and the current Wairarapa Federated Farmers meat and wool chair, was selected as the National Party’s choice at a meeting in Carterton on Saturday.
He said the official sanction would mean continuing his work in the community. He felt confident of success in the October ballot.
“It’s always pretty special to be nominated, but this is just a continuation from post-last election.
“I took a pretty strong view after that … that I was just going to continue getting involved in the community and developing relationships. Now I’ve just got the official capacity to do it.”
He said he “got along really well” with McAnulty and respected him as an opponent but believed the National Party would address the issues New Zealanders cared about.
“At the top of the podium is the cost of living and the number of people spread right through the electorate that are really struggling post Cyclone Gabrielle and Cyclone Hale.
“People here work really hard, but they’re wondering how on earth they’re going to find hundreds of extra dollars a week more to cover the mortgage or rent.”
He said there needed to be a reprioritisation of government spending toward “need to have” rather than “nice to have”, and a shake-up at the Reserve Bank.
“It needs to refocus on its one core job; price stability and managing inflation.
“We need to stop layering costs onto businesses and the productive part of the economy.
“In farming terms, we’ve got to cut our costs to fit.”
McAnulty said he was pleased Butterick was selected as the Opposition’s Wairarapa candidate.
“He is a good guy, and my experience in the last campaign was positive. He approached politics like I do – play the ball not the player.
“That’s how it should be and I’m looking forward to a robust but respectful campaign.”
With just over 200 days out from the election on October 14, Butterick said he would continue to talk to people in the community and “more importantly, listen”, and signalled discussions would be had about his current role with Federated Farmers.
Wairarapa National Party chair David Holmes could not confirm the number of candidates who threw their hat in the ring – nominations for which closed on February 8 – but said he was thrilled with the party’s choice.
“Mike has been working his butt off since the last election and working heart and soul for the party.”
For his part, McAnulty said it had been a privilege working for the region and he wished to keep giving Wairarapa a voice “at the top table”.
He confirmed he had been unanimously endorsed by the Labour Party to stand for re-election.
He said he had delivered on what he campaigned on; returning social housing to the region, upgrading the train line, increasing local police numbers, and securing funding for the roundabouts at Ngaumutawa and Norfolk road intersections.
“I’ve fought hard for Wairarapa over the past three years, and shown that I’m not all talk.
“I’m a strong advocate for the region’s interests, most recently securing Wairarapa’s inclusion in government support after Cyclone Gabrielle.”
At time of print, the Times-Age was not aware of any other candidates confirming they were standing for election in October.