The 1972 election marked a considerable swing from National to Labour in urban and small city seats. Several factors have been given credit for this: The “It’s time …” slogan and the feeling that it reflected, that National had been in for long enough; the environmental issues and the failure of politicians to react to the feelings that large numbers of people were coming to share about Lake Manapouri’s preservation; the ability of new opposing candidates against people who had served a considerable time in Parliament in some instances, the vocal activities of large and small pressure groups ranging from Federated Farmers and the Federation of Labour to the Post Primary Teachers Association, the New Zealand Educational Institute and on to the smaller - and more vocal groups - such as C.A.R.E., H.A.R.T., C.A.R.P. and O.H.M.S.
The writes lived near the Wallace electorate in 1972 and was able to observe the candidates who campaigned there. A subsequent transfer, shortly after the election to the Hobson electorate gave an opportunity to meet candidates who had stood for election in the Hobson electorate and some interesting similarities - and differences began to emerge between the ‘electioneering techniques’ and ‘issues’ of Wallace and Hobson.
The two electorates are, of course, at geographical extremes in New Zealand. Wallace with some 6,000 square miles is the biggest of the European electorates while Hobson is the second biggest and the would both be considered ‘rural electorates’ under the criteria set down by Professor Chapman but the difference in climate, landform, land use and social development are often quite considerable and this may be related to variations in political allegiance as well as candidate success.
The changes that came with the 1972 election seemed to make a considerable impact in some electorates, but they appeared to make little impact in rural areas, or else they made an impact that was not translated into electoral change. To see to what extent that this is true of the Wallace and Hobson electorates and why, I will:
Firstly, examine the background issues in these two electorates and the pressure groups associated with them;
Secondly, I will look at the candidates: their backgrounds and motivations for entering politics, or becoming candidates in the 1972 election campaign;
Thirdly, to examine the issues which were reported in the media - press, radio and television during the election campaign that related to the two electorates;
Fourthly, to look at the candidates electioneering styles: the strengths and methods of each candidate’s political party, the party’s financial situation and methods of campaigning and how these assisted the candidate;
Fifthly, prepare an assessment of issues and pressure groups given by the candidates during their interviews and in answer to a Questionnaire;
In conclusion, an attempt will be made to assess the success of the candidates in coming to terms with the issues and with their electorate, the Labour candidates will be measured against a model provided of Frank Langstone and his rural Waimarino electorate and to see how successful the pressure groups were in bringing forward their issues; a brief study will be made of the issues, the candidates and their party organisations, to see what has happened since November 1972.
These case studies of rural electioneering are based on interviews with nine of the ten candidates who stood for election. Each interview ran for a minimum of two and a half hours and included an identification of local issues, and issues generally in the electorate, the candidate’s background, party organisation, finance, campaign style and his identification of pressure groups through answers to a Questionnaire.
In the Wallace electorate, it was possible for the writer to attend personally, one combined meeting where Messrs Lamont, McDonald and Williams spoke at Winton and one other political meeting where Mr Lamont spoke at Te Anau. In the Hobson electorate, this was not possible and I discussed political meetings with several people who attended some of the combined meetings and some of the individual candidate’s meetings. In general, these accounts of meetings have been used as background only unless they verified, or contradicted an important point made by one of the candidates.
A careful study was made of the media in the electorates. A summary was prepared of all political reports - meetings and press statements from within the electorate from the daily paper The Southland Times covering the Wallace electorate supplemented where necessary by the Mataura Ensign which covered the eastern part of the Wallace electorate, and the largest daily newspaper circulating within the Hobson electorate that was likely to give the best coverage of local issues. The Northern Advocate was chosen, supplemented where necessary from the other three dailies circulating in parts of the electorate - The Northland Times, the Northern Age, the New Zealand Herald and the bi-weekly Northern News. The attitudes, activities and inactivities of some of these papers, hinted at, or sometimes mentioned rather bitterly, by the candidates, would make a fascinating study in themselves, especially when seen through the eyes of the candidates. Other media counted for little as far as the candidates were concerned. Only two of the nine candidates from the two electorates who were interviewed appeared on T.V. All candidates were given radio time for a 5 minute speech and on election night, but only one candidate mentioned this in discussion about meetings and communication.||