One of National MP Maurice Williamson's supporters says he dropped his ambition to run as Auckland's mayor partly because the National Party refused to let him stand under the party's banner.
Unlike Labour and the Greens, National has never stood candidates in the local body elections but National-aligned blogger Cam Slater said Mr Williamson was trying to get the party to change its stance. Mr Slater, who is a friend of Mr Williamson, believed National's refusal had cost the centre-right the only chance to beat Mayor Len Brown.
Mr Williamson announced yesterday he had decided against standing, saying he had taken personal, political and funding issues into consideration in his decision.
He intends to stand in the Pakuranga electorate again for Parliamentary elections next year, but did not rule out running for Auckland Mayor in 2016. Mr Williamson refused to comment any further when asked whether National's refusal to stand in local body elections was a factor.
Mr Slater also indicated Mr Williamson had spoken to some high-profile people who were willing to stand alongside Mr Williamson under a National banner in Auckland.
He would not give names, but Michael Jones has ruled out running for Parliament for National in the past because it would mean too much time away from his young family. Mr Jones did not return calls yesterday.
Mr Slater said funding would also have been an issue for Mr Williamson because changes to the rules after the Auckland Council was formed meant mayoral contenders in Auckland had a spending cap of $580,000 in the three months before an election - much higher than the $70,000 caps for Christchurch and Wellington mayoral races. Mr Slater said this meant that a candidate would realistically have to raise about $1 million to have a chance and that was difficult in the time left. Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer said Mr Williamson's decision was disappointing but not surprising. He did not intend to stand for mayor himself, saying he was only a first-term councillor. However, he would not rule it out in 2016. He said the centre-right would work on getting a majority after October. "The mayoralty is important but gaining a majority around the council table is critical. Mayor Len Brown needs to be held to account and slowed down as he is rating, borrowing and spending like never before."
A spokesman for Mr Brown said he respected Mr Williamson's decision to stay on in Parliament "and acknowledges his hard work as a local MP".