Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Military upbringing aids National candidate Parmjeet Parmar's Roskill fight

Parmjeet Parmar has campaigned in Mt Roskill with the discipline of the Indian Air Force bases she grew up on.

National's byelection candidate - whose family confectionery business once took on Whittaker's in a trademark dispute - has also shown the military instinct to attack.

Speaking to the Herald at Frolic Cafe, on the National-leaning Royal Oak boundary of the electorate, Parmar labelled Labour's lack of Indian and Chinese MPs as "sad".

"In Mt Roskill it would have been nice if Labour had picked an ethnic candidate, because we know that Mt Roskill is the most ethnically diverse electorate in New Zealand," she said of Labour's choice of Michael Wood, member of the local Puketapapa board.

Parmar blames her rival's team for a recent media report that her senior colleagues had abandoned her campaign to replace Phil Goff, who quit Parliament to become Auckland Mayor.

"They look really desperate ... they have been saying that the Prime Minister or my colleagues have dumped my campaign," she said.

"But you must have seen our media releases - the Prime Minister is here six times during this campaign, and I have had a lot of support from my senior ministers as well."

(Wood rejected that allegation, and said Goff had shown that voters wanted a "competent and accessible" MP, no matter that person's ethnicity).

One of four sisters, Parmar's father served in the Indian Air Force for 38 years and she moved from state to state in India while growing up, following his postings.

"As you know in Defence, the only answer they accept is, 'Yes, Sir'," she recalled. "So at home it was like, 'Yes, Dad.'"

At university Parmar completed a masters in biochemistry and was eyeing a PhD when her arranged marriage to husband Ravinder saw her move to join him in New Zealand.

She was awarded her PhD at the University of Auckland for work examining how connections are re-established in the brain. After working as a scientist Parmar moved into her husband's confectionery and chocolate business.

On her weekends, the mother of two hosted a current affairs and talkback show on Indian radio station Radio Tarana, and travelled with the press pack with former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Key on their respective diplomatic trips to India.

That fed her interest in politics. She was appointed by National to the Families Commission board in 2013, and contested Roskill against Goff in 2014, entering Parliament at 48th on National's list.

More than 3000 voters at the last election voted for Goff despite giving their party vote to National. Now he's gone, there's praise for Goff from Parmar.

"I worked alongside him in Parliament for three years, so that was really great to know Phil Goff and his work style, and he is widely admired. So I have to work hard to get that Phil Goff vote."

Parmar said local issues she was focused on included making communities safe, improving transport, housing affordability and making life easier for small businesses.

She rejected criticism from People's Party candidate and businessman Roshan Nauhria that she hadn't done enough for the Indian community, and said her focus was wider.

"Yes, my ethnicity comes along with me. I don't have to stand and announce my ethnicity. And since landing here in New Zealand, my goal has [been] to be part of the wider community."

Parmjeet Parmar

• Has a PhD in neuroscience, and worked as a scientist.

• Moved to New Zealand from India in 1995 after an arranged marriage to husband Ravinder.

• Worked as a broadcaster on Indian radio in NZ, and accompanied former PM Helen Clark and John Key on official trips to India. Entered Parliament as a National list MP in 2014.

- NZ Herald

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