New list MP and former diplomat Paul Foster-Bell will seek the nomination as National's candidate for the Whangarei electorate next year after sitting MP Phil Heatley confirmed he was stepping down.

Former Cabinet Minister Mr Heatley announced his intention to retire from politics at next year's election today, saying: "As an MP and Cabinet Minister I've achieved much locally and nationally. At 46, it's now time to move on to fresh challenges and opportunities in the private sector."

Mr Foster-Bell who entered Parliament in May following the departure of Jackie Blue and unsuccessfully contested the Wellington Central seat in 2011 and Dunedin South in 2002, said this afternoon he would seek the nomination for Whangarei - his home town.

"I'm pretty keen to carry on the good work that Phil's been doing and represent the good people of Whangarei. I appreciate Whangarei will be a highly sought after seat because it's a strong National seat, but at the same time I think I've got both some experience as a new MP and good credentials having worked offshore representing the country and family connections and was born and bred there."


Mr Heatley replaced John Banks as the National Party's MP for Whangarei in 1999 and has been re-elected with healthy majorities in the four general elections since.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of being an MP and a Cabinet Minister. It has been an honour to serve the people of Whangarei, the place of my birth, since 1999", he said in a statement.

Mr Heatley became a Cabinet Minister in 2008 with the housing and fisheries portfolios, but stood down from his ministerial posts in 2010 before returning 34 days later after being cleared of any intentional wrongdoing over the misuse of his ministerial credit card.

He had signed an expense claim for a dinner when, in fact, the $70 charge was for bottles of wine at a National Party function.

In January Mr Heatley was stripped of his Energy and Resources and Housing ministerial portfolios in a Cabinet reshuffle.