Shane Jones confirmed as NZ First candidate for Whangarei
Former Labour MP Shane Jones has been confirmed as the NZ First candidate for Whangarei.
His selection, one of the worst-kept secrets in politics, has been hinted at for months.
Jones left Parliament in 2014 for a job as the Pacific Economic Ambassador.
He will face off against National's Shane Reti for the seat. National have held the seat since 1975.
Reti won the seat in 2014 with a 13,000 vote majority, but none of his competitors had the profile that Jones does.
Even if he loses the seat Jones is likely to make it into Parliament with a high list placing.
Jones served as building minister, trade minister, and immigration minister during the last Labour government.
In 2010, he was forced to admit to using his Crown credit card to rent pornographic films while at hotels on government business, apologising and describing himself as a "red-blooded, robust dude".
His contract for the ambassador role is understood to have ended in May.
Jones admitted it was the "worst kept-secret" in Parliament.
"It was quite hard telling Murray McCully I didn't know what I was going to do once I finished up as the Pacific Economic Ambassador," Jones said.
Donning a black "Put New Zealand First Again" hat, well within the Donald Trump mould, Jones said immigration was a "legitimate concern" in his acceptance speech to a crowd of 200 on Friday.
"[We] want a government that is part of the world but puts ourselves first," Jones said.
"Whangarei is taken for granted. Whangarei gives its votes to a party that continues to mock the regions of New Zealand. The current government has become captured by corporate, metropolitan, indiscriminate in the sense, that it has no desire to dedicate direct resources where you and I know where they should be: the productive regions."
"Back a change merchant and we will turn the fortunes of Whangarei around ASAP."
Speaking to media after the speech Jones said he was joining the race to win.
"I'm enthusiastic mate, I'm eager to get into the race."
Jones has often been seen with Peters since leaving in Parliament, stoking speculation he was to join the party.
National party campaign manager Steven Joyce said it would be a "straight scrap".
"Shane Reti is doing a great job, and he's a hard worker. And you can say a lot of things about Shane [Jones], he's not the hardest worker in the world," Joyce said.
"We're pretty confident, but ultimately the public will decide."
Party leader Winston Peters said Whangarei had suffered from "decades of neglect."
Peters won the neighbouring electorate of Northland and will be hoping to repeat the trick.
"You give us those three years and we will never let you down."
He told media Jones' list placing would be decided in early August, and scolded reporters for asking where Peters would like to see him.
Peters, 72, said if he re-won Northland he would serve out the full three year term.
"I'm at the peak of my intellectual and physical powers."
LOCALS LIKE WHAT THEY HEAR
Northland Farmer Rob Stevenson, who was at the announcement, said Jones was really well-known by the voter who would fit well into the NZ First party. He said the party already had a good standing in Northland, particularly since its leader was also the region's MP and he saw the combined team's political experience as advantageous.
"They've got the power and the push to get the region cranking,"' he said. It would be good to see the rural provinces receiving some long over due Government support.
Heeni McGrath saw Jones as "a good man who might shake the town up a bit." She predicted he would beat Reti at the upcoming election.
Merle Stokes, an NZ First supporter, said Jones would be true to the region.
Marie Tautari was prepared to give Jones her support - "as long as he holds to the New Zealand First values and polices, or I will sure have plenty to says about it," she laughed before admitting she was Winston Peters' sister.