New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has ruled himself out of the running in the upcoming Tauranga by-election on the day that nominations closed.
The former MP for Tauranga had been widely tipped to run for the seat once more, but has officially backed away from the June election despite giving the matter “serious consideration”.
The ex-Deputy Prime Minister held the Bay of Plenty seat from 1984 until 2005, and claimed this year’s process “should not be happening”.
The deadline for nominations for the by-election passed at noon on Tuesday, May 17.
The by-election, which is predicted to cost around $1 million, was triggered when former Tauranga MP Simon Bridges stepped down in March – a move Peters criticised amid claims the election represents “wasteful spending”.
“When you have a three-year contract as an MP, at election time you are promising your electorate you will be there for three years,” he told Newstalk ZB.
“Just because of some personal fancy, walking off is not part of that contract.
“At a time when we’ve got so much wasteful spending, here we’ve got another example of a waste and no political party in Parliament think it’s of any concern at all.”
Bridges stepped down after 14 years in the role, with National Party candidate Sam Uffindell the favourite to replace him following the election on June 18.
Rotorua mayoral candidate Tania Tapsell was a name in the frame as a possible option for National, but also ruled herself out last month.
Labour list MP Jan Tinetti is in the running along with ACT Party representative Cameron Luxton, however the Green Party has chosen not to nominate a candidate.
Other names in the hat include Andrew Hollis (New Nation Party), Helen Houghton (New Conservatives), Christopher Coker (Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis), Sue Grey (NZ Outdoors and Freedom Party) and Peter Wakeman (Independent).
Peters insisted his party’s priorities are entirely focused on next year’s general election. “All of our efforts are going into that,” he says.
Bridges officially stepped down earlier this month, and will host Stuff’s first digital audio show. He is yet to comment on speculation linking him to a leadership role with Auckland Chamber of Commerce.