National's 17-year-old candidate for Palmerston North, William Wood, has removed a public photograph on his Facebook page showing a friend making a hand gesture adopted by white supremacists.
The photograph shows Wood and four male friends at Parliament for a mock UN Security Council summit. One friend is wearing a red baseball cap with United States President Donald Trump's election slogan "Make America Great Again" and making the "Okay" hand gesture.
The hand gesture has been around since the 17th century and become associated with the word "Okay". In recent years it has come to represent a hate symbol, with some members of the far right using the gesture to represent the letters "wp" for "white power".
Wood, who has gone from being a high school prefect to political candidate in the past month, could not be reached for comment.
However, a National Party spokesman said the person in the hat was representing America at the summit, which is why he was wearing the hat.
"The hand gesture is one that is commonly used by Donald Trump - which is who he was
"It is absolutely not a white supremacist hand gesture. As recently as last year, the Prime Minister has also been photographed making this hand gesture," the spokesman said.
He said Wood had started a public Facebook profile following his recent selection as National's candidate for Palmerston North and as such, had made a lot of his online content private to protect the privacy of family and close friends.
Wood, who has had an interest in politics since about the age of 12 and expressed aspirations to be prime minister, will contest next year's general elections against Labour Cabinet Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, who had a 6392 majority in 2017.
Wood has just finished his final year at Palmerston North Boys' High School and is the youngest National candidate ever. He will have to re-sign his candidate form when he turns 18 in January.
Speaking with Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB today, Wood said his age was not an issue, saying National was there for anybody prepared to put in the hard work to get a good result.
Asked about life experience or lack of it, Wood said he brings something different to the table.
"Understanding you people and their passions is an important thing that our political scene is lacking at the moment," he said.
Wood said his goal was to win Palmerston North and work in the best interests of the community.
He was the Youth MP for the Rangitīkei electorate in the 2019 Youth Parliament, and he told Stuff at the end of last year, as a 16-year-old, that he wanted to be Prime Minister.