Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Five National hopefuls eye Winston Peters' seat

Ms May said it would be a challenge to unseat Mr Peters, but emphasised the need for the right candidate to be selected. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ms May said it would be a challenge to unseat Mr Peters, but emphasised the need for the right candidate to be selected. Photo / Mark Mitchell

National is preparing to try to wrestle the Northland seat back from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and at least five potential candidates are already in line to take on the challenge.

National lost the seat to Mr Peters in a byelection last year after the resignation of MP Mike Sabin.

The date for selecting the 2017 candidate is yet to be decided, but electorate chairwoman Rose May said Northland would be among the first on National's list.

Ms May said it would be a challenge to unseat Mr Peters, but emphasised the need for the right candidate to be selected.

"We need to have somebody who is well known in their own right and has that x-factor. If we can find that person, we will have no problem winning the seat back, but if we don't, then it's going to be a struggle."

Mr Peters was "the perfect politician", Ms May said. "He's so well known, he's so well liked. He doesn't actually do anything."

Five people are understood to be interested, including Mark Osborne, who was soundly defeated by Mr Peters last year.

Mr Osborne confirmed he was considering a second tilt, but had not made a final decision. He was "not at all" put off by his bruising first encounter with Mr Peters: "It's not going to be an easy challenge by any stretch of the imagination."

Others understood to be keen include Kerikeri doctor Chris Reid, former police officers Matt King and Darren Edwards, who now works for the Far North District Council, and businessman Ken Rintoul.

Dr Reid moved to Northland from Britain about 10 years ago after serving as a GP and a decade in the Royal Marines, including time with the Royal Navy's special forces. A keen photographer, he published a book last year of photos of his patients.

Meanwhile, National's byelection promise to upgrade 10 one-way bridges in Northland - a pledge widely mocked as pork-barrel politics - is still a point of contention.

Yesterday, NZ First transport spokesman Denis O'Rourke said only three were included in the next transport plan for Northland. Transport Minister Simon Bridges was adamant the bridges would be delivered within a six-year timeframe, even if the Government had to dip into funding other than the Land Transport Fund.

However, he did have one backtrack to make, finally admitting that putting two lanes on the Darby and Joan Bridge between two kauri trees in Waipoua Forest was "marginal". Claire Trevett

- NZ Herald

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