Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Tau Henare retirement: 'It's been a hell of a lot of fun'

National MP Tau Henare is to retire at the election in September. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National MP Tau Henare is to retire at the election in September. Photo / Mark Mitchell

National MP Tau Henare says his decision to retire from politics was influenced by a low list placing for the general election.

Mr Henare told his caucus this morning that he would be standing down in September after 15 years as an MP for New Zealand First and National.

He said he was not encouraged to retire or made to feel uncomfortable within the National Party, but he was not expecting a prominent role after the election.

Asked what he expected his list placing to be, he said: "Count backwards from 100."

Prime Minister John Key said it "made sense" for Mr Henare to step down.

"He's had his time in our caucus. He feels he's made a good contribution. But he also feels that he wants to do something else with his life.

"In the 2011 campaign he went down in the rankings and he said at the time that he took that as a message from the National list ranking committee that he probably had one more term left in him."

Asked whether he was given the opportunities he wanted, Mr Henare said: "The Prime Minister's got a team to run, and he's the captain. If I don't like it I can leave."

Mr Henare dismissed speculation that he would move to the Internet Party.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard, who has long battled Mr Henare in the House and on Twitter, said Mr Henare was "one of the real characters in Parliament".

"I think it's regrettable that they chose people of lesser talent to be ministers and I think if they'd treated him properly then he could well have stayed on."

The two MPs were once involved in a punch-up outside the debating chamber after Mr Henare accused Mr Mallard of being a hypocrite.

Asked about the incident this morning, Mr Henare said: "I should have hit him first."

Mr Mallard responded: "It might have been a different result if he had. He might have not ended up on the floor."

Mr Henare said he did not yet have any plans after Parliament.

"I'm looking forward to it. I'm happy, I feel really at ease with myself and I know that fifteen years in this place I've contributed to New Zealand and it's been a humbling experience but it's also been a hell of a lot of fun."

He joked that he would be a taxi driver or dig drains.

"The dream job for me would be a director on the board of Liverpool Football Club."

Mr Henare will step down from politics 21 years after he won the Northern Maori seat for New Zealand First. He lost his seat in the 1999 election but returned to Parliament as a National list MP in 2005.

He was previously a Maori Affairs Minister and is currently the chair of the Maori Affairs select committee.

The MP made a bid to replace Lockwood Smith as Speaker last year, which he admitted this morning was "over the top".

Mr Henare said his "darkest day" was failing to get treatment for Rau Williams, an elderly Whangarei man who died in 1997 after he was taken off dialysis.

"I still hold Whangarei Hospital to account for that and basically they signed his death warrant."

The biggest change in his time in Parliament was the increase in Maori representation.

"When I came in in 1993, there was less than a handful. Now everybody's got one."

He also gave some advice for young Maori wanting to enter politics.

"Buy yourself a suit or a nice dress. When I came into politics, I didn't even own a suit. I had to borrow one."

National Party retirements since 2011 election (alphabetical order):

1. Shane Ardern, Taranaki King Country
2. Chris Aunchinvole, List
3. Jackie Blue, List (already gone)
4. Cam Calder, List
5. Phil Heatley, Whangarei
6. Paul Hutchison, Hunua
7. Colin King, Kaikoura (challenged in selection
8. Eric Roy, Invercargill
9. Tony Ryall, Bay of Plenty
10. Katrina Shanks, List (already gone)
11. Lockwood Smith, List (already gone)
12. Chris Tremain, Napier
12. Kate Wilkinson, Waimakariri

- APNZ

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