The Labour Party has launched a bid to wrestle back its once staunchly-held electorate power in Hastings in the face of a huge majority held by National incumbent Craig Foss.
The commitment to battle was laid as three people chasing the party candidacy in Hastings-based Tukituki electorate addressed a party meet-the-nominees meeting in Havelock North yesterday, determined that whatever the outcome of a selection meeting on March 16, they'll stick together to fight the war.
The three are horticulture labour provider Sanjeev Bhatia, of Meeanee; Hastings legal and commerce graduate and rights campaigner Nevada Halbert, and Waipukurau-raised business woman and former journalist Anna Lorck.
The chosen candidate faces the challenge of rolling Mr Foss, who in 2011 was returned for a third term with a 9660-votes majority over Labour candidate Julia Haydon-Carr.
Mr Foss was first elected in 2005, with a 2402-votes majority, ousting Labour MP Rick Barker, who had served four terms as an electorate MP, and who would serve two more as a Labour List MP.
Now a Hawke's Bay Regional Council member, Mr Barker entered Parliament in 1993.
The new hopefuls bubbled enthusiasm after yesterday's meeting, sure that if Labour picks up the supporters who haven't been voting and those disaffected after voting other parties in 2011, then Tukituki can be won.
Electorate chairman Peter Egerton, promising a clean campaign, said: "Everyone knows what Craig Foss hasn't got, but they don't know what we have got.
"All three are committed, all three are determined, and all three promise that whoever gets selected they will work to support the candidate," he said.
Mr Bhatia has had about 10 years involved with the Labour Party since emigrating from India in 2001.
Working in vineyards and orchards, he runs orchard labour firm Wine Country Labour 2003 Ltd.
Mr Halbert has returned to his Hastings roots after travelling and working extensively overseas.
He has campaigned for animal welfare and environmental issues, as well as AIDS prevention and violence against women, while abroad.
Ms Lorck is a director in media company Attn! Marketing PR with husband Damon Harvey, providing communications, editing and publishing expertise to a range of businesses.
Mr Foss answered suggestions of a threat to his bastion by saying: "I will ask the people and families of Tukituki to continue their ongoing trust in National, me, and my Backing the Bay at every opportunity.
"I will continue to work as hard as always for an even better Hawke's Bay."
Labour has already chosen its candidates in Napier (Stuart Nash) and the CHB-inclusive Wairarapa electorate (Kieran McAnulty), and is expected to field new MP Meka Whaitiri in the Ikaroa Rawhiti electorate, which was not contested by National when she was elected in a by-election last year.
National selects a candidate to replace departing Napier MP Chris Tremain next Saturday, from three nominees: Chamber of Commerce executive director Wayne Walford and businesswomen Deborah Burnside and Adrienne Pearce, the latter also a recently-elected Hastings District councillor.
It's also still to select a candidate to replace departing Wairarapa MP John Hayes, with multi-millionaire Wellington-based investor Alastair Scott being challenged by new list MP and Apiti farmer Jo Hayes, originally from Eketahuna and no relation to the incumbent.