11 Aug 2010

Labour MP Winnie Laban resigns seat

5:28 am on 11 August 2010

Labour Party MP Luamanuvao Winnie Laban is resigning from Parliament to take up a job in academia, forcing a by-election in her Mana electorate.

Ms Laban has been an MP since 1999 and has represented the safe Labour seat of Mana since 2002. She holds the seat with a majority of 6,155.

She has announced she will leave Parliament before the end of this year to become Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Pasifika at Victoria University in Wellington.

Ms Laban says it is a job she wanted from the moment it came up and will allow her to focus more on education outcomes for Pacific Island people.

She told Checkpoint on Tuesday she is not sick of politics, but is leaving because she feels ready for a change and it is a perfect role for her.

"It's a career move for me and I think that one likes to feel like they're in charge of their own destiny. I'm really happy that I wanted a change; I wanted to move to something different."

By-election likely in November - Goff

Labour leader Phil Goff says Ms Laban will probably resign in October and a by-election is likely to be held in November.

Mr Goff says he will be sad to see Ms Laban go, but but the resignation is an opportunity for the party to continue its renewal.

He says Labour will be looking for a strong, new candidate and will campaign on issues such as prices rising ahead of wages and unemployment.

Ms Laban says her majority has increased with each election and Labour is well-placed to retain the seat.

Hekia Parata interested in standing

The National MP, Hekia Parata, who stood in Mana last election, says she would be interested in doing so again.

Prime Minister John Key says National will do everything it can to win the by-election, but is downplaying the party's chances.

"We'll be definitely running a candidate in Mana, but we acknowledge that it's very much a Labour seat and we're right up against it."

Mr Key says Ms Laban has made a tremendous contribution to Parliament and will be missed.

It will be the second by-election since the 2008 election. The other was held in the Auckland electorate of Mt Albert in June last year after former Labour leader Helen Clark left Parliament to take up a position at the United Nations.

MP not given her due, says Tongan council

The chairman of the Tongan Advisory Council says Ms Laban was never given her due by the Labour Party.

Melino Maka says when Ms Laban was appointed the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs the position was moved outside the Cabinet.

Mr Maka says that is one of Labour's biggest mistakes, as the Pacific community did not regard it well.

Ms Laban has great respect in the Pacific community, not only in New Zealand but throughout the region, and her appointment at Victoria University is a big win for the institution, he says.