MP for Botany Jami-Lee Ross has spoken out in defence of his involvement in the 2016 local government elections, saying he would “absolutely” do it again.
A $100,000 Botany by-election was forced when former Howick Local Board member Lucy Schwaner, who is married to Ross, walked out of the inauguration ceremony after losing her bid for chairperson to David Collings by 5 votes to 4.
Two of the board’s members stood at the ceremony and declared they had been bullied and approached to vote for Schwaner.
Shortly after Schwaner’s exit, her resignation letter was sent to media, citing no confidence in Collings as leader.
At the Meet the Candidates evening at East City Wesleyan Church on Monday evening, a pointed question was directed to Ross.
“Reflecting on the difficulties of your involvement in recent local government electioneering, do you think it was wise for a member of parliament to be so involved in local government election matters? Any regrets and learnings?” the question said.
Ross was off his seat and half way to the lectern before the question was even finished.
“I supported my wife and the team during the local body elections and I don’t resile from the fact I supported my wife — I think a good husband would support their wife.
“I got involved with helping my wife and a group on the local board because back in 2013, that local board wasn’t functioning well and we got together a group to try and change the local board – that was successful and in 2016 I supported them again.”
Ross said “if anyone out there standing for election wanted my advice and support I’d give it because that’s what you do as a good local MP.
“My wife made a decision to resign from the Howick Local Board last year. She felt the board was dysfunctional and she felt, as a group of them did, that they would try and change the leadership of that board from within. She was not successful.
“She knew that the dynamic on the board, where there were nasty, vicious attacks and there were personalities there that would make her life hell, so in the interest of herself and her own mental health and our family, she had to walk away and I think walking away from something and standing up and saying ‘this isn’t working for me, this isn’t working for the situation, walking away was the right and honourable thing to do’.
“Yes it cost money. Democracy does cost money. That Howick Local Board needs a lot of work to change it and work it out but my wife made a decision she felt was in the best interest of the community to walk away from what was a particularly nasty situation on that board.
“I hope the public look at that board more at the next local body election. Would I support my wife again? Absolutely.”
The Times has reached out to David Collings for comment.