Political analysis: Expert weighs in on Wellington Central race

After the exit of some big political names, the race for Wellington Central is becoming one to watch ahead of the general election.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw has joined Labour's Grant Robertson and National's Nicola Willis in deciding not to stand in the seat.

The trio gave voters top pickings for their local MP, with Robertson the Finance Minister, Shaw holding the climate change portfolio and Willis the deputy leader of the opposition.

But one by one, they've bowed out of the safe Labour seat. Willis was the first to re-strategise, switching to Ohariu last year. Shaw's exit doesn't change her mind.

"Ohariu is an electorate with the highest number of 30- and 40-year-olds in the country, lots of families with kids - that's me," she said.

Both Robertson and Shaw will now go on the list.

"There are clear signs on the left of a two-fold strategy - one is positioning themselves in case they're in government after the election, and the other is positioning themselves in case they're not, so they're keeping an eye on both camps," said Peter Dunne, a political commentator and former MP for Ohariu.

Shaw is backing Wellington City councillor Tamatha Paul as the Green's candidate for Wellington Central. The 25-year-old is the party's sole nominee.

"I want to appeal to everybody, and I think that people in Wellington city share the same concerns. I think it comes down to affordability and to resilience to climate change, and that's universal," said Paul.

Dunne said it was a debatable strategy.

"Having said that, if they can mobilise the sort of energy they did around the mayoral campaign here, with lots of young student activists in Wellington Central, they've got a good chance of repeating what Chloe Swarbrick did in Auckland Central three years ago," he said.

Paul said Swarbrick's victory in Auckland Central in 2020 was a "massive" source of inspiration.

"It's shown the public how effective it can be and that we don't have to do politics the same old way. It's not an old boys club anymore," she said.

The Greens are also targeting Rongotai, another traditional red set. Julie Anne Genter will contest it.

It's a shift in tactics from the Greens, which had typically been a list-only party.

"I think what you've got is the interesting situation where Wellington seats that have typically been red look like they might be changing colour to a greenish tinge this time around. Now whether that goes right the way through to election victory, time will tell," said Dunne.