The Maori Party could struggle to hold on to co-leader Tariana Turia's seat when she departs, experts predict, with one commentator saying that the choice of a low-profile candidate shows how much trouble the party is in.
Political strategist Chris McKenzie was chosen yesterday as the party's candidate for Te Tai Hauauru in next year's general election, when Mrs Turia will stand down after 12 years in the seat.
Mr McKenzie, a former teacher and Treaty of Waitangi negotiator, will carry part of the burden of keeping the party alive as both of its founders - Mrs Turia and Pita Sharples - leave Parliament at the same time.
Political commentators said that Te Tai Hauauru was the most important battleground for the Maori Party next year because the electorate was their platform for growth.
University of Otago politics lecturer Bryce Edwards said Mr McKenzie was a competent candidate but was "hardly the high-profile type of personality that the Maori Party needs to ensure its survival".
He added: "The party has already been losing its grip on the seat while Turia was the Maori Party candidate, so it's hard to see how Chris McKenzie - who is a relatively unknown candidate - has any real chance."
Mr McKenzie, 44, told the Herald he would bring "a bit more fun" to the party while maintaining his predecessor's steely determination.
Raised in Tokoroa, he graduated with an MBA from Waikato University. He said he would be the first Maori Party candidate with a strong grasp of economics, and would emphasise "country values" such as advocacy for forestry workers.
His opponent is likely to be Labour's Adrian Rurawhe.