A National Party candidate is believed to have set her sights on the plum Auckland Central seat - a move which would see her walking away from her candidacy in Manurewa.
Three party sources have told the Herald that Nuwanthie Samarakone is one of two candidates short-listed yesterday to replace MP Nikki Kaye, who is stepping down from politics at the election.
The other candidate from a field of 18 hopefuls is senior communications manager Emma Mellow, according to the sources.
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Samarakone's decision to seek the Auckland Central nomination after being selected as National's Manurewa candidate last month having missed out on the North Shore and Takanini nominations is understood to have annoyed some party members.
The selection process for the National Party is confidential and candidates are prohibited from making statements.
After being selected as the National candidate for the Labour stronghold of Manurewa on June 20, Samarakone said she would "be fighting to ensure Manurewa has strong, local, National Party representation".
Mellow has been involved with the Young Nats and works for ANZ. Sri Lankan-born Samarakone is the founding CEO of ICE (Inspire, Create, Engage), which connects new graduates with organisations.
Mellow and Samarakone have three selection meetings at Waiheke Island, Ponsonby and the Ponsonby Cruising Club at Westhaven to impress 60 party delegates before the final vote on August 6, according to one party source.
The source said Mellow won the backing of electorate delegates at the pre-selection meeting, while Samarakone had the backing of party board delegates.
The National Party candidate will be selected on August 6 and have just six weeks to try to retain the high profile seat of Auckland Central, which Kaye has held since 2008.
Kaye twice beat Jacinda Ardern in the seat before the Prime Minister took on the neighbouring Mt Albert electorate.
A National Party spokeswoman said Auckland Central is seen as key for the urban liberal members of the caucus.
"We were very sad to see Nikki go, but are also gratified with the work she put into the electorate ... we want to continue that same sense of dedication and energy.
"It is not going to fall, despite what Labour and the Greens might be saying," the source said.
Kaye won the seat in 2017 with a majority of nearly 1600 votes over Labour's Helen White. The Green's Denise Roche was well back.
This election, White is competing for the seat against Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, who is mounting a serious campaign to win the seat.
Polls indicate support for the Greens is hovering around the 5 per cent threshold needed to return to Parliament without an electorate seat. White has repeatedly said there'd be no electoral accommodation for Swarbrick.