Embattled National MP Sarah Dowie says she's had "nothing but support and encouragement" from her constituency and is refusing to lie low while police probe her alleged communications with ex-lover Jami-Lee Ross.

This afternoon, the 43-year-old lawyer had an official engagement in her hometown of Invercargill. Police announced in January they were investigating a text message allegedly sent from her phone to Ross which included the words "you deserve to die".

A crowd of about 40 people at Windsor Community Church Hall, comprised mainly of experienced local educators, warmly applauded Dowie who spoke about the southern region coming under "assault" from the Government's education reforms.

After a brief hiatus from the public glare, Dowie has been actively campaigning in the country's southernmost electorate over the past month, covering hundreds of kilometres in her conspicuous National Party blue car with her photograph emblazoned on its side.


She has been a vocal critic of the vocational education reforms, with a local newspaper today running a prominent column where Dowie blasted the Government for needlessly putting the future of a successfully-run Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) "up in the air".

And today, she also launched a petition keep the Riverton horse race track open.

Speaking to the Herald after today's public meeting, before getting in a taxi to attend a Stand Up for SIT protest across town, Dowie said locals have been understanding ever since her affair with Ross was exposed.

"In all fairness, I've been well-received," said the mother-of-two who is understood to have separated from husband, former Otago cricketer Mark Billcliff.

"There's been a lot of comment that Invercargill electorate is a very conservative electorate. But you want to know something? If you're talking about conservatism, then you're also talking about people who understand that everyone's human.

"I've had nothing but support and encouragement with me running on all of these issues.

"The proof is in the pudding. You've got to keep going and work hard. I've worked hard for the previous three years in my first term and I continue to work hard and I think people recognise that."

Asked whether police have spoken to her, she refused to comment.


"The matter is with my lawyer and it would be inappropriate to make any further comment," she said.

Dowie hosted National's education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye at today's public meeting.

During her talk, Kaye praised Dowie for her hard work on the ground in opposing Labour's education reform plans.

"This province is under assault right now. And it is purely because of this ideology that everything has to be centralised," Dowie told the gathering.

"We need to retain our community spirit down here. Stay with us. I'm parochial."

Ross, 33, last year named Dowie as one of the women with whom he had an extra-marital relationship while National MP for Botany.

He initially received a text message that including the words "you deserve to die" last August but claimed reading it two months later led Ross to considering self-harm.

He was taken into mental health care shortly after.

The text message raised questions over whether there was a breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act, passed under National and voted for by Dowie.

The law regulates digital communications, including text messages, making it illegal to urge someone to self-harm.


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.


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