NZ Election 2020: How Labour won the vote of normally 'staunch blue' farmers

Farmers who are normally "staunch blue" didn't just vote red in a bid to keep the Greens out of power, but also because Labour had some "great people" running in rural electorates, says former Federated Farmers president Katie Milne.

Farmers across the country have never been shy in expressing their opposition to many of the Green Party's policies. And in this year's election it seems many in traditionally National-voting parts of the country decided to vote Labour to give them the power to govern without the need for support from the Greens.

With special votes still to be counted, preliminary results show Labour winning 49.1 percent of the vote, or 64 seats - meaning they have enough power to govern alone if they choose to.

The election saw many normally safe National seats turn red, including Rangitata, East Coast and Wairarapa.

Milne told The AM Show on Tuesday she had heard talk of such strategic voting in cow sheds and on farms around the country in the lead-up to the election.

"They said they were going to vote strategically, they were a little bit worried about if there was going to be a Greens-Labour Government and they didn't really think that the Nats were going to pull through so they thought actually let's just give it to Labour on their own and we'll work with them to get some sensible policies in place that help farmers thrive," she said.

Milne said it was surprising that people "who have been staunch blue forever" were talking about voting red. However, to Labour's credit, they also put up some strong candidates of their own, she said.

"There's some great people who have come through who know a hell of a lot about ag and who add to the agricultural knowledge in Parliament - you've got Kieran McAnulty, you've got Kiri Allan - so there's some great people who have come through that really know the grass roots of farming and will do a good job for us."

She said those candidates had worked hard to build up relationships with the farming community.

"They've been happy to reach out and meet with farmers - not only in their electorate, but [with] Federated Farmers in Wellington as well - and understand what's not working in parts of the design of some policies they've put forward. 

"If that's the way they're going to continue, that's all we can ask for. People might think farmers are going to vote one way or another but actually they need to be very apolitical and work with whoever is in Government so that the right policy settings get set for us to go forward."

Talks between Labour and Greens are set to begin this week to decide how or if the two parties will work together in Government.