It'll be a tough election, 'but I'm a tough character' - Shane Jones

One of the worst-kept secrets of New Zealand politics was revealed on Friday - ex-Labour MP Shane Jones will stand for New Zealand First in Whangarei.

He'll have a tough fight in a long-time safe National seat, where Shane Reti holds a healthy majority, but Mr Jones says he'll prove his critics wrong and he won't be "dilatory".

"There's not a pavement, a house or a business that I won't pay attention to," he told The Nation on Saturday.

"I'm no shrinking violet. I'm a tough character, I have a lot of passion, I know how to resonate with people."

He says NZ First will win Whangarei voters' favour by dealing with issues of jobs and inequality, but unlike any other party, Mr Jones says they'll take on "narco criminality" and the menace of gangs.

But he won't be making any statements like Hone Harawira, who recently told The Nation Chinese importers of methamphetamine should be executed.

"Hone destroyed his career by associating with a fat German, and he's running the prospect of ruining what's left of his career by associating with the leader of the Philippines," Mr Jones says.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has waged a deadly war on drugs, with thousands of users and dealers killed without trial. Mr Harawira last weekend suggested executing Chinese meth dealers.

As for leadership of NZ First, he says he won't be vying for Winston Peters' spot, but did not strongly protest the idea. 

He says at school he learnt "the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon", and has no doubts about Mr Peters' capability.

"First win Whangarei, make myself relevant, make myself known again to ordinary Whangareites who don't remember me."

If he succeeds and NZ First becomes a kingmaker, Mr Jones says he's "pragmatic" on the possibility of working with the Green Party in a potential coalition with Labour.

Regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Mr Jones wouldn't clarify to The Nation if he had changed his mind. After leaving Labour, he had advocated in support of the TPP while working as a diplomat for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade under National.

"I had a stance which reflected the policy of my boss Murray McCully," he says.

"The TPP deal is now dead... and I've no idea what the future is going to hold for TPP."