Former Immigration Minister Tuariki Delamere standing for TOP in Auckland Central

A former Immigration Minister is making a political comeback after 20 years out of the game to join the battle for Auckland Central. 

Tuariki Delamere announced at a meeting on Friday night he is joining the Opportunities Party (TOP) as its immigration spokesperson.

"In 2017 I was impressed with TOP's policies and their vision," Delamere said, in comments reported by the Indian Weekender. 

"I was also impressed by enthusiasm, passion, and commitment of the candidates. This year, I realised that if I was serious about maximising TOP' chances then I should get off the side-lines and offer myself as a candidate."

He took aim at the Government's handling of thousands of skilled migrant residence visas sitting in backlog under Immigration New Zealand. 

"The current fiasco of 15,000 skilled migrant residence visa applications just sitting, not being processed is a gross indictment on the Government. This fiasco continues to grow exponentially with every passing day of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"It is clear that many will be declined and told to return to their home country. The Government needs to be open, transparent, and honest with these 15,000 applicants."

Delamere was only an MP for three years, between 1996 and 1999, and went straight into Cabinet as part of NZ First's coalition deal with National. 

He was dumped as Immigration Minister after giving permanent residency to Chinese businessman in exchange for investment in Māori development schemes.

He fell out with party leader Winston Peters, supporting Peters' sacking from Cabinet as New Zealand's first MMP coalition government fractured.

He lost his seat in 1999.

TOP leader Geoff Simmons said there was "no one like Tuariki Delamere in New Zealand politics, and we’re looking forward to the September election with him beside us".

"Tuariki has acted as an advisor to our executive team for some time now, and we are proud to have him on the team in a public facing role as a candidate."

In the latest polls, TOP's share of support has ranged from 0.1 percent to 1.5 percent, well below the threshold required to get into Parliament without winning an electorate seat.

Auckland Central's current MP, Nikki Kaye, announced her retirement this week - leaving the race for the seat wide open.

Delamere last year revealed he was fighting bladder cancer.