National categorically rejects that there was any manipulation in selecting a candidate for Auckland Central after the pre-selection committee "did not strictly follow the letter of our rules", says party president Peter Goodfellow.
National was thrust into another candidate selection process after the shock resignation of electorate MP Nikki Kaye last month, following her short rise to deputy leader under previous leader Todd Muller.
The pre-selection committee put forward two candidates, Nuwanthie Samarakone and Emma Mellow, to delegates. However, the National Party constitution sets five as the minimum number of candidates in the event there are more than five approved nominees.
Mr Goodfellow said he "absolutely and categorically rejects any assertion made that the process to date was manipulated in any way".
He said with the context of Auckland Central being the "most marginal seat in the country" and with the shortened campaign time due to the retirement of Ms Kaye, "the pre-selection committee had difficult decisions to make from a wide pool of excellent candidates".
The pre-selection committee in the Auckland Central nominations 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."
The party is set to decide on a candidate on August 10.