Senior Fonterra executive Nicola Willis has resigned her Auckland-based position to seek nomination for the National Party in the Labour-held seat of Wellington Central.
Willis was a senior adviser to Prime Minister John Key from 2006 to 2011, a period spanning his time as Leader of the Opposition as well as in government, and is mounting a challenge against National's list MP who contested the electorate in 2014, former diplomat Paul Foster-Bell.
The internal challenge is the second to emerge against a sitting National MP, with the Politik newsletter reporting this morning that Parliament's youngest MP, 26 year-old Todd Barclay, is facing a challenge in one of National's safest seats, Clutha-Southland, formerly held by Finance Minister Bill English.
Investment banker Simon Flood, who returned to New Zealand last year after 25 years out of the country, will challenge for the nomination, Politik reported.
Both Barclay and Foster-Bell have made little impact politically beyond attracting headlines for allegedly poor handling of staff, and high turnover in their offices.
Willis is currently general manager of Fonterra's nutrient management programme and joined the cooperative in 2012 in a government relations role. If elected to Parliament, she would be the second Fonterra senior manager to join National's ranks, following Todd Muller, who won the Bay of Plenty seat for National at the 2014 election.
Barclay and Muller ranked 54th and 59th respectively on the 2014 National Party list, most likely reflecting the expectation that they would win their seats, while Foster-Bell was ranked 46th and relied on a high enough party vote for National to enter Parliament, as Wellington Central remained with Labour's finance spokesman, Grant Robertson.
Robertson and Green Party co-leader James Shaw will also be contesting the seat at the 2017 election.