The National Party has not followed its own rules to find a new candidate for Auckland Central and had to short-list another three candidates to fix the problem.
What's more, the final selection has been put back by four days which means National will not have a candidate when the first Auckland Central candidates' debate is held at Freemans Bay School on August 9.
Party sources said last week's decision to short-list two candidates, Nuwanthie Samarakone and Emma Mellow, provoked angry complaints from MPs and party members and calls to redo the selection process.
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On Friday, party secretary Greg Hamilton emailed Auckland Central voting delegates and applicants saying the pre-selection committee, "despite collective best intentions", has not followed the letter of the rules for pre-selection.
"We have heard the feedback from our party members and the mistake made has been acknowledged and the intention now, per our party values, is to take responsibility and make right the error," Hamilton said.
Under the party rules, the pre-selection committee of five electorate delegates and four party delegates, including party president Peter Goodfellow and northern regional chairman Andrew Hunt, has the job of short-listing five candidates for delegates to elect a candidate.
The pre-selection committee reconvened on Friday and short-listed three further candidates - Rob Thomas, Sarah Manley and Sang Cho. On Saturday, Manley withdrew from the race.
The selection process for the National Party is confidential and candidates are prohibited from making statements.
What one party member described as a "fiasco" is setting back National's attempt to retain Auckland Central, a party stronghold until Nikki Kaye won the seat in 2008.
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Kaye twice beat Jacinda Ardern in the seat before the Prime Minister took on the neighbouring Mt Albert electorate. Kaye is retiring at this election.
The seat is a three-way tussle with Helen White determined to win it back for Labour, Chloe Swarbrick going all out to bring it home for the Greens, and National determined to hold on.
A National Party spokeswoman last week said Auckland Central is seen as key for the urban liberal members of the caucus.
"It is not going to fall, despite what Labour and the Greens might be saying," the spokeswoman said.
One party member said "this mucking around in Central by the supposed party leaders really pisses me off".
"Why didn't they just put up the top five candidates and let us choose the best one."
The member said the pre-selection of Nuwanthie Samarakone, who stood unsuccessfully for the North Shore and Takanini electorates before being chosen as National's candidate for Manurewa, was being pushed by Goodfellow and Hunt.
Last week, a source said Mellow won the backing of electorate delegates at the pre-selection meeting, while Samarakone had the backing of party board delegates.
Another party member said: "There has been a wilful disregard of the rules by the president and regional chair. Everyone is in shock and extremely unhappy with the manipulation of the process."
A third source said the fact members were being undisciplined and leaking material to the Herald "gives you an insight into how angry people are".
"It is the job of the pre-selection committee to provide a short-list for the delegates, not manipulate the selection process," said the senior party member.
In a statement, Goodfellow "absolutely and categorically" rejected any assertion the process to date was manipulated in any way.
"The National Party runs extremely local and democratic selection processes, the most democratic of any party in Parliament," he said.
Goodfellow said Auckland Central is the most marginal seat in the country and the party is very focused on retaining it for National.
"With that marginal seat context, the retirement of a hardworking and much-loved local MP in Nikki Kaye, and an extremely shortened campaign time, the pre-selection committee had difficult decisions to make from a wide pool of excellent candidates.
"In the case of Auckland Central nominations, the pre-selection committee, comprising a majority of local members, and chaired by the local electorate chair, voted unanimously to put forward two candidates to delegates. In so doing, it did not strictly follow the letter of our rules. The pre-selection committee has now acknowledged that and rectified the issue.
"We now look forward to a robust selection process, where local members can determine who their next candidate will be for Auckland Central," he said.
A spokeswoman for National Party leader Judith Collins said there is a process is in place and "we will not be commenting before that process is completed".
In his email, Hamilton said the pre-selection changes have meant adjusting the dates for the meet the nominee meetings and the final selection meeting.
"This will put our final selection back by four days but we will still be ready to hit the ground running with our new candidate," said Hamilton.
The new selection date of August 10 is the day after the first Auckland Central candidates debate at Freemans Bay School hosted by Ponsonby News.
Meanwhile, Kaye has posted on her Facebook page that she would be out with volunteers yesterday delivering 20,000 leaflets in Auckland Central in support of National.
Kaye was asked about the National Party candidate and told by friends that National better hurry up because Labour and the Greens are working hard.
One person who posted, Miriam Whelan, said: "It feels like National are losing ground quickly here without a candidate."
Three days ago, Kaye gave a valedictory speech in Parliament where she said winning the seat and becoming the first National MP for Auckland was one of the best nights of her life.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Owns Anabelles restaurant in St Heliers where he grew up. Last year, he criticised Auckland Transport's consultation over safety measures in the beachside suburb, saying it needed more car parks, not fewer.
Long-time party member believed to be active in the Upper Harbour electorate. Withdrew from the race on Saturday.
Active member in the Young Nats, worked as a communications adviser at Sydney Airport and currently a senior communication manager at ANZ. Believed to have strong backing among local party members.
Sri Lankan-born and founding CEO of ICE (Inspire, Create, Engage), which connects new graduates with organisations. Stood unsuccessfully for the North Shore and Takanini electorates before being selected as the candidate for the Labour stronghold of Manurewa. Believed to be the favourite among the party hierarchy.
Former member of the Waitemata Local Board who only joined the party recently. Told the Herald last week Auckland Central is an awesome community but was not standing for the seat.