Jami-Lee Ross started his political career as a Manukau City Councillor at the age of 18 and was elected as an MP at 25 - making him the youngest MP at the time.

He convincingly won the Botany seat in the January 2011 by-election after National MP Pansy Wong resigned following a row over the use of her travel perk.

He was re-elected in the electorate in the November 2011, 2014 and 2017 elections.

He served as one of the National Party whips in Parliament and had been on the business and transport and infrastructure select committees.


On October 2 this year, he stood down from his roles due to personal health issues.

And today he resigned from the National Party and gave up the Botany seat, saying he would seek re-election as an independent in the by-election.

But it was not always plain sailing for Ross.

His mother was 18 when Ross was born, and ''not in the best space to raise a child''. So his grandmother, Sharron Martin, took on the task, raising the boy in a modest Papatoetoe home before shifting to Pakuranga, where Ross, who loved swimming, was closer to a good pool.

The pair remain close, with Martin handing out flyers for her grandson when Ross, then 18, first campaigned to get elected to Manukau City Council.

Ross says he has a good relationship with his mother, Lisa Helmling, but his father has never been in his life. Ross is Ngāti Porou from his father's side, though he says he knows little of his whakapapa, his history and heritage: ''I'm sure one day I'll do that.''

Ross boarded at Dilworth School, the Auckland college which helps pupils from struggling families.

By his own admission Ross was not a diligent student.


"I didn't finish school. I thought I could do it all by myself.''

From Dilworth he went back out east, to Pakuranga College.

At 16 he quit classrooms for good and got a job as a lifeguard at the Lloyd Elsmore swimming complex. He also took to flying, heading out to Ardmore, where he chalked up the hours to get a private pilot's licence.

Ross says the perspective from a Cessna 172 is always special. But he finds the $250-an-hour aircraft hire too steep to indulge his fancy.

He regrets leaving school without formal qualifications. When he meets young people, he says he encourages them to make the most of education. For the past few years, Ross has been studying politics and economics and Auckland University.

In 2004, the teenaged Ross won his first political contest, and became, at 18, a Manukau City councillor. His strategy for success was to knock on 5000 doors in the Howick ward and pitch the simple theme of giving young people a voice. By this time he was a National Party member and moved into the orbit of Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson, working part-time as the MP's electorate agent, a taxpayer-funded job dealing with constituents and their problems. The MP became his mentor.

At Manukau, Ross learned to play hard-ball politics, which last year drew him into conflict with Len Brown. At the time Manukau's centre-left mayor was stepping up his campaign for the Super City mayoralty. Ross and Dick Quax, another centre-right Manukau councillor, went after Brown, attacking the mayor's use of a council-issued credit card.

A chastened Brown repaid some money, including $59 for a Christmas ham. Ross says he was doing no more than ensuring accountability for ratepayers and insisting that the council's own credit card rules were followed.

"I don't agree with wasting money. I call myself a fiscal conservative. I also believe you spend ratepayers' or taxpayers' money as efficiently as possible. All I was doing was holding people to account.''

Then Ross became a target when figures issued under the Official Information Act revealed him to be a stickler for claiming expenses, including $14 for driving to an Anzac Day ceremony in 2008 when he was representing the council.

Ross concedes the claim was an error of judgment: "You learn from your mistakes.'' He noted that during last year's Super City campaign, Labour went through his background "with a fine-tooth comb. They came up with $14. It was within the rules but embarrassing ... I'd say that's pretty clean though.''

In May 2008, Ross married Lucy Schwaner, a police fingerprint analyst.

The couple met when Schwaner, who was studying archaeology, wanted to learn about Howick's heritage. She was sent to Ross, who was on the community board, in search of documents. "I just kept finding excuses to keep meeting up with her and it went from there.''

And then there's that name. "When I was about to be born they [his parents] didn't know whether I would be a boy or girl. They seemed to like it," he explained.

He is used to taunts about the moniker. Bloggers seem to relish variations such as "David Lee Roth'' and the nastier "Slimey Lee Ross''.