Act Party stalwart and deputy leader Kenneth Wang has pulled out of the party list and resigned as deputy leader just hours before it announced its list of candidates for the election.

Wang said his decision was partly because of the place he was to be given on the list, but also because the party had moved away from policies that attracted him to it in the first place, including on tougher sentencing and 'one law for all.'

The party's 2017 list has Beth Houlbrook, chair of the Rodney Local Board for Auckland Council, ranked second behind leader David Seymour - the place Wang believed he should be ranked as deputy.

Houlbrook has twice stood for Act in the past.

Advertisement

However, Act will need to get about 35,000 votes or 1.2 per cent of votes to get Houlbrook in under the so-called 'coattailing' provisions of MMP if Seymour wins Epsom again. That is twice as many as its 2014 result of 0.69 per cent (16,700 votes).

National leader Bill English has already indicated National will again do a deal in Epsom to try to ensure Seymour survives, by saying his preferred coalition partners are Act, United Future and the Maori Party.

Seymour said the list was notable because the top ten candidates had an average age of 36, a 50-50 split between men and women, and between them they spoke seven languages - although further research revealed that of those, four were spoken by one candidate Shan Ng who is fluent in Cantonese, Malay and Mandarin as well as English.

Wang has been with Act since 2002 and was an MP between 2004 and 2005. He was elected deputy leader in April 2014 and was second on the party list in the last election.

His decision was "partially" because of where he was placed on the list - as the deputy leader he had expected to be second. "I told them I should be high or not on it at all. But they have different priorities."

Seymour said Wang had not expressed any unhappiness with the party's direction until he withdrew.

"When he interviewed to be number two on the list last weekend, he didn't express anything like that - he was very eager to be in Parliament so can read into that what you will..

"We are grateful for Ken's long service but we just found there were a lot of better candidates and he was not prepared to accept a position further down the list."

He said Wang's decision to resign was not a surprise.

Wang said his decision was not a sign of no confidence in Seymour, but the party had changed under that leadership. "I think David has a new style and reflects a new generation."

"There were some particularly important policies that drew me and other people into the party in the first place, namely being tough on crime and one law for all, against racial privilege and discrimination.

Those things have either been significantly weakened or disappeared."

Although Act had secured the three-strikes policy and Seymour had pushed for it to be extended to three-strikes for burglaries, the party no longer advocated tough sentencing laws.

Wang had driven the party's campaign for the Chinese community - Act was one of the first voters to print brochures in Chinese. Wang said much of that support was because of the same policies Wang himself liked and the party risked losing that support.
After Houlbrook, the top ten is Brooke van Velden (Auckland Central), Bhupinder Singh (Manukau East), Stephen Berry (East Coast Bays), Stuart Pedersen (Tauranga), Anneka Carlson (New Plymouth), Shan Ng (Mana), Sam Purchas (Dunedin North), and Toni Severin (Christchurch East.)

In total, Act has 41 candidates on its list.