National leaders won’t let revelations about Sam Uffindell’s college life derail efforts at Te Awamutu

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The National Party leader and deputy leader said the details of Sam Uffindell’s apartment are “not great” and “yuck”, and that the party will continue to improve its candidate selection processes.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said there was still work to be done on candidate selection processes.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

National MP for Tauranga Uffindell admitted this week to beating a young boy while at boarding school, then faced new allegations of bullying behavior at university – prompting chief Christopher Luxon to call in an independent investigator.

Sam Uffindell

Sam Uffindell.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Luxon was in Te Awamutu this afternoon, making obvious efforts to distract from Uffindell, who, after being in Parliament for just a week, was suspended from caucus over the allegations.

“We are off to a good start, we are in Te Awamutu, the heart of New Zealand,” he said.

“The big news of the day, I think, is the release of these budget documents which show that Labor is frankly addicted to spending and has made the cost of living crisis worse.”

It was a line he was keen to emphasize.

“They really have to deal with this problem and that was the advice that was in these documents was very obvious that in fact the Labor Party is addicted to spending and is making the cost of living crisis worse.”

He was quickly asked how he thought his week had gone.

“Oh, it’s been, uh, a good week on some level. We’ve had a fantastic conference, I think we have an exceptional policy. ‘Wellness that works’ had a huge positive reaction, to be honest, both with community organizations and employers.”

He also spoke enthusiastically about the party’s annual conference in Christchurch and the “good momentum” in the polls, before turning to Uffindell’s troubles.

“[National has] come a long way in seven to eight months with the new National Party leadership team and then clearly, on the other hand, we’ve had a frustrating week in terms of Sam Uffindell and the revelations that have emerged in recent days.”

Questions have been raised about the party’s candidate selection processes, with the attack on Uffindell boarding school leaked to the selection committee.

He admitted that there was work to be done on that.

“Some aspects were working well, and better than in the past, but there were clearly areas for improvement…we just need to keep improving our processes all the time. And that’s what we’ll be looking at after we’ve completed the independent investigation.”

The latest revelations about Uffindell’s behavior before entering politics relate to the condition of his apartment shared with five other male students in their third year at the University of Otago. Women’s underwear was prominently displayed on a coat hook and health inspectors were called out three times as residents vied for the title of the dirtiest apartment in town.

Luxon’s reaction to this was subdued, but not dismissive.

“Yeah, not great. And I’ll just say to you, again as the father of a girl in college – not great, that’s all I can say.”

Her deputy chief Nicola Willis was also asked by a reporter what she thought of the footage.

Deputy National Party leader Nicola Willis said she recently spoke with Sam Uffindell about returning to the Tauranga headquarters.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

“I’m sure I’m not the only one, that when I looked at the photo of women’s underwear in particular, I felt pretty yucky.”

Willis said she had spoken to Uffindell over the past two days and the couple had discussed Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller to help them return to Tauranga.

“I shared with him my view that if there is any other information he thinks the investigation needs to bear in mind, he should provide it to Maria Dew QC, to ensure that his investigation can be thorough, and of course I have sent my best wishes to him and his family in what I am sure is a difficult time.”

Both said the prospect of a by-election was too speculative and premature, and that they would wait for the independent investigation to be completed before the party acted unless there were other serious allegations.

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