CONTEST: Seven candidates are in the race to claim the Federal seat of Cowper.
CONTEST: Seven candidates are in the race to claim the Federal seat of Cowper.

LIVE: Hartsuyker declares victory in Cowper

3PM: THE Australian Electoral Commission says final results from last night's election will be confirmed on Tuesday.

While the seat of Cowper is still undetermined, incumbent member Luke Hartsuyker is at this time considered to have won the seat.

"I was delighted by the support that I've received from the people of Cowper to be returned in my sixth election, and particularly delighted with the support I've received in the new area that's again returning to Cowper after many decades, with the inclusion of Port Macquarie," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"I had spent time, from when the draft boundaries were announced, in and around Port Macquarie, getting to meet people and hearing what their concerns were and what their aspirations are for the future.

"I'm pleased to have garnered their support in the election and look forward to working hard on behalf of this new, exciting electorate of Cowper."

Mr Hartsuyker said the election of Nationals members in Cowper, Page and New England was "a clear rejection of the Labor/Greens/Independent alliance."

"It was a great result locally and a great result by the National Party, and I'm looking forward to working hard for people in Cowper in forthcoming years," he said.

Despite a strong campaign, Independent candidate Rob Oakeshott has conceded he won't be the Member for Cowper in the 45th Parliament of Australia.

"Nothing is confirmed yet but it does appear likely the Nationals will retain the seat and I certainly congratulate Luke," Mr Oakeshott said.

"The fact that someone can run a three-week campaign and get so close to a 14-year member does send a clear message that the electorate is ready for change.

"Whether I'll run again in the future is the last thing on my mind today but I do encourage my supporters to hang on to those Oakeshott t-shirts and banners."

Mr Oakeshott said Mr Hartsuyker now faced the new challenge of sitting in a marginal seat.

"While I still wish Cowper was able to enjoy the benefits of negotiation in a hung parliament, I ask you all to keep in mind we are now a marginal seat in a marginal parliament," he said.

"I hope everyone on the Mid North and Coffs Coast maximises this opportunity to work with someone whose re-election is no longer a guaranteed outcome."

Labor candidate Damian Wood said he was surprised at Mr Hartsuyker's re-election.

"I ran the campaign for myself as strongly as I could," Mr Wood said.

"It was always going to be a very difficult seat to run in.

"I'm actually very surprised Rob Oakeshott won't take the seat given the hype that surrounded him, but it just shows the type of electorate this is - it always has been and always will be a safe Nationals seat, as far as I can tell."

Mr Wood insists he isn't going anywhere and said he'll run again in the next election.

"I enjoyed the whole process and I'll be back in three years to do it again - I'm not going anywhere so people had better get used to seeing my face."

Greens candidate Carol Vernon said despite Mr Hartsuyker's re-election, the swing against him reflected a want for change from the people of Cowper.

"It was a hard-fought campaign and a different mix of people but we're quite pleased in that mix of people with the result that we've obtained," Ms Vernon said.

"The people of Cowper were saying that they want things to be different and we've heard that now for quite some years.

"We hear that on the campaign trail but we saw something different once the votes were cast, but it's fine, it's been a different mix of candidates and it is as it is.

"We campaigned on strong policies right throughout the campaign and have done every time we've presented a candidate, and I just think those strong policies stand true and always will, and I think they're the policies people need for the future."

Independent candidate John Arkan agreed with Mr Oakeshott in saying Mr Hartsuyker would have to deliver more to the marginal electorate.

"Mr Oakeshott sucked the Labor and other votes but not from the Nationals," Mr Arkan said.

"The message from Cowper is clear - they do associate themselves with the Nationals.

"Mr Hartsuyker, who I believe will retain his seat, will have pressure to deliver more. 

"This election should see some funds flow into Cowper if a Liberal/National government is formed, which I am expecting.

"In that case, it's a good result for Cowper.

"Our goal was to bring Cowper into national attention and I think we have achieved that goal for now."

Mr Arkan said there are plenty of projects in the electorate in need of funds.

"Mr Hartsuyker is a likeable and trustworthy National Party member and the party should honour his position and allow some funds to flow into Cowper.

"I would urge Mr Hartsuyker to expedite the Coffs Harbour bypass by allocating funds for it, so the city's traffic clog can be eased.

"I hope Hartsuyker will be able to keep his election promise of funds for the SCU expansion.

"Both these efforts should be great for the city.

"As a city councillor, I would bring Mr Hartsuyker's attention to the fact that both Port Macquarie and Grafton have better city libraries built with federal funds, and Coffs is not proud of its inadequate facility that requires federal funds.

"Congrats again for a good fight."


11AM: SECOND preference votes from Labor and the Greens going to Independent candidate Rob Oakeshott has seen the Australian Electoral Commission place the seat of Cowper on a list of only seven electorates yet to determine a winning candidate.

With votes from 65 of 70 polling places returned, sitting Nationals member Luke Hartsuyker received 46.46% and he's happy enough with those numbers to consider himself the winner of the seat for the sixth time.  

"There's still a lot of postal votes out there to be counted but we've taken a very conservative view and waited until all of the pre-poll votes were in, and I think the matter from our perspective is concluded from a counting sense as far as determining the outcome," Mr Hartsuyker said.

The incumbent believes he will be the beneficiary of the votes still to be counted.

"Postals will tend to break heavily our way so I think there's no doubt about the outcome," he said.

"The ABC were calling it probably at about nine o'clock as going to myself, so I don't think there's any doubt, the numbers were pretty conclusive last night."

Cowper first preference votes

Luke HARTSUYKER - The Nationals - 42,356 - 46.46%

Rob OAKESHOTT - Independent - 24,214 - 26.56%

Damian WOOD - Labor - 12,160 - 13.34%

Carol VERNON - The Greens - 5,756 - 6.31%

John ARKAN - Independen - 2,979 - 3.27%

Wayne LAWRENCE - Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) - 3,085 - 3.38%

Michael GOUGH - Citizens Electoral Council - 616 - 0.68%


SUNDAY 1AM: THE formalised result of the seat of Cowper is still being counted, with indications Nationals incumbent Luke Hartsuyker should be returned as the federal member. 

Mr Hartsuyker held a strong advantage with 42,356 (46.46%) first preference votes to Port Macquarie Independent Rob Oakeshott's 24,214 (26.56%) at 1am Sunday.

Preferences favouring the former Member for Lyne are expected to come into play, with most votes from fellow candidates filtering through to Mr Oakeshott instead of the incumbent. 

With the pre-poll count included, awaiting postal votes and second preferences, Mr Hartsuyker stood at 48,990 (53.7%) to Mr Oakeshott's 42,176 (46.3%) at the close of counting. 

The result stands with 85.5% of the vote counted. 


11PM: VICTORY is yet to be claimed by the Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker, but with counts in two polling places, postal and pre-polls still to come, he should retain the seat. 

Port Macquarie Independent Rob Oakeshott has won 20,918 votes or 25.61%, the AEC reports.  

Labor's Damian Wood has received 11,320 or 13.86%. 

Greens candidate Carol Vernon has received 5,425 votes or 6.64%. 

Independent John Arkan has received 2,833 or 3.47%.

Christian Democratic Party candidate Wayne Lawrence has received 2,775 or 3.4%, and Citizens Electoral Council candidate Michael Gough has received 546 votes or 0.67%.


9.30PM: Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker should retain the seat.

The Nationals incumbent holds 54.3% of the vote with 54 of 70 polling booths counted.

Port Macquarie-based Independent Rob Oakeshott has recorded a 8.9% swing against the Nationals, the ABC reports.

Mr Hartsuyker holds 30,951 of first preferences to Mr Oakeshott's 17,793.


9PM: LUKE Hartsuyker looks set to retain the seat of Cowper.

Latest results have the Nationals candidate on 53.2% after preferences, ahead of Oakeshott's 46.8%.

Pre-poll and postal votes are still being counted.

In the primary vote, Hartsuyker has 45.8%, Oakeshott has 26.3%, Labor's Damian Wood is on 13.8% and Greens candidate Carol Vernon has 7%.

Mr Oakeshott told supporters in Port Macquarie the result would likely depend on preferences.

"It would be nice to think we add (preferences) up and get home but there'll be some bleeding," he said.

"From my information, the Labor votes have been really disciplined and we're getting their preference flows, (but) the Greens votes have gone a bit messy.

"If that's the case, Luke wins."


8.35PM: DESPITE early counting giving him a 5.6% lead in preferences, Luke Hartsuyker says he is remaining "cautious" on the outcome of the vote.

"There is still a lot of votes to be counted - there were 30,000 pre-poll votes and that can make a very big difference in the landscape," he said.

"Certainly the signs are good for us, but I'm cautious."

Postal votes also needed to be counted.

Mr Hartsuyker said they "tended to favour" the Nationals.

"It was close in 2007 as well, but it's a very different boundary this year, compared to the 2007 result.

"Let's see what the final outcome brings."


8.30PM: INDEPENDENT candidate Rob Oakeshott says the contest for Cowper is "still very, very close". 


8.25PM: ALMOST 55% of the vote has now been counted in Cowper, and there has been a 9% swing to Independent Rob Oakeshott in the two-party preferred votes.

Despite that, the ABC is predicting the Nationals will retain the seat.

Hartsuyker is ahead 52.8% to Oakeshott's 47.2%.

In first preferences, the Nationals candidate maintains a 45% lead to Oakeshott's 27%, ahead of Labor's 13% and the Greens' 7%


7.45PM: INCUMBENT member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker arrives back at his electoral office in Coffs Harbour after spending the afternoon at polling booths in Port Macquarie.


7.15PM: EARLY results have tipped the bookie's odds dramatically, with Rob Oakeshott's odds plummeting to $6, compared to $1.75 earlier today.

According to, Mr Oakeshott has lost his lead against incumbent member Luke Hartsuyker with his odds now $1.10.

Labor candidate Damian Wood sits at $16.


7.05PM: LABOR candidate Damian Wood spent most of polling day vying for votes at Tyallah Public School after a brief visit to Coffs Harbour High School.

Speaking to the Advocate earlier this afternoon, Mr Wood said he felt the atmosphere at both polling booths was very positive towards Labor.  


7PM: CHANGE is what Independent candidate John Arkan set out to achieve by running in this election.

Mr Arkan hopes he and the people of Cowper have achieved that change by voting to make the long-time Nationals seat marginal.

"If we've made Cowper a marginal seat then I think we've done very well," he said.

Mr Arkan thanked everyone, from his team of campaigners to friends overseas, for their support.


6.35PM: THE first of the votes have been counted in Cowper.

Incumbent Luke Hartsuyker is in front with 35.7% of the vote, closely followed by Independent Rob Oakeshott on 29.6%.

Greens candidate Carol Vernon has 14.8% of the first votes with Independent John Arkan on 4.1%.

It's still early days with less than 1% of votes counted.


6.25PM: GREENS candidate Carol Vernon thanks her 200-strong team of volunteers for their work at the polling booths across the electorate today.


6.15PM: INCUMBENT Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker is en route to Coffs Harbour from Port Macquarie.

Mr Hartsuyker said he felt confident on the ground at polling places across the electorate.

"It was a good feeling on the ground for me," he said.

He went on to say it was "hard to gauge" the feelings of voters, and predicts "a gyration of fortunes" may be seen as the results start to roll in. 


6.05PM: ROB Oakeshott sends his fellow candidates a message of good luck via Twitter.


6PM: LEIGH Sales has called it - the polls on the eastern seaboard have closed.


5.55PM: OUR swing-o-meter is live.

Five minutes until the counting officially begins. 


5.45PM: THE rolling Twitter feed from the Australian Electoral Commission will keep you up-to-date with the latest in Cowper and electorates right around Australia. 


5.40PM: WITH 21 minutes left of polling, we figured it's a good time to look back at the election campaign that was.

At the beginning of the campaign, the Coffs Coast Advocate launched Cowper Chat.

Cowper Chat asked our incumbent member Luke Harsuyker, Labor candidate Damian Wood and Greens candidate Carol Vernon about key issues for the electorate, as well as their policy views on health, MPs' wages and seniors.

Cowper 2016 candidates cartoon.
Cowper 2016 candidates cartoon. Mark Lynch


5.20PM: STAYING in Port Macquarie, fellow Independent John Arkan has begun celebrating the end of the eight-week election campaign at a pub with some mates.


5.15PM: INDEPENDENT candidate Rob Oakeshott casts his ballot in Port Macquarie with some little helping hands.


5PM: WE HAVE entered the final hour of the election here in Cowper.

If you are eligible and haven't done so, make your vote count.

Throughout the day we spoke to voters from across the Coffs Coast about election 2016.

Here's what they had to say.


4.55PM: FORGET the politicians, it's the snags that have been the talk of voters.


4.45PM: AS WE approach the final hour of polling day, Australian Electoral Commission statistics reveal 10,872 votes were cast at the pre-polling centre on West High St in Coffs Harbour at close of voting yesterday.


4.40PM: WILLIAM Bayldon Public School was another prime example of a tasty polling day feed.

Sources say potato and leek soup was served up along with the traditional snag.


4.30PM: THERE was some pretty solid competition in the election cook-up from Kororo Public School.

Volunteers presided closely over the barbecue to ensure those democracy sangas were cooked just right.


4.25PM: IT WOULDN'T be a Federal Election without a great sausage sizzle. 

Sawtell Public School arguably put on the best spread of the 2016 election, with the P&C cooking up not only scrumptious snags, but also sticky date pudding, cookies and cinnamon kisses - yum!

The school's P&C treasurer Amy Bennett walks us through the tasty eats and what food gets voters to the polls.


4.10PM: A TRUCK accident at Telegraph Point has pushed back incumbent Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker's campaign on polling day. 

A campaign spokesperson said Mr Hartsuyker and his supporters are planning to hit the road from Port Macquarie back Coffs Harbour at around 5.30pm this evening. 

The accident occurred around 1.45am this morning, with delays to southbound and northbound traffic.

Meanwhile, here are a few snaps from Mr Hartsuyker's day campaigning down south.


3.55PM: JOINING Mr Oakeshott in Port Macquarie is fellow Independent candidate, John Arkan.

Mr Arkan is also a councillor on the Coffs Harbour City Council.


3.50PM: MR OAKESHOTT spent the morning visiting polling places around the Coffs Coast including Coffs Harbour, Toormina and Sawtell.


3.45PM: INDEPENDENT candidate for Cowper Rob Oakeshott is now in Port Macquarie, vying for the votes of the community in the final two hours before counting begins.

Mr Oakeshott spent the morning in Coffs Harbour where he visited polling places around the Coffs Coast including Coffs Harbour, Toormina and Sawtell.


3.30PM: THE latest odds have Oakeshott in front of Hartsuyker, with the other candidates tipped at odds in the double and even triple figures.


3.20PM: GREENS candidate for Cowper Carol Vernon was among voters at Cavanbah Hall today.

The long-time Greens candidate was pleased with the large number of people turning out to vote.


3.05PM: EARLIER today the voting lines at Cavanbah Hall, Coffs Harbour, were snaking out the door and onto the footpath.


2.50PM: SUPPORT for Independent candidate Rob Oakeshott goes far beyond the electorate and across the Pacific Ocean to the USA.

One supporter plastered an Oakeshott sticker in the streets of New York City yesterday.


SATURDAY 2.45PM: GOOD afternoon everyone and welcome to the Coffs Coast Advocate's rolling coverage of the Federal Election in Cowper.

Eight weeks of what has been a long election campaign is finally wrapping up today as our electorate decides who our next federal member of parliament should be.

For those of you who haven't voted yet, below is a list of polling places across the Coffs Coast:

  • Bellingen Anglican Church Hall
  • Boambee Public School
  • Bonville Memorial Hall
  • Coffs Harbour High School
  • Coffs Harbour Showground
  • Narranga Public School
  • Cavanbah Centre, Coffs Harbour.
  • Tyalla Public School
  • Bayldon Public School
  • Toormina High School
  • Upper Orara Public School
  • Urunga Public School
  • Sawtell Public School
  • Raleigh Public School
  • Repton Public School

Our dance star explodes across Europe

premium_icon Our dance star explodes across Europe

Former local dancer Amelia McCarthy is returning home after taking the burlesque...

Mayor 'cannot wait' for bold vision to take shape

premium_icon Mayor 'cannot wait' for bold vision to take shape

Consultants have been appointed to progress the CBD project.

Primary school children can’t use a knife and fork

premium_icon Primary school children can’t use a knife and fork

School's novel approach to combat lack of handwriting skills