National confirms five to contest Pakuranga electorate seat

Maurice Williamson. Times photo Wayne Martin

The National Party has confirmed five people will contest the Pakuranga electorate seat which will this year be vacated by National MP Maurice Williamson.

Mr Williamson is to take a diplomatic posting in Los Angeles. In July last year he announced he would not seek re-election at the General Election in September.

To avoid triggering an expensive and disruptive by-election, the MP agreed to remain in Parliament until at least six months before the election.

Mr Williamson, an MP for 30 years, will replace Leon Grice, the current Consul General. His start date is unknown however the  Times understands he may leave New Zealand in early July.

A spokesman for the National Party told the Times that National doesn’t comment on the specifics of local selections.

“But we can confirm that several nominations have been received for Pakuranga,” the spokesman said.

“Local Pakuranga National Party members will choose delegates who will vote for their preferred candidate at a final selection meeting on March 23.”

It is also understood that the party allows no more than five to contest the Pakuranga seat.
Howick Local Board deputy chair Katrina Bungard is one of the five National Party candidates nominated.

Also throwing their hats into the ring are Harvard-educated economist Dan Bidois, businessman and former Bucklands Beach local Sang Cho, Highbrook banker and Manurewa Local Board member Simeon Brown and award-winning chief executive Rahul Sirigiri.

One candidate said under the National Party Constitution, they are unable to speak to the media during the selection process.

In an exclusive interview with the Times’ Marianne Kelly in September, Mr Williamson said the new job was initially a three-year posting but could be extended.

“I concluded after the last election that things were changing. It was likely I would not be so comfortable at Parliament anymore; that I was getting out of step with the new environment,” he said.

After receiving some offers in the private sector, he talked with the-then PM John Key who acknowledged his extensive IT skills and saw the upcoming posting in Los Angeles as a way of using Mr Williamson’s strengths to create opportunities for innovative New Zealand technology and primary industry companies to get into the American market.

Mr Williamson already has a list of existing contacts, up to the chief executives of large companies and, he says, he will be expanding that list as far as he can.

“We have stunning technology here in New Zealand and are incredibly advanced in the world,” he says.

“But while we have a huge number of companies in the sector they struggle from the lack of critical mass.”

With Hollywood next door, he will also work with movie companies to foster New Zealand’s world class digital enhancement strengths.