Labour still looking for local candidate

The Labour Party is confident there will be a quality "local" candidate to stand for the Rangitata electorate, despite having to extend the deadline for applicants.

Nominations were due to close on February 28, but the party had to extend the deadline by a month after it received no formal applications. However, Labour general secretary Tim Barnett said he knew of at least "a couple" of locals who could be interested.

"It's a matter of timing, they just might not have wanted to show their hand yet, either because of their work commitments or other reasons," he said.

"We know there is interest, that is why we extended the deadline."

Julian Blanchard, who stood unsuccessfully against incumbent National MP Jo Goodhew in 2008 and 2011, has ruled out standing.

Mrs Goodhew won by 8112 votes in 2008 and 6537 votes in 2011.

"Julian did very well, and he built up a good organisation around him. We think with the right candidate, a majority of 6000 is not insurmountable, particularly in the current political environment," Mr Barnett said.

Mrs Goodhew was elected to Parliament in 2005 as MP for Aoraki after she defeated Labour MP Jim Sutton. A boundary review before the 2008 election led to the dissolution of the Aoraki and Rakaia electorates, and the creation of Rangitata.

In the most recent boundary review, the Electoral Commission has proposed readjusting Rangitata's boundaries by moving population around the Raikaia township into the Selwyn electorate.

Mr Barnett acknowledged the demographics of the seat were mixed.

"You still have the urban pockets, such as around Timaru, which used to be very strong Labour territory, but there is a very strong rural component which traditionally votes National," he said.

Mrs Goodhew said the lack of apparent opposition to her was "Labour's issue".

"It's not exactly been through lack of publicity, either," she said. "Every election is different, but I'm looking forward to another campaign. This Government has a pretty good story to tell."

Rangitata Green Party spokeswoman Gerrie Ligtenberg said the party would not stand a candidate in Rangitata, but would continue to campaign for the party vote.

The Timaru Herald