Labour MP Rino Tirakatene will retire from politics, the party has announced today, opening a door for the return of former one-term MP Shanan Halbert.
Tirakatene, who was a former courts minister, held the Māori seat of Te Tai Tonga between 2011 and 2023. The now-list MP had also previously been a minister of state for trade and export growth.
In his Te Tai Tonga electorate, he lost to Te Pāti Māori’s Tākuta Ferris at last year’s election, which saw multiple tenured Labour MPs lose their races in Māori electorates.
“It’s time to reset and pursue new opportunities. I’m looking forward to the next chapter,” Tirakatene said in a media release.
“But I take the most pride and satisfaction from having served as the MP for Te Tai Tonga.
“Our Southern people amaze me. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the selflessness of our whānau who give everything to sustain our marae and communities and nurture the next generations.”
The MP’s grandfather, Sir Eruera Tirikatene, and his aunt Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, also held the Southern Māori seat, which made Tirakatene a third-generation MP and minister.
Tirakatene said: “I leave Parliament with a warning for the coalition: Te iwi Māori will not roll over. We are not going back in the box. If the coalition unwinds the progress of the last six years, they risk a backlash that will make sure they are a one-term wonder.”
He will become the third Labour list MP to leave Parliament following the party’s disastrous election result. Andrew Little and Kelvin Davis both resigned last year, though Davis’ resignation is not effective until Waitangi Day.
Little was replaced in Parliament by Camilla Belich.
The next two people on Labour’s list are Tracey McLellan, ranked 27, and Shanan Halbert, ranked 28. It was earlier expected McLellan would replace Davis, however she will now be sworn into Parliament in the first sitting week this year.
Halbert is the next eligible person, and will return to Parliament as a list MP in February.
Halbert first entered Parliament as part of Jacinda Ardern’s historic “red wave” win in 2020
Last September, the then-electorate MP denied anonymous bullying allegations levelled against him in the media. Newshub reported on accusations by former employees, who claimed Halbert was “manipulative”, “scheming”, and a “narcissist”.
“These issues have only been brought to my attention through the media. I’ve never had a formal complaint raised against me,” Halbert said at the time.
After Halbert, the next four candidates on Labour’s list, who could become MPs in the event of another resignation, include Glen Bennett, Vanushi Walters, Dan Rosewarne, and Naisi Chen.