Jami-Lee Ross' Advance NZ deregistering as a political party

The controversial Advance NZ Party is withdrawing its registration with the Electoral Commission. 

The party ran in the 2020 election under the leadership of former National MP Jami-Lee Ross and then-NZ Public Party leader Billy Te Kahika Jr. The party was notorious for pushing COVID-19 conspiracy theories and misinformation.

In a statement on Friday, Advance NZ said it appreciated the support it received during the election but had decided to deregister. 

"Just over a year ago Advance NZ registered as a political party with the New Zealand Electoral Commission. 

"We appreciate every person and organisation that took part in the election campaign and supported the party to gain about 1 percent of the vote. Few new parties achieve that type of result on their first election campaign.

"Since the election we have given much thought to the future and how best to keep alive the debates that were raised last year. As a result Advance NZ supported the establishment of The Real News and has put considerable financial support into the magazine."

The Real News is a magazine distributed by Advance NZ and lobby group Voices for Freedom, published by Auckland's Jonathan Eisen and his wife Katherine Smith, who is director of Full Court Press.

The magazine has published conspiracy articles questioning "the truth" about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.

Advance NZ merged with Te Kahika's NZ Public Party ahead of the election last year, and the two party leaders went into the election as co-leaders of Advance NZ. 

But following the election, Te Kahika quit as co-leader of Advance NZ, which Ross described as "sad for us all". 

Ross told Newshub at the time Te Kahika "wants to do his own thing" and the decision was a swift one. 

Facebook removed the Advance NZ/New Zealand Public Party page for "repeated" violations of its misinformation policy.

Ross was the subject of a Newshub Nation interview on the morning after the election where political editor Tova O'Brien held him to account over views he put forward during the campaign. 

O'Brien asked Ross if he had any regrets being part of an election campaign that was peddling misinformation.

"You know exactly what you were doing; you were whipping up fear and hysteria among vulnerable communities," she told Ross.

Ross tried to make claims COVID-19's fatality rate is similar to the seasonal flu - something experts have disproven. O'Brien interjected before moving on.

"I don't want to hear any of that rubbish," she said.

She went on to ask Ross why he pulled out of the running for the Botany electorate - where he was the incumbent MP. The seat was won by National's Christopher Luxon.

"I wanted to focus on the nationwide campaign with Advance New Zealand. We had 62 brand new candidates," Ross replied.

He claims had he stood, he would have "taken so much vote off Luxon that Labour would have won the seat".

"You're dreaming, mate," O'Brien said.

The interview went viral on social media.