NZ Election 2020: Jami-Lee Ross won't contest Botany electorate

Former National Party MP and Advance NZ co-leader Jami-Lee Ross won't contest the seat of Botany at the election.

Ross will instead only stand on the Advance NZ list, believing co-leader Billy Te Kahika will win a seat, allowing both to get into Parliament if the party gets enough of the party vote.

Te Kahika is standing in Te Tai Tokerau, which is currently held by Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis. Davis comfortably won the seat in 2017 with a 53.97 percent share of the vote and nearly 5000 votes more than runner-up Hone Harawira, a high-profile candidate for the Mana Party.

The MP said his focus was on steering Advance NZ's strategic direction. He believes the party will be "competitive" at the October 17 election.

"I could not do justice to our 60 candidates, our 7,000 members, and the thousands of volunteers, while also properly running in the three-way contest here on the ground," he said.

"Billy Te Kahika is on track to win the Te Tai Tokerau seat which will see Advance NZ crossing the one seat threshold."

Ross told The AM Show Te Tai Tokerau wants a "fighter" and Te Kahika "is doing that".

He said it was an "emotional decision" to step back from the Botany electorate.

"This wasn’t the decision I expected to be making three years ago, but I’m focussed on the future, not the past.

"Botany and East Auckland is my home where I have grown up personally and professionally."

The deadline for electorate candidates to get their individual nomination forms in is on Friday. 

Botany, which Ross held for National from 2011 until his falling out with the party in 2018, will be contested by National candidate Christopher Luxon, the former Air New Zealand chief executive.

It's a safe National seat, but Ross said he believes it was a three-way race this election between himself, Luxon and Labour's candidate, Naisi Chen.

Ross has been sitting in Parliament as the independent MP for Botany since late 2018. He accused then-National leader Simon Bridges of corruption and fraud, which Bridges denied. 
Ross is facing criminal charges over donations collected for the National Party, but has defended himself as a whistleblower.

The recently registered Advance NZ merged with Te Kahika's NZ Public Party in July.

"By forming an alliance of parties, together with other small parties that believe in greater freedom and democracy, we stand a stronger chance of uniting together and crossing the 5 percent threshold into Parliament."

Ross said in a statement on Tuesday that Advance NZ's "growth in membership, fundraising, social media reach and volunteers on the ground" shows the party  is "tapping in to growing voter dissatisfication with the current main parties". 

The MP has recently made comments critical of New Zealand's COVID-19 strategy, saying it was "unsustainable" for the Government to lock the country down at "any cost". 

"Eventually, when the Government turns off their tap at the wage subsidy; businesses will fall over, people will lose their jobs, they will lose their homes, they won't be able to feed their children," he told MagicTalk earlier in September.

Te Kahika has been criticised for several controversial claims he has made about the likes of COVID-19 and 5G. The New Zealand Public Party (NZPP) was blasted in August after uploading a video falsely claiming the Government had passed a law allowing it to "force" citizens to get a COVID-19 vaccine.