Election 2023: By-election to be held after election after candidate dies

A by-election has been triggered by the death of an ACT Party candidate in Port Waikato.

The ACT Party announced on Monday that candidate Neil Christensen had passed away. He was the party's Port Waikato candidate and ranked 35th on the party list.

The Electoral Commission said this will mean a by-election in the electorate. 

"Party votes in the Port Waikato electorate will be counted in the General Election results. Port Waikato electorate votes will not be counted, and a by-election will be held after the election to elect a member of Parliament,” said chief electoral officer Karl Le Quesne.

"When the preliminary results are announced on election night, and the official results are released on 3 November, they will be based on a 120-seat Parliament with 71 electorate MPs and 49 list MPs (unless there is an overhang). When the by-election is held in Port Waikato and an electorate MP is elected, it will increase the size of Parliament to 121 seats."

Le Quesne said the commission's thoughts were with the family.

"It is an unusual situation for a candidate to pass away before election day, and the Electoral Act sets out what happens next."

He said Port Waikato voters who haven't voted, should still go and vote. If they have already voted, they don't need to do anything else. 

"Your party vote will be counted and contribute to the overall results of the General Election. Your vote is important. You will have an opportunity to vote for a member of Parliament for the Port Waikato electorate when a by-election is held."

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said he expressed his condolences to Christensen's family and loved ones.

He will set a date for the by-election in consultation with other party leaders once he has considered information provided by the Electoral Commission as to possible dates.

ACT leader David Seymour said Christensen was a valued member of the party.

"On behalf of the ACT Party I’d like to offer my condolences to Neil’s family and friends. Our thoughts are with you," he said.

"I wish to pay tribute to Neil, who was an infectiously charismatic and fascinating man and was New Zealand’s only registered specialist poultry veterinarian. He was a dedicated member of the ACT Party who will be immensely missed."

Port Waikato is currently held by National's Andrew Bayly. He received 39.4 percent of the vote in 2020 compared to the Labour candidate's 28.5 percent. The ACT candidate received 3.4 percent.

Bayly said on Monday: "I want to offer my condolences to Patricia and the family of Neil Christensen. Neil was an energetic campaigner for ACT and one of New Zealand's pre-eminent poultry vets. It's a terrible loss for the family and Franklin."

Christensen was born in the United Kingdom and grew up in Africa. He moved to New Zealand in 1984. He began working in poultry veterinary in 1979 and was New Zealand's only registered specialist poultry vet.