Green Party to stand against Labour in Mt Albert by-election
Labour will face a contest in its attempt to retain the Mt Albert electorate, with the Greens announcing they will stand a candidate in February's by-election to give voters a choice.
The move comes despite National announcing it would not put forward a candidate in the race to replace retiring MP David Shearer - a decision which led to Labour accusing the Government of "running scared".
The by-election is being held to fill Shearer's seat, with the former Labour leader leaving to head up a United Nations peacekeeping team in South Sudan.
The Greens have a memorandum of understanding with Labour to "change the government" at the next election, and decided against standing a candidate in December's Mt Roskill by-election to aid a Labour win.
* Bill English: Ardern 'difficult to beat' in Mt Albert
* National 'running scared' from Mt Albert by-election
* Jacinda Ardern running for Mt Albert selection
* David Shearer to lead UN peacekeeping team
However, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the party was committed to standing a candidate in Mt Albert, despite the likelihood of a Labour win.
"That's not a reason for us, or any other party, to not field a candidate.
"The people of Mt Albert deserve to hear more than just one view on the issues they care about - that is their democratic right."
Labour candidate Jacinda Ardern said it was "weak" of Prime Minister Bill English to opt out of running in Mt Albert, given the issues that Aucklanders faced.
"He's denied thousands of Aucklanders the chance to engage with the government on whether they're ever going to fix the city's traffic-clogged roads, or finally put first-time homebuyers before property speculators."
Turei said the party would select its candidate in January ahead of the February 25 by-election.
LABOUR 'RELAXED' ABOUT DECISION
Labour campaign manager Andrew Kirton said the party was "relaxed" about the Greens' decision, as the two parties shared similar views about how the Government was failing Aucklanders.
"We're really looking forward to talking to locals in Mt Albert about the National Party's dismal record on housing, health, transport, and crime. It's just a shame that National isn't prepared to front up to the Mt Albert community and explain their record."
The party was taking nothing for granted in Mt Albert, and wanted to earn a new mandate for whoever sought to replace Shearer in the seat.
Kirton said nominations for Labour's candidate would close on 12 January.
FOCUS ON 2017 ELECTION - NATIONAL
Announcing the by-election date last week, English said National would not stand a candidate as it was focused on winning the 2017 election later in the year.
"To achieve that goal, we don't intend to participate in a by-election in the new year that is in a safe Labour seat."
Labour deputy leader Annette King described English's decision as "gutless", saying her party wanted to have a proper discussion in Mt Albert about the issues that mattered to voters.
"English is running scared from his first test as a leader. He clearly doesn't want another bloody nose after the Mt Roskill defeat.
"It's typical of National. They don't like building houses, so they don't have a Housing Minister. They don't like by-elections so they don't run in them."
Ardern has announced her desire to be the party's candidate in Mt Albert, and is the heavy favourite for selection due to her status within the party.