National Party Napier candidate Wayne Walford is stepping down from the role of Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive while he mounts his bid for a seat in Parliament.

Mr Walford, who was named four months ago as National's hope of retaining the seat being vacated by three-term MP Chris Tremain, had originally intended taking leave from the chamber role from August 8, but will now make the break from next Monday.

Last night, he said it had become "more and more difficult" to do the two roles and maintain the integrity of the chamber role while conducting the National Party campaign.

"I was doing okay," he said, but the opportunity had arisen and it was better to make the decision now.


It came too late, however, for chamber member GoGroup's Murray Painter, who wrote in an online post last week: "I feel that to pay a membership that helps fund someone who is continuously in the press speaking from a political party perspective, rather than advocating for business as the head of a business group, is wrong.

"GoGroup has, therefore, resigned as a member of the Hawke's Bay chamber," he said, adding: "Does this mean I am anti-National? No!

"I just feel that the [chamber] board was wrong to have Wayne Walford stay on as CEO whilst he is campaigning for a national political role."

Unaware of Mr Walford's decision to stand down until contacted by Hawke's Bay Today, Mr Painter said yesterday he was concerned "from the word go" and that Mr Walford should have stood down when he was selected as the candidate.

Mr Painter hopes to return to the chamber as a member, providing it takes up a greater interest in the export sector.

The "opportunity" Mr Walford referred to is the availability of businessman and retired chamber board member Graeme Norton to stand in to organise important chamber events, although Mr Norton told Hawke's Bay Today it was unlikely he would be able to take up the position permanently if Mr Walford's bid for Parliament was successful.

Chamber president Brent Linn said the election campaign was "obviously a time-consuming task" and, with major events to plan for the chamber, including the annual business awards later in the year, Mr Walford was driven by the "practical realisation" the time commitments make it difficult to be chamber CEO and an election candidate at the same time.

Labour Party candidate Stuart Nash, who last month pointed to conflict between chamber and National Party stances on the Napier-Gisborne railway issue, said last night: "I haven't got time to worry about what Wayne is, or isn't, doing, as my team and I are flat out campaigning hard on the issues that are important to the people of Napier."

However, he said, people had mentioned their concerns about Mr Walford turning up in chamber roles and then taking part in party campaigning.

Mr Nash will take leave from his job as executive manager of the AUT University South Campus at Manukau from August 6, to concentrate on his campaign.