Labour leader Andrew Little has defended Labour's candidate processes after Rohan Lord withdrew saying it seemed there was "no chance for white middle class men" in Labour.

Rohan Lord, a former America's Cup sailor and Olympic sailing coach, withdrew as a candidate because of his list ranking at 72. He was to stand in the East Coast Bays electorate - a safe National seat.

Lord referred to Labour's rules on ethnicity and gender, including the requirement to have 50 per cent women after 2017.

He said while he appreciated the reason for those rules, he could not see a future with Labour as a "white, middle-class man".


Little said it was not unusual to expect new candidates to stand in more than one election before they got a high list placing or winnable electorate to show commitment to the party and the job. That had been made clear to Lord.

Little said he was pleased with the depth of talent in the list and did believe Labour's caucus and the wider Parliament should be as representative of Parliament.

"Given what we've achieved with the list that we've got and the people we've got, and the indications we've given to people, including Rohan, that there is opportunities in the future for that talent to come on board, I'm very pleased with where we've got to."

Little also joked about Lord's claims there was no room for white middle-class men, arriving to speak to media with MPs Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford. He quipped of the three of them:

"I do note the trouble we are having recruiting white middle-aged men, so we are taking action on that this morning."

It took Twyford two elections to get a winnable slot on the list. He was ranked at 56 the first time he stood.

Lord told Newstalk ZB he could not see a path forward with Labour's current rules.

"If the current rules stay the same in the Labour caucus there's no chance for white, middle-class men - unless you've been around for a very long time. But that's just reality; whether it's good or bad, it's reality."


"They talk about a 50/50 woman, man split in caucus and I agree with that. And I'm saying this in a real positive way. But if you're woman, you're ethnic, or Maori, you're higher on the list than anyone who's white, male or middle class. I just couldn't see a path forward at all."

Lord is not the only white, middle-aged male to struggle with Labour's rules.

MPs such as Damien O'Connor and Trevor Mallard have had their own run-ins with Labour's list committee.

O'Connor infamously dropped off the list in 2011, saying it was dominated by a "gaggle of gays and self-serving unionists".

He went on to win back the West-Coast Tasman electorate from National. His fortunes on the list have since rallied - he is at 17 this year.

Lord, a former Yachting New Zealand and London Olympics team manager had been keen to use his business and fundraising background to make some changes in a seat that's been held by outgoing National MP Murray McCully since 1987.


But Lord said he was disheartened when told his list place and believed Labour needed people with a business background.

"I've got a lot of respect for the other candidates, for different reasons, getting up and giving it a go. But I can't see anyone on the list with my business-like experience - and I think they need that.

"People, with all due respect, who're 21 [and have] limited experience, were higher on the list than me."

Lord says he fundamentally believes in Labour values, a fair deal for every New Zealander, and says he would have given it a good go. But he believes the party is missing out on middle New Zealand.

"Some of those East Coast Bays parents, their kids are going to have to buy houses one day. And if the price of housing carries on the way it is, it's going to affect them, and they're going to want to educate their kids and that will be expensive too. This affects everyone," he said.

"I just fundamentally couldn't understand why, with my skill set, in my opinion, why I'd be so low. Because I can talk to those people who the 'institutionalised' type aren't talking to."


Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton said Lord's personal circumstances had changed, but he did not give any further detail.

Rohan Lord feels Labour needs people with his experience, but he couldn't understand why he would have such a low list ranking with his skill set. Photo / File
Rohan Lord feels Labour needs people with his experience, but he couldn't understand why he would have such a low list ranking with his skill set. Photo / File

He said being a political candidate was a big commitment, and it was not uncommon for one or two people change their minds.

McCully has held the East Coast Bays seat for 30 years - apart from two terms as the Albany MP - and won with a 15,000-vote majority in 2014.

One of his staffers, Erica Stanford, has been chosen to stand in his place and is all but certain to enter Parliament.

Labour is also seeking a Hamilton West candidate to replace Sue Moroney, who is standing down at the election.

Moroney announced her retirement last month after she failed to get a winnable spot on Labour's list.


Nominations for the East Coast Bays electorate close at 5pm on Friday, June 9, and those hoping to contest Hamilton West have until the same time on Friday, June 16.

Labour has completed its selections in the other 69 seats. It announced its rankings last month.

National is expected to announce its rankings in June or July.