Vote2020

After a week of "outrageous lies and rumours" and a bungled selection process, National finally has a candidate for the Auckland Central seat.

Senior communications manager Emma Mellow will vie for the seat left vacant after the shock resignation last month of former party deputy leader Nikki Kaye, who had held the seat since 2008.

Mellow will take on Labour's Helen White, an employment lawyer, and Green list MP Chloe Swarbrick.

The announcement came after fellow candidates Nuwanthie Samarakone and Rob Thomas were knocked out during the balloting process at Ponsonby Cruising Club last night.

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At the start of the meeting, the party's northern region chair, Andrew Hunt, bluntly criticised party members for spreading "outrageous lies". He called on them to "stamp out the rumours" and also apologised for the mess party officials had made of the selection process — in the lead-up they broke their own rules by not choosing enough people for the shortlist. That meant they had to delay selection, to the embarrassment of the party.
At a forum for the electorate on Sunday night, they had to use a stand-in, East Coast Bays MP Erica Stanford.

Nuwanthie Samarakone, Rob Thomas and Emma Mellow during Vote 2020 National Auckland Central selection meeting held at Ponsonby Cruising Club, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Nuwanthie Samarakone, Rob Thomas and Emma Mellow during Vote 2020 National Auckland Central selection meeting held at Ponsonby Cruising Club, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The rumours Hunt was referring to surrounded Samarakone. Last week, she said she had been targeted by false claims she used to be a stripper. She hired a 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 party earlier in the week.

And last night, a senior party figure was accused of attempting to derail Samarakone's campaign with a late-night call to talkback radio.

It was alleged board member Roger Bridge had called Marcus Lush on Newstalk ZB last Monday as his alter ego "Merv". The Herald understands the person called from Bridge's phone. Bridge could not be reached last night, but he denied he was the caller when questioned outside Parliament.

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

But Mellow was focused on her own campaign after her selection last night - firing early shots at Labour and the Greens. She said Auckland Central had had strong National representation for 12 years and would fight to make sure that continued.

Emma Mellow, during Vote 2020 National Auckland Central selection meeting held at Ponsonby Cruising Club, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Emma Mellow, during Vote 2020 National Auckland Central selection meeting held at Ponsonby Cruising Club, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"Our community, like the rest of the country, is worried about the future. What our economy will look like, whether they will have a job and how they will support their family.

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"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.

"Only National has the economic experience, the competence and the vision to rescue the economy, save businesses and protect jobs."

Mellow leads a team of communications staff at ANZ Bank as a senior manager within its funds management business.

She returned to New Zealand in 2017 having held communications roles at Sydney Airport, for a minister in the New South Wales Government and within public relations consultancy firms.