Greg O'Connor's visit to Colorado
After weeks of speculation former Police Association President Greg O'Connor has confirmed he will be putting his name forward for Labour in Ohariu at the next election .
O'Connor, who was the familiar face of the police union for more than 20 years, was shoulder-tapped for the nomination by Labour leader Andrew Little.
That sets him up as the favourite to win the nod from Labour to take on long term sitting MP and UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne in the Wellington seat.
Nominations close this week and the selection will be held on February 12.
O'Connor has been granted a waiver by Labour from its requirement that candidates must be a party member for at least one year. He said he had not been a member of any party when he was with the Police Association.
"For the last 20 years, I have successfully advocated for police officers, nationally and internationally, and I now seek to use those skills to represent the people of Ohariu," O'Connor said.
He said he wanted to be part of a government focused on ensuring proper housing, health care, education and jobs for all, as well as a safe and secure society.
Labour was a good fit for him.
"It's all about a fair go and opportunities for New Zealanders," he said.
"I have a strong sense of social responsibility, and the ideals and ethos of the Labour Party, which demand a fair go and opportunities for all New Zealanders, made the decision to join them a natural one."
He said he had lived in the electorate five times over the years and worked and played for sports teams in Ohariu and had close ties to the community, so standing in the electorate was a natural fit.
His interests and skills went beyond the Police environment, learned while leading the commercial arm of the Police Association, which oversees a large commercial and property portfolio.
He was also active in the Intellectual Disability sector and is a director of a commercial business.
Little has said O'Connor would be a good fit for Labour and "lines up perfectly with our view that we need to have a well-resourced police force that's able to respond to the needs that people who are victims of crime actually have".
Suggestions O'Connor would run for Labour raised questions about whether his strong law and order pedigree, especially his advocacy for arming the police, would fit well with Labour or be a stumbling block to the Greens stepping aside to make his job easier in the seat.
Green co-leader Metiria Turei has said she does not agree with many of his stances.
But O'Connor, 57, said with the Police he had advocated a position that was held by 70 per cent of police officers. However, in recent years he had focused on taking the guns off the criminals and others that should not have them.
"I think if effective action can be taken to reduce the number of firearms that criminals in New Zealand have, then it may well be possible to keep New Zealand Police not generally armed. But that has to be done."
On the other side he had been criticised by firearms user for being too liberal because Police had called for an inquiry.
"The fact you are being criticised by both sides means you've probably got it right."
On drug reform, he also signalled a softer stance.
He said he had visited Colorado, where cannabis is legal, and Holland and Portugal and looked at how other countries deal with the issue. He believed there were better ways to deal with cannabis than just relying on the criminal justice system.
The possibility of the Greens standing aside for him was going to be "a decision made beyond the level I'm at at this stage".
He had known, and dealt with, Dunne for many years.
"I've never had a problem with Peter."
Dunne, who won with a majority of 710 in 2014, has confirmed he plans to stand again this year.
O'Connor is a cousin of Labour MP Damien O'Connor.