TVNZ's Shane Taurima has confirmed he will seek Labour's selection for the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election, saying the late Parekura Horomia had approached him about standing in the past and he was now ready to "return home.''
Mr Taurima, who is the head of Maori and Pacific Programming at TVNZ, will go up against at least two others to contest the seat for Labour including district councillor Henare O'Keefe and Ngati Kahungunu chief executive Meka Whaitiri. It is expected to select the candidate this weekend.
Mr Taurima, who is of Ngati Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine descent with connections to Ngati Porou has been a journalist for 18 years, including as a presenter for TVNZ programmes Marae, Te Karere and political show Q+A.
Mr Taurima said Mr Horomia had urged him to stand for Parliament at least twice, before both the 2008 and 2011 elections.
"Given my career choice and the absolute need to be impartial, apolitical and professional, I would politely decline his approaches and he respected me for that.
It wasn't my time back then. I wasn't ready. But I am ready now.''
A spokeswoman for TVNZ said Mr Taurima had resigned from Q + A and was now on leave from his other broadcasting roles.
Born and raised near Napier, Mr Taurima said he had lived in the electorate most of his life - from Napier to Upper Hutt - before moving to Auckland four years ago.
"My grandparents sent me off to the big smoke to get experience, skills and knowledge. They said the time will come when you return home and put it to good use for the betterment of the people. That time has come.''
Whilst we have no doubt that Mr Taurima would be a good fit for Labour, especially if he previously had the support of the late Parekura Horomia, there's one slight problem; check these tweets out:
We strongly dislike txt-speak, but to translate the top one, we believe that it says "Taurima said last week that he is not and has not been a member of the Labour Party". That could cause a delicate dilemma, because the New Zealand Labour Party's very own rules are explicit as to candidate selection; refer to #251 below:
If what Shane Taurima told John Drinnan from the Herald last week is correct, Shane Taurima does not qualify to stand for the Ikaroa-Rawhiti nomination. The NZLP rules of course leave the party with an "out" in that the NZ Council can grant a waiver.
We saw that in the Mana by-election in 2010 when Phil Goff's press secretary Kris Faafoi suddenly won the Labour nomination for the safe Labour seat ahead of the LEC's choice, Josie Pagani. The nett result of that decision was that Faafoi turned a 2008 majority of 6155 to a very close contest, only beating off Hekia Parata by 1406 votes, narrowly avoiding a real embarrassment for the party.
We doubt that Labour's grip on Ikaroa-Rawhiti will be tested, as there will still be an immense amount of goodwill towards the late Parekura Horomia. But transporting in a candidate who does not have a strong local support base could cause Labour problems next year.
But it begs the question; should political parties be able to drag someone in off the streets who has no previous background with the party? In this case it's the Labour Party, but it is not a problem which is limited to them; most parties in the current Parliament have engaged in it to some degree. And why have a rule like #251 at all, if it can be so easily circumvented?
It also begs the question which we pose with tongue in cheek; when a journalist becomes a politician, is it an upward or a downward move in terms of their public perception?