Emma Mellow has been named as the National's candidate for Auckland Central, vying for the seat left vacant by the party's former deputy leader Nikki Kaye.

While the senior communications manager at ANZ was ecstatic following the result, she wasn't going to take time to relax following the candidacy process.

"I'll be working incredibly hard on the ground in Auckland Central from tomorrow, knocking on doors, getting my volunteers out there and meeting as many people as I can," she told the Herald tonight.

Nuwanthie Samarakone, Rob Thomas and Emma Mellow. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Nuwanthie Samarakone, Rob Thomas and Emma Mellow. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"It's been a whirlwind 15 minutes. I was positive but I knew it was going to come down to close votes on the night. I'm thrilled the delegates have backed me and chosen me as their candidate."


Mellow will take on Labour's Helen White, Green list MP Chloe Swarbrick, NZ First's Jenny Marcroft and TOP's Tuariki Delamere.

She said she was inspired to join the party by Kaye, who she thanked.

The announcement comes after fellow candidates Nuwanthie Samarakone and Rob Thomas were knocked out in ballots at its selection meeting at Ponsonby Cruising Club tonight.

At the meeting, Mellow acknowledged she was relatively unknown but said people knew the party and that she'd be working hard so they did know her.

"I will be hitting the campaign trail hard in the lead up to September 19," she said in a statement following the announcement.

"I love our community, its vibrancy and diversity and I'm looking forward to getting out and campaigning with our strong National Party team.

"Auckland Central has had strong National representation for 12 years and I will be fighting hard to make sure it continues to have strong National representation."

An active member in the Young Nats, Mellow, 30, worked as a communications adviser at Sydney Airport before joining ANZ.


She lives in the electorate in an apartment with her fiancé and described herself as a young, liberal woman within the National Party.

Subscribe to Premium

Mellow thought the biggest issue New Zealand faces going forward is centred around jobs.

People in the community are worried about the future, she said, from what the economy will look like to whether people will be able to support their families.

"They certainly don't need tax increases adding any more pressure on their household budget. But that is exactly what Labour and the Greens will do, adding a wealth tax on hard-working New Zealanders, going after their income, their house and their KiwiSaver.

"National is focused on supporting Aucklanders and their livelihoods, from backing those who have lost their jobs and are looking to start up their own business, to backing existing businesses to take on another employee.

"I will be travelling from Waiheke, to Great Barrier, to Auckland Central itself, aiming to meet as many people as possible and talk about National's positive plans for New Zealand's future."


Kaye announced her retirement from politics last month following a tumultuous week for the party, including the resignation of former leader Todd Muller.

Mellow has big boots to fill, with Kaye having won the seat in 2008, twice beating Jacinda Ardern in the seat before the Prime Minister took on the neighbouring Mt Albert electorate.

However, the selection of the new candidate hasn't come without its hiccups.

National Party MP Nikki Kaye had held the Auckland Central seat since 2008. Photo / Dean Purcell
National Party MP Nikki Kaye had held the Auckland Central seat since 2008. Photo / Dean Purcell

Last week Samarakone said she had been targeted by incorrect claims she used to be a stripper..

She hired Julian Miles, QC, to fight the "damaging, malicious and untrue campaign".

The allegations came after a fitness photo of Samarakone in a leotard was spread throughout members of the National Party earlier in the week.


Meanwhile, at the start of the month it was revealed the party failed to follow its own rules around its selection process for choosing new candidates for seats.

The decision to short-list two candidates, Samarakone and Mellow, provoked complaints from MPs and party members, party sources told the Herald.

Sri Lankan-born Samarakone is the founding CEO of ICE (Inspire, Create, Engage), which connects new graduates with organisations.

She stood unsuccessfully for the North Shore and Takanini electorates before being selected as the candidate for the Labour stronghold of Manurewa.

Under the party rules, the pre-selection committee of five electorate delegates and four party delegates has the job of short-listing five candidates.

The party was forced to short-list another three candidates for the seat to fix the problem - Rob Thomas, Sarah Manley and Sang Cho.

Nuwanthie Samarakone, at National's Auckland Central selection meeting at Ponsonby Cruising Club,. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Nuwanthie Samarakone, at National's Auckland Central selection meeting at Ponsonby Cruising Club,. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A senior National party figure is accused of attempting to derail a candidate for the Auckland Central seat with a late-night call to talkback radio.

Nuwanthie Samarakone's campaign for the seat - which will be decided tonight - has been rocked by controversy recently.

Newshub alleged the man, who called himself Merv on a call with Marcus Lush on Newstalk ZB last Monday, was actually party board member Roger Bridge.

The Herald understands the person called from Bridge's phone. Bridge could not be reached when contacted by the Herald tonight, but he denied he was the caller when questioned outside Parliament.

A spokesman for National leader Judith Collins said she had no comment.

Rob Thomas. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Rob Thomas. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Merv told Lush he was in Manurewa and had planned to vote for Samarakone for the local seat before she decided to run for Auckland Central.


The Auckland Central seat became available after the resignation of former National Party deputy leader Nikki Kaye last month.

Claiming to be confused about how Samarakone is running in Manurewa and Auckland Central, Merv decided to call Lush just before midnight last Monday.

"I'm a bit confused because there's billboards all over the place with this 'Nuwi' girl and then I understand that she's also standing in Auckland Central," he said.

"Can you have a candidate in one electorate also standing for another?

"She's already standing in Manurewa and I was ready to vote for her but now I understand that she's going over to Auckland Central - I'm confused."

He also raised questions around a photograph that had been spread around the National Party of Samarakone in a fitness leotard.