Newly elected Labour MP Stuart Nash says he has been taking advice from "dirty politics" operative Simon Lusk and has always been happy talking to people across the political spectrum.
There has been speculation Mr Nash will be among contenders for the job of Labour Party leader after the resignation of David Cunliffe this week.
But the former list MP, who has returned to Parliament after winning the Napier seat a fortnight ago, has spent the past few days denying he has immediate aspirations for the Opposition's top job.
"At this stage, I'm not planning on putting my name forward but there's another 10 days to go [until nominations close] and let's see who else puts their hat in the ring," Mr Nash said yesterday.
Mr Cunliffe - seeking a fresh mandate following Labour's dismal election performance - has put his hand up for another tilt at the job. Grant Robertson is the only other confirmed candidate at this stage.
"I suspect like every single Labour MP, I'm watching, I'm waiting, I'm looking and it will be interesting to see what happens," Mr Nash said.
"A number of people and groups have asked me to consider putting my hat in the ring but I'm assuming there will be other people who will be talking to other MPs as well."
Speculation that Mr Nash may bid for the leadership has flagged the issue of whether his standing would raise questions over his links to key players identified in Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics - Mr Lusk, Cameron Slater and Matthew Hooton.
Mr Nash said he had been in contact with Havelock North-based Mr Lusk because the pair were both opponents of the proposed Ruataniwha water storage scheme.
"He's run a pretty good campaign, I think, in terms of what I've seen, and I've taken some advice on how to message stuff there," Mr Nash said.
He said other Labour MPs, and some Hawke's Bay regional councillors, had also been in contact with Mr Lusk over the Ruataniwha dam issue.
Mr Lusk yesterday declined to comment on his relationship with Mr Nash. Mr Nash said he had written two articles for Whale Oil blogger Mr Slater when Mr Slater was editor of the Truth newspaper.
One of the articles was about "the disgrace" of the high levels of child violence in New Zealand and another article was on tax.
"I have mates right across the political spectrum and I make no apology for that. But having said that, I don't consider Cameron Slater or Simon Lusk friends. Matthew Hooton certainly is a very good friend of mine, and I bang into him socially every now and then, and he's quite enjoyable company, but that doesn't change my politics or how I view things, believe me," he said.
"When people say 'be careful of your right-leaning friends', I say 'why would I do that?' We [MPs] get advice from a whole lot of different people - Matthew doesn't give me advice."
Labour's other Hawke's Bay-based MP, Meka Whaitiri, who represents the Ikaroa-Rawhiti electorate, said she had an open mind about who should be Labour's next leader and "it's important that we wait to see who all the contenders are".
She said a paramount consideration for her was which potential leader offered the most to people in her East Coast electorate.
"I'm reserving my preference until everyone's declared who's running and one of the questions I'll be asking is how do we get growth in our region," she said yesterday.
She said she and Mr Nash "get on very well" and while individual Maori MPs may have sounded him out as a potential leadership candidate, Labour's Maori caucus had made a collective decision to keep an open mind. "We've made a clear decision that we will wait until all potential candidates have declared their hand, and then we want to meet with them individually."