Williamson backtracks on comments made about his use of Donghua Liu's bach, as Colin Craig confirms he's eying the Pakuranga seat

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig could be one of the candidates challenging Maurice Williamson in the Pakuranga electorate this year.

Mr Williamson resigned as a minister yesterday after the Herald revealed he had contacted police over the investigation into domestic violence charges against a Chinese businessman he had strong ties with.

However, he remains an MP and reportedly still intends to contest his Pakuranga seat at the election.

Read more of the Herald's coverage of Maurice Williamson this morning:
Crossing the thin blue line
Police alerted Beehive under 'no surprises' policy
Editorial: Williamson - the other questions


Mr Craig told Radio New Zealand this morning that standing a strong candidate in the area was important for the party.

"From our perspective, it's a seat we did very well in last time and we know we'll do very well in this time and therefore has to be on the radar for us.

"I haven't ruled out standing there myself. I did grow up in Howick and Pakuranga, I played cricket for Howick-Pakuranga, my father taught at Pakuranga College so there are ties to that electorate.

"It's an area that I know, an area that I grew up in and then from there it's a genuine area that I could represent,'' he said.

The party was working through it's "candidate process'', and was hoping to have decided on its candidates by the end of the month, Mr Craig told Radio New Zealand.

Williamson backtracks on comments

Meanwhile National MP Maurice Williamson has backtracked on comments regarding his family's use of Chinese businessman Donghua Liu's holiday home in the Coromandel.

In an interview on Campbell Live last night, Mr Williamson talked about he and Liu having neighbouring holiday homes in Pauanui.

He said he recommended the home to Liu when it went on the market, and had used the house while he was making repairs to it over Christmas.

"I'm a fan of being a handyman and the house was good to be able to use while we were doing it," he told Campbell Live.

This morning, Mr Williamson said last night's comments had been incorrect.

"We don't use his holiday home at all. I did some work in it over the Christmas break for the first time ever because he's just bought it," he told Newstalk ZB.

Mr Williamson today resigned his ministerial portfolios after the Herald revealed he phoned a senior police officer about the criminal charges that Liu was facing. Prime Minister John Key said today Mr Williamson "crossed the line", despite assuring him that he did not intend to influence the prosecution.

"It was a mistake to say that."

"My kids didn't use it. I had keys to it so I could do some cabling. I said I used it while I was doing some work in it."

Mr Williamson maintains he made a mistake in calling the police over Liu's case, and had no ulterior motive in making the call.

"All I was wanting to know was, was the proceedings going to continue.

"I believe that I made a mistake, I've stepped down as a minister, but I intend to contest the next election and the people of Pakuranga will choose whether they think that's suitable," he told Newstalk ZB.

A Herald investigation today reveals Liu's citizenship ceremony was held in Mr Williamson's electorate office, the day after he was granted the status of a New Zealander.

But the MP rejected accusations that he had allowed Liu's wealth, donations or friendship to influence his judgment.

Mr Williamson said he believed he was doing his job as an MP when he contacted a police superintendent to inquire about two domestic violence charges laid against Liu in December.

He had been "shocked" at the charges because Liu had required a clean record to get a New Zealand visa.

Asked why he told the superintendent about Liu's large investments in New Zealand, he said it was to provide "background" for police. But he admitted that he had made an error in judgment.

"There is clearly a perception that a Member of Parliament should not call the police at all about a case and I will make sure I will never do that again."

He was "shattered" and "gutted" about his demotion to the backbenches and his family were "in a bit of tatters".

Prime Minister John Key was in no doubt that Mr Williamson had "crossed the line" by contacting the police about the Liu case.

National MP Maurice Williamson crossed the line in making a phone call to police over the case of a wealthy businessman, Prime Minister John Key says. Mr Williamson told a senior police officer that the businessman, Donghua Liu, who was facing domestic assault charges, was "investing a lot of money in New Zealand" and urged police to be on "solid ground", according to internal police emails.

"There's no grey in this. In the end there's a line. The line says that ministers do not involve themselves in police prosecutions, because constabulary independence runs at the heart of the New Zealand judicial system. Ministers cannot, in my opinion, make phone calls when there's an ongoing prosecution, whatever the motivations.

"The minute he made the phone call, in my view, he crossed the line."

Mr Williamson vowed to hang on to the Pakuranga seat he has held for 27 years.

He has already been chosen as National's candidate in the electorate, which he retained in 2011 with one of the largest majorities in the country - 13,800 votes.

He could have new competition. Conservative leader Colin Craig and Act Party leader Jamie Whyte have both expressed interest in standing there.

Dr Whyte, who grew up in Pakuranga, said last night he had new confidence after yesterday's events.

Crashing to earth from 'big gay rainbow'

Maurice Williamson's shock resignation is another stumbling block for an MP who has jumped from backbench to front bench several times while never losing his enthusiasm, irreverence or sense of humour.

He is a well-liked MP known for his obsession with technology and socially liberal views, and most recently for a swashbuckling speech on gay marriage that was broadcast around the world.

He entered Parliament in 1987 in the Pakuranga electorate, and has held the seat and nine ministerial portfolios since. The 63-year-old was one of the more right-leaning members of the National Party, and a proud libertarian.

A series of incidents and gaffes meant Mr Williamson did not remain a permanent fixture in the Cabinet.

He was suspended from the party in 2003 after showing disloyalty to leader Bill English. Relegated to the backbenches, he turned up in Parliament with a pair of binoculars to joke about how far back in the House he had been demoted.

He rose again when Mr English was replaced by Don Brash. But in the run-up to the 2008 election, he dented his hopes of a Cabinet position after insisting as transport spokesman that National would introduce road tolls of up to $5 a trip.

His outspoken humour landed him in trouble on several occasions.

In 2007, Mr Williamson was forced to apologise for an email he sent responding to a television report on obesity: "If some people can't lose weight no matter what ... how come there were no fat people in the Nazi concentration camps?"

He was a strong supporter of prostitution reform and the legalisation of gay marriage. His "big gay rainbow" speech during the same-sex marriage debate last year earned him international recognition and an invitation to appear on the US TV show Ellen, which he eventually refused.