Key political experts and leaders gathered for post-election conference

Journalists, academics, and party leaders from across the political spectrum met at Parliament for Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s post-election conference last December.

Adrian Rurawhe speaking into a podium at the New Zealand parliament
Rt Hon Adrian Rurawhe, former Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives

The conference has been running since the 1987 election, and each one is followed by a book with essays written by attendees.

“It’s for the benefit of the country to record each election,” says Professor Stephen Levine, who has hosted the conference since 2005—initially with colleague Professor Nigel S. Roberts—and has contributed to every publication that has come out. “Future generations can say, ‘what happened at that election?’ and find answers.”

Professor Levine, from Te Kura Aro Whakamuri, Rapunga Whakaaro, Matai Tōrangapū me to Ao—School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, says the thing that makes the post-election conference unique is that most university conferences are for academics, whereas this one is for professionals across the political arena. “They each offer different insights,” he says.

The 2023 event was attended by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Labour leader Chris Hipkins, and NZ First leader Winston Peters, as well as political journalists like Paddy Gower, who is an alumnus of Victoria University and one of Professor Levine’s former students.

Topics covered included political cartoons, Māori politics, polls, the TV leaders’ debate, integrity, policies and personalities, and reflections from politicians across the political spectrum on their respective campaigns.

The conference was established in 1987 by Emeritus Professor Dame Margaret Clark. She had the idea to bring together three different groups of people soon after the election while it was still vivid and fresh. The first group would be politicians—which could include parliamentary candidates, campaign organisers, behind-the-scenes people, and party leaders—the second group should be political journalists, and the third group should be academics.

“These conferences can have quite an impact and I think it’s important that we continue them,” says Professor Levine. “I was very happy with the way it went. I liked the diversity in the speakers and the audience, having the diplomats, academics, students, parliamentary staff, and parliamentary interns who had taken my course in the past and are now still working in parliament.”