Just who is Jami-Lee Ross?
Twenty five-year-old Aucklander Jami-Lee Ross leapt into the national spotlight last week when he won selection to be the National candidate for Botany in the March 5 by-election.
But Ross has been well-known in his community for much longer than that.
He was raised by his grandmother, Sharron Martin, and wanted to become a pilot but instead entered into local body politics at the tender age of 18.
After being re-elected for two terms Ross was last year elected to the first Auckland Council.
His presence has been, at times, a thorn in the side to the left wing side of the council, including mayor Len Brown.
Ross this week talked to Sarah Harvey about his hopes and dreams for a future in central government.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Papatoetoe. I was raised by my grandmother. I have never met my father and my mother was quite young when she had me so my grandmother decided when I was baby that she would take me on.
When I was about 12 years old we moved out to Pakuranga. I think it was primarily for the swimming club actually. I was very active in the swimming club and the best swimming club in Auckland was out this way.
My grandmother was so dedicated she wanted to put me into the best swimming club.
When I met my wife, Lucy Schwaner, about four years ago, we moved to Botany.
How did you get into politics?
I've always had quite an interest in politics. When I was 18 years old the local body elections were coming up and I thought 'hey, I would love to make a contribution to my community, and i'll give this a go.' So I went out there and knocked on doors and met the locals in Howick and they were nice enough to put their faith in me.
Many people would say it is an unusual thing for an 18-year-old to be interested in.
Councils and parliament are made up of people from all walks of life and I decided at the time that 40 per cent of the people in Manukau City were under 25 and they needed some representation - so that was my primary plank when I stood for election in 2004 and people tended to agree with me, and they elected me.
I must have done something right because they re-elected me twice after that.
What have been your greatest achievement in local politics to date?
The local athletics club really wanted a new athletics track and that was a big deal for them because they have got one of the best clubs in Auckland. So, together with my council colleagues, we built them an all weather athletics track.
There is a big park in the electorate called Mangamangaroa, it's well established but needed growth because there were lots of people moving into the area, so we decided we would purchase some more land. There's a new hall being built down in Flat Bush that we had a hand in.
What about in your personal life?
I have a pilot's licence. I don't get much time to fly these days. I guess when I was starting out as a teenager that was the direction I wanted to go in and started off pilots training. But once I got on the council I found that it's fairly intensive and a full time job so I haven't had time to pursue that - it's more of a hobby now.
What prompted you to move into central government politics?
Its always been something that I thought I would do in the longterm I seriously believe that it's important that local MPs be local people.
I live in Botany, it's my home, it's where I represent currently on the council.
When this byelection came along I thought I could be a strong voice for the botany electorate in John Key's government.
What do you have to offer in parliament?
Every time I have campaigned people have said they want some young blood in council, now people have said they want some young blood in Parliament. My age is definitely an advantage, I have never seen it as a disadvantage.
What will be your main campaign planks?
Primarily three things: The economy - biggest issue for New Zealand and Botany people.
Law and order - another important issue particularly in [Botany] in 2008 there was a very large anti-crime march primarily involving the Asian community. With this being a very diverse electorate, law and order is a very big issue for them.
The other big issue will be infrastructure - roads, rail, broadband.
Will you be out there door knocking again?
Absolutely. My biggest strength in elections has been getting out and meeting people. I've knocked on about 10,000 doors since I first stood for election. I won't be taking this one lightly, we don't take anything for granted.
What was the reaction from the Auckland council to your selection as candidate for Botany?
I'm sure the more Labour-aligned people would love to see a Labour person in here but we are not going to allow that to happen.
My centre-right colleagues on the council are certainly supportive. They want to see me succeed, they want to see the centre-right succeed in Botany.
There have been no issues over you potentially leaving the council so soon after you were elected to it?
Well who knew that Pansy [Wong] was going to be stepping down. When I stood for election, I think you had to put your nomination form in in about August, and we didn't hear about the issues that she ran into until about November.
I don't think I can do both jobs justice, I wouldn't try to hold on to them both.
What does your grandmother think of it all?
She came along to the [candidate] selection and I think there were a few tears. I have been up front and open about my background. It wasn't easy raising me I'm sure.
She is very supportive. She actually came out and campaigned with me last year. She did a lot of flyer deliveries she was out there with the hoardings on the side of the road waving them at the traffic in the mornings.
Will she be doing that this time round?
I'm sure she will. She's even signed up to do some flyer deliveries.
So no skeletons in your closet?
No. The council elections were very intense and I think my opponents in the Labour party would have gone over me with a fine tooth comb and they couldn't find anything.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Rate the Government's progress around drinking laws:Related story: New drinking law a vital step