The circumstances surrounding former Conservative Party press secretary Rachel MacGregor's resignation are a factor behind Colin Craig's decision to stand down as leader, board member Christine Rankin says.
Mr Craig, the party's founder and main financial backer, stood down as leader yesterday. He had expected to face a leadership challenge at a board meeting last night, which was postponed.
Mrs Rankin said there were a range of issues behind Mr Craig's decision, and Mr Craig's and Ms MacGregor's falling-out was one of them.
"Of course it's an issue for the party," Mrs Rankin told the Weekend Herald.
Ms MacGregor made a surprise resignation from the party two days before the September election, accusing Mr Craig of being manipulative. At the time, Mr Craig denied any mistreatment of his press secretary.
Mrs Rankin, who resigned as CEO and deputy leader after the election but remains on the board, said Mr Craig made the right decision in standing down.
"There's a lot of questions that need to be answered and it's appropriate that he take that action. Good on him."
Both Mr Craig and Ms MacGregor said they could not comment. The pair are thought to have reached an agreement over their dispute.
At a press conference in Auckland yesterday Mr Craig and party chairman Brian Dobbs did not answer questions on his offer to resign.
Mr Craig said there had been many varied rumours about the planned board meeting "ranging from the intriguing to the ridiculous".
He said some board members felt it was "timely to have a leadership discussion" and he supported a review of his position.
"I've offered to stand down as leader to enable the board to consider the leadership role," he said.
Mr Craig said he would remain involved in the party, but did not confirm whether he will seek re-election as leader.
The board members who were planning to challenge Mr Craig's leadership were also upset about Mr Craig's appearance on TV3's late-night show Newsworthy this month, in which he was interviewed in a sauna. They felt it was damaging to the party and reminded the public of Mr Craig's "crazier" side.
Rumours of a leadership spill first emerged in March, when some party members appeared to line up former candidate Garth McVicar for the role.
Mr McVicar did not return calls yesterday. He has previously said he has no interest in leading the party.
Mrs Rankin also said yesterday she was not interested.
"Never, never, never under any circumstances. Not interested, not interested."
Mr Craig, who is a wealthy property manager, said he would make sure any loans to the party were forgiven. Records show Mr Craig made a loan of $315,000 to the party in November, of which $90,500 was outstanding.
Since he established the party in 2011, he has invested $4 million from his own pocket.
But despite that financial backing and high-profile candidates such as Mrs Rankin and Mr McVicar, the Conservatives failed to win a seat in the election.