Smith picked over King
Kaikoura has two MPs for a year, one's a traineeCATHIE BELL
Marlborough grapegrower Stuart Smith is the National Party's nomination for the safe seat of Kaikoura.
In a packed selection meeting last night, more than 200 people made up of voting branch delegates and party observers selected Mr Smith over sitting MP Colin King.
Mr King had represented Kaikoura for the National Party since 2005, and won the seat last election with a 11,445 vote majority over closest rival, Labour's Liz Collyns who got 8516 votes.
The Green Party's candidate, Steffan Browning, was a distant third with 3784 votes, but became an MP on the Green Party's list.
The results were secret, with only the result announced and the ballot papers destroyed after that.
Mr King declined to comment on the result after the meeting, saying a press release would be issued later. His wife, Lynnette, and daughter Laressa Shenfield were at the meeting, and all three left shortly after it ended.
In that release, Mr King said he was disappointed he would not be able to represent Kaikoura after the next election.
"I want to express my support for the National-led Government and encourage members and supporters in the electorate to get in behind Stuart and National in 2014."
An elated Mr Smith said he would spend the next 12 months getting to know the electorate.
"It's like the electorate has two MPs for a year, one's a trainee."
Kaikoura electorate stretches from Rai Valley down to Amberley, in North Canterbury.
Mr Smith disputed accusations he was a "single issue person" only interested in the wine industry.
"You can level that accusation that everyone is a single issue person, no matter what their background. I don't believe I am. I came from a farming background, I had 10 years in a governance role, I've been involved in projects like irrigation and community issues such as the hospital one, as well as grassroots roles in junior rugby and rowing."
He said he had no interest in standing in any other electorate or on the list.
"It's all about Kaikoura."
Only a National Party member for two years, Mr Smith said it had been a deliberate decision to remain apolitical while leading the New Zealand Winegrowers Association.
However, he said both his own and his wife's families were longtime National Party members.
"It's my roots."
The selection battle had never been a personal one, Mr Smith said.
He said it was a great feeling to be selected and thanked the team that had helped him.
There had been speculation that Mr King and many other MPs had been given a message by the party's hierarchy that it was time to step down, but this had been denied by Mr King, and last night Mr Smith and party officials said the decision was made purely by Kaikoura electorate National Party members.
National Party president Peter Goodfellow said last night he had "had an open mind" on the result.
"We've have got a democratic process ... the party is all the local members. The National Party has had a number of retirements and resignations.
"There is no pressure on any particular MP to retire."
National's Canterbury-Westland regional chairman Roger Bridge said nothing was pre-determined.
He thanked Mr King for his hard work for the electorate.
The Labour Party is expected to announce its Kaikoura electorate candidate this week
- The Marlborough Express
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