Jami-Lee Ross casts a lonely figure on his first day back at Parliament in his new office.

There are boxes on the floor, framed family photos yet to be placed on the wall, and staffing positions yet to be filled.

But he says he is well - he has given Speaker Trevor Mallard a medical certificate saying so - and ready to get back to work on behalf on his Botany constituents.

"A range of people thought I would not be coming back here, but continuing to serve my constituents is important.


"Last year was lots of ups and downs and some pretty dark days for me personally. I wasn't sure what the reaction would be, but the people I'm seeing in the lifts and corridors here has been really positive."

Ross has been away from Parliament since his spectacular falling out with National leader Simon Bridges, which led to a police complaint over donations to the National Party, embarrassing conversations that were secretly recorded and released, and a number of women coming forward accusing Ross of bullying behaviour.

Ross' mental health issues reached an apex in late October when he tried to kill himself and was sectioned to a mental health unit at Middlemore Hospital.

He now wants to use his platform as an MP to advocate for more funding for the mental health sector.

"For those at acute crisis points, they are very well looked after. But those below that threshold with significant struggles, there isn't huge resource for them."

He said there needed to be more funding for medication, therapy, and long-term issues that don't typically see hospitalisation.

Transport was another focus, and he still had a private members' bill to repeal the Government's regional fuel tax, which he would be happy to push for if it was drawn from the ballot.

And he supported his former colleague and National MP Nick Smith's recent comments about banning foreign donations.


Ross said donations from foreigners could easily be hidden by being funnelled through a New Zealand-based company or organisation.

He should know, he said, because he was heavily involved in fundraising for the National Party for years.

"It's a New Zealand company, but you have no way of knowing where the source of the funding has come from. The party only has to declare the donor. It files a return in line with the law if it declares the company."

He said tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of dollars in donations are put through this way - and complied with the law.

He wanted foreign donations to be banned, but didn't support state-funded election campaigns, which the Greens have pushed for.

"New Zealand political parties should be funded by New Zealanders."

Ross is expected to be given a five-minute speaking slot in the general debate in the House every 10 sitting weeks, one primary question in Question Time every eight sitting weeks, and two supplementary questions every week.

Getting traction in Parliament was difficult for independent MPs, who sit at the back of the House and have limited speaking time.

Despite that, Ross continued to pester the National Party, most recently due to the police investigation into a text sent from Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie's phone to Ross that included the words "you deserve to die".

Ross said he had spoken to police about the text and is co-operating with the investigation.

Police was also keeping him updated with its investigation into a donation to the National Party, which Ross alleged was fraudulently handled.

He said the latest political poll - showing Bridges at only 5 per cent in the preferred PM stakes - reinforced what he had said last year.

"My falling out with Simon was around his popularity and his ability to connect with New Zealanders, and I was raising those issues internally."

He said it would be interesting to see how the party would poll under a more popular leader such as Judith Collins, who was ahead of Bridges in the preferred PM stakes on 6.2 per cent.

The long-term issue facing National was its lack of coalition partners, he said.

He welcomed the recently launched Sustainable NZ Party, which could potentially partner with National.

But he added: "No political party has ever got into Parliament without having a current or former MP that's been involved or leading them. Reaching a 5 per cent threshold from nothing is almost impossible. That will be a challenge for them."

Was that a sales pitch to lead the party, or to form his own?

"I'm not ruling anything in or out. I haven't made any decisions about next year. I'm just getting back to doing my job as MP for Botany."


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.


• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• https://www.lifeline.org.nz/services/suicide-crisis-helpline
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202