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One of South Canterbury’s two new representatives in Parliament, Andrew Falloon, is surprised by the size of his winning margin in the Rangitata electorate.

The National candidate received 18,229 votes, nearly 6000 more than Labour opponent Jo Luxton.

Special votes are still to be counted.

“[It was] a very positive response,” Mr Falloon said.

However, Ms Luxton will still join the new MPs at the Beehive – as a list MP. She was No 29 on Labour’s party list.

Mr Falloon took over the Rangitata seat from Jo Goodhew, who decided not to stand this year.

National’s Jacqui Dean held on to the large Waitaki electorate for a fifth term.

Mr Falloon said he had strong opposition in the Rangitata electorate race. His priority for the next three years was to be a strong advocate for Rangitata, pushing for infrastructure and business support, as well as advocating for good health and education services in the area.

He said the increasing need for mental health services, as noted in The Courier‘s lead story, was why National announced a $100million mental health social investment package before the election.

“We recognise this is an issue.”

That fund was part of the $224million boost for mental health services over four years announced in the Budget earlier this year.

Mrs Dean also referenced the mental health package, saying a major part of the transformation of mental health services included a major focus on building resilience in young people.

Mrs Dean said she was pleased to be back in the Waitaki seat, which she has held since 2005, and on Tuesday she was already in Wellington meeting her new colleagues.

She said her pre-election comments to The Courier about water tax issues, tourism and health services for South Canterbury would still be a big focus.

“We are a small community,” she said.

Mrs Dean said the election showed the electorate was aware and active politically, with many residents aware of the different policies from the parties.

“I think that’s a good thing.”

Labour’s Ms Luxton said her first few days in Wellington had been busy gathering information about Parliament and her party and settling into a temporary office.

“[It has been] really mind-boggling.”

Ms Luxton said the mental health situation was getting worse.

“There is a lot of pressure on schools.”

Labour was committed to addressing the issues if it got into government, she said.

The party’s election policy included putting health services into all public secondary schools, which meant pupils could go to a school health nurse for support or get referred to other services.

However, which party’s policies would end up as government policy was yet to be determined as New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had yet to decide whether the party would join Labour or National to form a coalition.

Labour’s Rino Tirikatene has reclaimed the Maori seat of Te Tai Tonga, which covers the entire South Island and much of the Wellington electorate.

Green Party MP and South Canterbury resident Mojo Mathers is not expected to return to Parliament after the party won seven seats in Parliament. She was No 9 on the party list.