Voters walk away but Berejiklian survives

Stefanie Menezes
NSW Liberals suffer large swings

Gladys Berejiklian has narrowly survived her first test as NSW premier as voters walked away from the Liberal Party in droves in blue-ribbon heartland.

Despite suffering double-digit swings in Saturday's by-elections, the Liberals scraped through on preferences to claim victory in the northern Sydney seats of Manly and North Shore, while Labor increased its margin in the Central Coast seat of Gosford.

Ms Berejiklian admitted she was "relieved" her party had prevailed in the once safe Sydney seats but played down the unflattering swings.

"As Neville Wran said once, you can take the swing, I'll take the seat," she said as she celebrated with incoming MPs James Griffin and Felicity Wilson on Sunday.

Mr Griffin is set to replace former premier Mike Baird in Manly after he secured 43 per cent of the first preference vote, with an almost 25 per cent swing against the Liberals.

The seat of North Shore meanwhile came down to the wire with Ms Wilson appearing to have won the seat on preferences as the Liberals suffered a primary vote hit of about 16 per cent.

The premier had been bracing for the close call, arguing seats in transition were always difficult for governments to retain.

"People do tend to express themselves more freely than what they would in a general election," she said.

The premier, who's been at the helm for just over three months, vowed to take note of the issues raised.

"What I take away from it is that the community has given us their trust but they expect us to listen to their concerns," she said.

Opposition leader Luke Foley was not so forgiving about the "monster swings".

"I think that it does reflect on the premier's performance ... it's now the best part of three months since she took over," he said.

"It's the first chance that voters have had a chance to express judgement on a premiership and it's a resounding thumbs down".

Labor's hold on the seat of Gosford increased by more than 11 per cent on a two-party preferred basis with Liesl Tesch winning.

The Paralympian champion will become the first NSW MP to use a wheelchair.

Ms Berejiklian said while Mr Foley might be "spinning" the result in Gosford, she understood it was the worst result for an opposition in the Central Coast electorate in the past 10 years.

"She's been hanging around Felicity (Wilson) the fibber for too long," Mr Foley retorted later on Sunday.

Ms Wilson was caught out in the lead up to election day after she was forced to admit she gave misleading information about her residential and voting history.

Mr Griffin was also dogged by controversy regarding his involvement in a company that traded while insolvent.

The candidate mishaps, along with anger over the state government's forced council merger policy, were attributed as factors in the lower Liberal vote in Saturday's by-elections.

The results bring an end to a nervous wait for the Berejiklian government following the resignations of Mr Baird, former health minister Jillian Skinner and cancer-stricken Labor MP Kathy Smith.