The Labour Party hopes to have a new candidate for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by the end of June but can’t formally start the process until new electoral committee members are finalised.
Former Labour MP and minister Meka Whaitiri defected to Te Pāti Māori out of the blue earlier this month. She didn’t let her Māori caucus colleagues nor the Prime Minister know about her decision before making the announcement.
Whaitiri won the seat in a by-election in 2013 after being “gifted” it by her predecessor, former Māori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia, to whom she was a ministerial advisor during his time in office.
Over the decade Whaitiri has held the seat, her whānau has been a big support to the Labour Party, running both the party and the candidate campaign, and holding power on the Labour electorate committee (LEC).
It’s expected most of that support has now shifted with Whaitiri to Te Pāti Māori, which means Labour needs to put a new electoral committee together before any candidates can go through a formal selection process.
Labour’s Māori campaign chair, Willie Jackson, told Newsoom it was a balancing act between being grateful for the work Whaitiri’s whānau has done and applying some “common sense”.
There can’t be a situation where a new candidate ends up being undermined so a new LEC needs to be appointed, he said.
Labour Party nominations for the seat are currently open until the end of May but could be extended if necessary.
“I’d hope we have completed everything and have a new candidate announced by the end of June at the latest,” Jackson said.
Whaitiri plans to contest the electorate for Te Pāti Māori and Labour is the only other party currently in Parliament planning to run against her.
Greens’ co-leader Marama Davidson told Newsroom the party didn’t have a candidate willing to run in the seat so had no plans to do so at this stage.