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Hamilton — the heartland New Zealand city, not the popular civics rap musical. It’s sometimes said that Hamilton is boring, but that’s exactly why Hamilton is interesting for politics. There are two electorates in New Zealand’s biggest inland city, Hamilton East and Hamilton West, and both have been known to be bellwether electorates. A bellwether is an area that, for a number of reasons, but mostly demographic ones, consistently achieves the same results locally as the national election. For those whose minds exist only in US politics (seriously though, not my president), Hamilton East and West are like the Ohio of New Zealand.
Currently, the East seat is occupied by Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Food Safety, David Bennett, and has only not swung with the general election three times — 1993, 1999, and 2005. Hamilton East is my home so I won’t hear anyone say a bad word against it, and in my head it is a romantic, grungy, and misunderstood kind of place. In the south sprawls Hamilton Gardens, which has not only won Garden of the Year at the International Garden Awards, but has also been recommended by political blogger David Farrar AND Lonely Planet as the place to visit. If you head further north, Grey St Village and the University of Waikato create an interesting juxtaposition between manicured villas and bogan, student culture . I don’t want to say that David Bennett has contributed nothing to this, but he’s held the seat since 2005 and has only just become a minister outside of Cabinet — in some ways a metaphor for the quiet, but still making $160,024 per annum, nature of Hamilton East.
Cross a bridge at least once and you’ll find yourself in Hamilton West — home of the hospital, lake, bars, and businesses. Hamilton West has only called the election wrong once and that was in 1993. It’s currently occupied by Tim Macindoe, National’s white-haired Senior Whip. Tim Macindoe is a Christian conservative and voted against marriage equality. The West electorate is a stronger bellwether and Macindoe’s majority is only 17%, with Labour’s Sue Moroney contesting the seat in 2011 and 2014.
The interesting nature of this seat lies deeper; it is also the home of the McGillicuddy Serious Party, a joke party formed in 1984 by University of Waikato students and the political beginnings of former Green Party MP Nandor Tanczos and Green Co-Leader Metiria Turei. If you go to Victoria St or Garden Place, look out for the snaking wave of curious blue tiles that runs for about 100 metres; they’re a great relic of the McGillicuddy Serious Party. Beyond this, Hamilton West is also home to a Parekowhai and the Outback, which this expert recommends visiting in the same night to get that genuine highbrow, lowbrow experience that Hamilton uniquely provides.
Overall, Hamilton politics is relatively stable with not a lot to write home about, but with glimmers of maverick to keep you interested.