Heather Te Au Skipworth ditches Māori Party role after Meka Whaitiri switch

Heather Te Au Skipworth has announced she will not stand for Te Pāti Māori this election. Photo / Robert Kitchin / Stuff

Te Pāti Māori has lost one of its most prominent candidates, Heather Te Au Skipworth​.

Skipworth had been announced as its candidate for Ikaroa Rāwhiti before ex-Labour minister Meka Whaitiri defected to Te Pāti Māori, and replaced Skipworth​ as its candidate in the eastern Māori seat.

Meanwhile, Labour is gearing up to confirm its candidate to go up against Whaitiri.

It has spent weeks trying to rebuild the Labour electorate team in Ikaroa Rāwhiti, much of which was made up of Whaitiri’s whānau and supporters. A new team is now in place, and Labour officials are working to lock in a candidate before the end of June.

When Whaitiri joined Te Pāti Māori, Skipworth said she supported her move and was happy for her to take the Ikaroa Rāwhiti candidacy. They are whānau, and Skipworth said it was right to step aside and help “liberate” her cousin.

She said she would remain involved with Te Pāti Māori, and just a few weeks ago party president John Tamihere announced Skipworth would stand in the general electorate of Tuki Tuki.

But in a surprise move, Skipworth on Tuesday confirmed she would not be standing for Te Pāti Māori.

As well as being a long-time Māori Party supporter, she was well known for creating the Iron Māori competition. She did not elaborate on why she wouldn’t contest this election for Te Pāti Māori, and declined a request for further comment.