Labour's Chris Hipkins on Labour's bid to win back Auckland

By Giles Dexter of RNZ

The Labour Party is on a mission to win back the hearts and minds of Aucklanders this week, acknowledging Super City residents did not feel Labour was listening to them or engaging with them ahead of last year's election.

With Parliament in recess, MPs are gathering in Tāmaki Makaurau on Wednesday and Thursday for a series of meetings and engagements all over the city, and to hold a mid-winter caucus retreat.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins admitted Auckland was an area where Labour lost a lot of support at the last election.

"I think people in Auckland felt like we weren't on the ground, we weren't there listening, we weren't there talking. And that's something that we've got to change," he told RNZ.

Last year, Labour lost the electorates of New Lynn and Mt Roskill, which had previously only ever voted Labour, while Takanini, Northcote, Upper Harbour, and Maungakiekie also flipped blue.

It only narrowly held onto Te Atatū and Mt Albert, the latter by just 18 votes, and both seats gave National more party votes.

It was Labour's worst result in Auckland since 1996, but the party is set on winning the city back.

Earlier this week, Labour's Auckland issues spokesperson Shanan Halbert accused Minister for Auckland Simeon Brown (MP of the safe National seat of Pakuranga), of being "asleep at the wheel" and not taking any Auckland-specific papers to Cabinet.

"This minister has given up on this portfolio and refuses to stand up for Auckland," Halbert said.

Hipkins himself is taking a group of MPs to a trade apprenticeship campus.

"I've said this year is really a year for listening, for reflecting, and for coming up with some new thinking and some new ideas. But we need time to work through that. So we won't see significant new policies from Labour until next year at the earliest."