National puts up virus expert to contest Science Minister Megan Woods' electorate

The National Party has put up a new candidate with expertise in viruses to contest the Wigram electorate currently held by Labour MP and Science Minister Megan Woods.

Hamish Campbell has a PhD in viruses and cancer from the University of Otago and is currently the Deputy Head of Research at a facility in Australia where he oversees medical research into multiple sclerosis.

The 40-year-old has been selected as National's candidate to take on Dr Woods who has held the Wigram electorate since 2011. She has a PhD in New Zealand History from the same university and is currently Science and Innovation Minister.

Dr Campbell said science and technology is his "passion", and as New Zealand grapples with a novel coronavirus that's infected more than two million people across the globe, he said his expertise in viruses "is very topical at the moment".

The father-of-two replaces David Hiatt who ran as National's Wigram candidate at the 2017 election. Hiatt currently sits at number 52 on National's party list, so he'd be made an MP if a current list MP resigned. 

That's what happened in June 2019 when National list MP Nuk Korako resigned. It allowed Paulo Garcia - next in line on the party list - to replace him, becoming National's first Filipino MP.

Hiatt was trumped by Dr Woods at the 2017 election. She won 52.1 percent of the vote compared to Hiatt's 38.17 percent, followed by the Greens' candidate Richard Wesley who didn't even make 5 percent.

Virus expert Dr Hamish Campbell wants to topple Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods in the Wigram electorate.
Virus expert Dr Hamish Campbell wants to topple Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods in the Wigram electorate. Photo credit: Getty / Supplied

Who else is running?

Dr Campbell joins a growing list of candidates already announced by National, including the high-profile former Air New Zealand boss Christopher Luxon, who will contest the Botany seat currently held by former National MP Jami-Lee Ross.

There's also Tim Costley, a former aide to Prince William, who's running as National's candidate for Ōtaki. He once starred in an air force rock video that has clocked up almost a million views online. 

His turn to politics came after an announcement in 2019 that current National MP for Ōtaki,  Nathan Guy, would not be seeking re-election after 15 years as an MP. 

National also selected its youngest candidate ever in William Wood who was 17 at the time he was announced to contest the Palmerston North seat currently held by Labour's Iain-Lees Galloway who's had it for more than a decade.

Wood's selection sparked a bit of controversy as he was chosen to run instead of three female candidates, including Jo Hayes, a sitting National list MP. She was announced in March as National's candidate for Mana. 

Palmerston North candidate William Wood.
Palmerston North candidate William Wood. Photo credit: File

The Greens also put up a 17-year-old, climate change striker Luke Wijohn, who will contest Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's Mt Albert electorate in Auckland.

Palmerston North isn't the only long-held Labour seat to be contested by a young National candidate.

Catherine Chu, 23, will challenge Ruth Dyson's Port Hills seat, who has remained the MP for the area since 1999. In the latest electorate reshuffle, the area has been re-named Banks Peninsula, which was its name when Dyson first won it.

Catherine Chu, of Korean descent, is running for Ruth Dyson's seat.
Catherine Chu, of Korean descent, is running for Ruth Dyson's seat. Photo credit: Supplied

Dyson indicated in March 2019 she will not seek re-election. The same goes for Labour's Clare Curran, MP for Dunedin South, now called Taieri. 

A number of National MPs have done the same, including Amy Adams who plans to step down after the election and not contest her Selwyn seat, as well as North Shore's Maggie Barry, and Invercargill's Sarah Dowie.

Nicola Grigg, a 39-year-old portfolio manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, is running as National's candidate to potentially replace Adams. 

Nicola Grigg will run for the Selwyn electorate.
Nicola Grigg will run for the Selwyn electorate. Photo credit: Supplied

National list MP Nicky Wagner and National list MP David Carter are both retiring after the election.

National MP Anne Tolley will also not contest her East Coast electorate because she hopes to be selected as Speaker, while National deputy leader Paula Bennett won't contest her Upper Harbour seat to focus on campaign management.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed this week that despite COVID-19 disrupction, no changes have been made to the election date of September 19.