Tāmati Coffey has been selected to replace Kiri Allan as Labour’s candidate in the East Coast electorate.
It’s understood Coffey was selected on Sunday night - a fast-tracked selection process after Allan announced she was stepping out of politics on Monday.
Coffey had earlier announced he was leaving politics in March this year after the birth of his second child.
However, Coffey said after the “tragic events” of last week, things have “changed significantly”.
“The people of the East Coast need a strong, experienced MP who can hit the ground running and provide strong representation in Parliament,” Coffey said.
“The East Coast has been through so much this year, and it needs an experienced champion in Parliament.
“At the start of this year, the region had two senior Labour MPs representing [it]. I’m here to finish what they started.
“As an MP, I’ve helped hundreds of constituents with difficult issues – I know how to stand up for people, how to get things done and how to champion people in need.
“This is an area I know well. As first the electorate and then the list MP based in the Waiariki region, I’m very aware that half of the Waiariki electorate overlaps half the East Coast electorate from Maketu to the East Cape.”
Coffey “proudly acknowledged” his whakapapa of his kuia, after being raised between Gisborne and Uawa/Tolaga Bay.
“Most importantly, whānau were my reason for stepping back, and it is my whānau who have given me the green light to stay in politics, challenge for the seat and to do my bit to support an area that I love that so needs a champion right now,” Coffey said.
“I will work hard every day of this campaign to win the trust and support of the people.”
Coffey said he wanted to put the “mighty” back into the East Coast.
Allan had won the seat in 2020 with a majority of 6,331 votes - it had earlier been held by former National MP Anne Tolley.
In 2020, he lost the Waiariki electorate to Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi - the only Labour MP to list a seat in that election.
Coffey hs yet to respond to requests for comment tonight. Labour is also set to announce its party list on Monday.
Ohariū MP Greg O’Connor has confirmed to the Herald he had opted out of the list again this election, as in 2020.
“It’s all or nothing.”
He will face National deputy leader Nicola Willis.
Coffey told the Herald in March he hadn’t contemplated retirement until the birth of Taitimu five weeks early on January 25, his second child by surrogacy to husband Tim Smith.
At the time, as he approached the end of six weeks of “baby leave”, Coffey said the time away from the daily churn of politics had its impact.
“Six weeks is a really long time to think about things when it’s the middle of the night [and] you’re feeding [your] baby,” he said.
Contemplating a departure from politics after six years had been tough, Coffey conceded, but his focus was now on supporting his whānau.
“I’ve had discussions with my whānau, with my supporters around the region ... and they’ve all just understood my reasons for wanting to do this.”
The seat he will contest became available last week after former Justice Minister Kiri Allan resigned as a Cabinet minister following being charged with careless driving and refusing to accompany police after she crashed her car in Wellington.
Allan said she would not contest the East Coast electorate she won in 2020 in the next election so she can heal and “chart a new course” for her life following mental health struggles that led to the crash.
She did not, however, rule out a return to politics.
A court date for Allan has now been set, with her first appearance scheduled for September 4. Her case will be called in the Wellington District Court.
In addition to the charges, Allan was issued with an infringement notice for excess breath alcohol between 250-400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.
An apologetic Allan said she had failed many people who had placed their trust and confidence in her and let down her electorate, party and all those who relied on her.
Allan had returned to her full ministerial duties on the Monday the week before the crash after taking some time away from Parliament due in part to a relationship break-up.
While she was taking a few days of mental health leave, separate allegations were reported regarding her treatment of staff, which she strongly denied.
She then took another two weeks off over Parliament’s recess.
The Government also refused to confirm this week whether taxpayer money would be used to pay for the damage to Allan’s car and the other person’s damaged ute, citing privacy.