The Invercargill hairdresser next in line to enter Parliament if NZ First leader Winston Peters wins the Northland byelection is now a parliamentary staffer working for two NZ First MPs in Wellington.
Ria Bond stood for NZ First in Invercargill last year. National claims Northland will lose an MP if National's Mark Osborne lost to Mr Peters, and Invercargill will gain one. Mr Peters had not revealed Ms Bond now works at Parliament or corrected references to her being Invercargill-based.
NZ First confirmed she worked at Parliament when the Herald asked yesterday. She is executive assistant to NZ First MPs Richard Prosser and Mahesh Bindra. Parliamentary Service staff are not allowed to campaign unless they take leave and it is understood NZ First are wary of putting her job in danger by discussing whether she will take the seat. Ms Bond did not return phone calls yesterday. Mr Peters said National's focus on Ms Bond showed there were panicking. The party had to go through a process before deciding who would take the seat if he won. "The party is the arbiter of that and none of that is in any way central to our thinking. We are focused on getting the maximum vote we can."
However, under electoral law the Electoral Commission must check Ms Bond is still a party member and, if so, whether she wishes to take the seat.
If Ms Bond was willing she could accept regardless of the party's current wishes.
Her election return says she now lives in Wainuiomata - it is understood she moved up just after the election. Ms Bond owned a hairdressing salon in Invercargill which her LinkedIn profile says she left in August 2014 - a month before the election. Ms Bond joined NZ First in 2011. In an interview with the Southland Times in 2012, she said she wanted to study politics at university but could not afford it so became a hairdresser instead.
If Ms Bond does decline, the next on the list is another Wellingtonian Mataroa Paroro. Mr Paroro stood in Hutt South last year and told the Herald he was keen to take the seat if Ms Bond ruled it out. He said no one from NZ First has discussed it with him as yet and he did not know whether Ms Bond would take the seat. He intended to go up to Northland to join Mr Peters' campaign next week.
"What made me vote for them was what Winston stood for when he walked [out on National]," he said. "I thought at the time he was on his way to becoming the leader of the nation then, so I started following him. Integrity was the big thing."
A Cook Islander who moved to New Zealand for secondary school in 1978, Mr Paroro said he owned his own network security business.