Dumped Kaikoura MP 'furious'
Kaikoura MP Colin King is said to be furious after being dumped as National's candidate in the electorate.
A majority of party delegates last night backed Blenheim-based winegrower Stuart Smith over King, who has been the Kaikoura MP for three terms.
King last night toed the party line in a cordial statement, wishing Smith all the best but, privately, he is understood to be annoyed and let down by the party.
He politely and firmly declined to comment when contacted this morning, referring Fairfax Media to his statement last night before hanging up.
Sources within the party said the electorate was bitterly divided over the selection for several weeks but were convinced to go with Smith as the party looked to continue its renewal programme that has seen several sitting MPs indicate they will stand down at the 2014 election.
In a party statement last night, King encouraged local members to get in behind Smith and help return National to power next year.
"It has been a tremendous privilege to serve as the MP and I have greatly enjoyed making a contribution to the growth of our region," he said.
"While I am disappointed that I will 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."
National's Canterbury-Westland regional chairman, Roger Bridge, said National's selection process was "highly democratic."
Despite saying nothing was pre-determined, it is understood party officials were keen to continue to keep up its renewal programme and there were ongoing concerns King was not adding value to the National "brand".
Bridge said King had worked hard as the area's MP and served its communities well over three terms.
But he lavished praise on Smith, saying he had been an advocate for Marlborough communities for many years and offered voters "a strong voice" in John Key's National Party at the next election.
Smith is a fourth generation South Islander, a former chairman of the New Zealand Winegrowers Association and a founding and current member of the community-owned Southern Valley's irrigation scheme.
He is married with three teenage children.
In a statement, Smith said he was grateful for the confidence National had shown in him.
"National's plan to build a stronger economy is delivering real opportunities for us in Marlborough and North Canterbury but regional New Zealand is facing many challenges and there is still much more to be done," he said.
"I will be working hard to win the support of our communities to ensure we can keep building on this progress after the next election."
The seat is a staunch National electorate with King holding a 11,445 majority at the 2011 election.
- The Press
Should David Cunliffe take a family holiday two months out from the election?Related story: I'm working my butt off - Cunliffe