National to choose candidate this month

Hamish Walker. Photo: supplied
Hamish Walker. Photo: supplied
The National Party expects to name a candidate to replace disgraced MP Hamish Walker by the end of the month.

National Party spokesman Mark Nicholson said a "shortened process" would be employed to find a new candidate for the Southland seat in September’s election.

Candidates would be vetted, then a shortlist of five or fewer contenders would go on a round of meet-the-candidate meetings in the electorate.

The successful candidate would be selected by a vote of delegates.

Although it depended on the electorate and the number of nominations, the selection process "normally takes a bit longer than that".

Nominations for the electorate, renamed from Clutha-Southland after boundary changes, opened yesterday and close next Friday.

He "couldn’t comment" if any nominations were received yesterday.

The expedited selection process follows the abrupt end to Mr Walker’s political career on Wednesday after he and former National Party president Michelle Boag confessed to being behind the privacy breach of Covid-19 patient information to media.

Mr Walker sent the details of 18 active cases to the Otago Daily Times and two other media outlets last week.

He did not appear to be at his Queenstown home yesterday, and a sign at his electorate office in Frankton says he is on annual leave until July 20.

National Party Southern regional chairwoman Rachel Bird could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Despite the Clutha-Southland electorate being one of the safest National seats in the country, the new candidate will vie to be its fourth MP since former prime minister Bill English switched to his party’s list in 2014.

Mr Walker’s predecessor, Todd Barclay, did not seek re-election in the 2017 election after admitting he made secret recordings of a staff member.

Others to contest the nomination since Mr English vacated the seat include Queenstown businessman Simon Flood, marketing consultant Mark Wilson, former Queenstown Lakes mayor Vanessa van Uden and Nick Perham.

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said political parties must nominate their candidates by August 20.

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