NZ First president Anne Martin won't seek re-election

NZ First party president Anne Martin.
Lawrence Smith

NZ First party president Anne Martin.

Long-time NZ First stalwart and party president Anne Martin will not contest the leadership at this weekend's party conference, citing her age as her motive for stepping down.

At 74, Martin said the party was in campaign mode and looking to the 2017 election - something she doesn't see herself being a part of.

"I felt that was the best thing to do for the party at this particular time.

"Being the president of NZ First where we don't have any paid staff - everything is done voluntarily - some weeks are 40 hours a week and it does restrain as a retiree what you can do."

Martin was asked to stand again but three months ago she told the board she wouldn't be seeking re-election after two years in the job.

She will however run for party secretary - a position she has previously held for 7 years.

Party leader Winston Peters supported her decision, which she said came long before her daughter Tracey Martin was rolled as deputy leader by Ron Mark earlier this month.

When asked if Mark was the party's succession plan for when Peters retires, Martin said "I don't think so".

Mark is 60 and she said there's no definitive person to take over when 70-year-old Peters calls it a day.

Martin has been involved with the party since 1993 and faced a storm of controversy in 2008 when she was accused of filing a fraudulent electoral return - a charge she was later cleared of. 

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"That was a time when the waters were muddied for NZ First. It was a great learning curve and I think that's the strength of NZ First. We come back."

She said her own strengths had turned out to be in the party - not in caucus - after trying three times to become an MP but not getting above 22 on the list.

Martin received backlash in 2011 when her daughter was made number 2 on the list and went on to become deputy leader.

She doesn't regret that decision and said she had one vote on the listing committee.

"I don't go anywhere near the caucus business so people who are critical often don't understand how the system works.

"The party is quite separate from the parliamentary team. What happens in caucus stays in caucus and Tracey and I have worked very hard at that. She doesn't come home and rattle off what caucus did."

There would be three people contesting the presidency at the party conference in Rotorua this weekend.

She said the party was always evolving and were on a high on the back of Peters' success in the Northland by-election.

Her greatest struggle as president was dealing with the growth of social media.

She said it was difficult dealing with people within the party using public forums to voice their own opinions.

"When we have people in our organisation with positions of responsibility who sometimes are out there in the open forum and super critical, it doesn't do the party any good."

 - Stuff

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