National’s newest MP asked to leave top boarding school after violent attack

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 8 (and happy political poll day to my fellow #nzpol nerds). I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

The agenda

  • It’s poll day: TVNZ will be releasing the latest political survey at 6pm tonight. We’ll have all the details.
  • To get you poll ready, the network has released its cost of living crisis survey early showing nearly half the country is pessimistic about the economy.
  • New National MP was asked to leave a top boarding school after beating a fellow student.
  • PM Jacinda Ardern says National’s new welfare policy shows the party is out of touch with the country.

National’s newest MP asked to leave top boarding school after violent attack

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 8 (and happy political poll day to my fellow #nzpol nerds). I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

The agenda

  • It’s poll day: TVNZ will be releasing the latest political survey at 6pm tonight. We’ll have all the details.
  • To get you poll ready, the network has released its cost of living crisis survey early showing nearly half the country is pessimistic about the economy.
  • New National MP was asked to leave a top boarding school after beating a fellow student.
  • PM Jacinda Ardern says National’s new welfare policy shows the party is out of touch with the country.
Aug 8 2022

Leap in support for Act puts right-wing bloc ahead in new poll

Jessica Mutch-Mackay presents the results from the latest poll

A big jump in support for Act has moved the right-wing electoral bloc ahead in the latest 1News Kantar Public Poll.

While National’s support dropped by 2 points from the previous poll at the end of May – it’s now on 37% – Act increased its polling by 4 points to 11%. If both parties held that level of support into the election due in 2023, Act and National could form a coalition government with 62 seats.

The poll was conducted between July 30 and August 3, well before both the National party conference and today’s revelations about new MP Sam Uffindell.

Jessica Mutch-Mackay presents the results from the latest poll

Labour’s support has fallen again to 33%, down 2 points from the previous Kantar Public poll. The party is now 10 points down from where it was in September last year.

A Roy Morgan poll released on August 2 had National on 35% and Labour on 34%.

In the preferred prime minister stakes, Jacinda Ardern is still 8 points ahead of Christopher Luxon, with both leaders seeing a 3 point drop in support.

NZ Film Commission CEO resigns over conflict of interest

Image: Tina Tiller

NZ Film Commission chief executive David Strong announced today that he is stepping down from the role. Strong was placed on “special leave” in April after a conflict of interest in the funding of The Pilgrim, a six-episode series written by Strong. An independent review into both specific instance of The Pilgrim and the broader management of conflicts of interest at the organisation began in May.

In a statement announcing his resignation, Strong pointed to The Pilgrim as the reason for stepping down. “It is a role that I have taken very seriously and given my all to,” he said.”But my commitment to a significant television project that I’ve been working on for a number of years means I have decided that I will leave the Film Commission.

“My interest in The Pilgrim TV series was fully declared before I was appointed, with expert advice sought and then properly managed with the board. Recently, the board and I have worked through the issues. We have agreed, sadly, that my continuing growing private commitments are no longer compatible with this role.

The full saga of The Pilgrim was first reported in May by The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive.

Strong’s last day in the role was August 5, with Film Commission chair Dame Kerry Prendergast said the board was “very satisfied” with Strong’s performance in the role but agreed with his decision.

“I wish to thank David for the efforts and progress he made in his time as CEO, particularly in representing New Zealand in Los Angeles, building strong relationships across the sector and championing our recently released diversity and inclusivity strategy. He will continue to be part of the wider screen industry and we wish him every success with his upcoming projects.

The commission is seeking a permanent replacement, with Mladen Ivancic continuing as acting chief executive in the interim.


Party leaders need to be accountable for their MPs – Ardern

Sam Uffindell in his Tauranga electorate (Photo: RNZ/Supplied)

The prime minister says party leaders are ultimately responsible for the conduct of their MPs, after reports of historic bullying have surfaced about new National Party MP Sam Uffindell.

The Tauranga MP, who only recently entered parliament, has admitted beating a younger student during his time at King’s College more than 20 years ago. He told Stuff that National was aware of the attack when he joined the party, and said he apologised to the victim last year.

Speaking at parliament today, Jacinda Ardern largely avoided questions on the issue and said it was a party matter for National. However, she said that party leaders needed to take accountability for their members.

“We are each responsible for our relative position on policies, those things we campaign on and equally the conduct of our MPs,” she said. “As leaders we need to be accountable for our members, our members’ conduct and what we know of their conduct.”

On how candidates were selected, Ardern spoke only of her experience with Labour but said the goal was always to make sure members represented New Zealanders and their local community.

“You also want to make sure that where there are issues you, to the best of your ability, draw those out so that we can be aware and that may mean someone is not selected or it may mean we work to ensure there is a level of transparency around those issue,” she said. “It is up to the National Party, and ultimately Chris Luxon, how they conduct their own affairs.”

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson joined Ardern at the podium and added that violence against young people was something we should all be concerned about. He acknowledged being a victim of “low-level bullying” while at school. He could be heard murmuring in agreement as Ardern singled out the rainbow community for where more work needed to be done to stop bullying.

As a child, Ardern said she wasn’t subject to “extreme circumstances” but had witnessed them, later as a board of trustees member at her school. “We have, I think, as political leaders, a duty of care… to do everything we can to make sure our education system is better for [children],” said Ardern.

The Spinoff has approached the office of National leader Christopher Luxon for further comment.

Sam Uffindell
Sam Uffindell in his Tauranga electorate (Photo: RNZ/Supplied)

Commonwealth Games homecoming celebration announced

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and finance minister Grant Robertson. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Members of the public will have the chance to congratulate our historically successful Commonwealth Games athletes in person, the prime minister has announced.

The athletes will arrive back into the country this Thursday and people can gather at Auckland International Airport to welcome them home. They’ll land on two flights, one at 11.20am and another at 12.20pm.

Speaking at her post-cabinet press conference, prime minister Jacinda Ardern paid tribute to the 233 New Zealand athletes. “We are in a golden era of high-performance sport in New Zealand and it has been truly remarkable to witness,” said Ardern.

Joining her at the podium was deputy PM Grant Robertson who had attended some of the Games on a recent European trip.

He said he indulged his inner-sports reporter during the trip and singled out some of his top performers. “Aaron Gates’ performance in the road race last night was exceptional,” he said. “Ellesse Andrews and Lewis Clareburt each took three gold medals, equaling the previous record in a single games.”

New National MP asked to leave top boarding school after beating fellow student

National’s Tauranga byelection candidate Sam Uffindell (Photo: Supplied)

A National MP has admitted he beat a younger student while at a prestigious boarding school, an attack that saw him asked to leave the college.

Sam Uffindell won the Tauranga by-election that was triggered by MP Simon Bridges’ decision to stand down from parliament earlier this year, becoming the newest member of National’s caucus.

He confirmed to Stuff that, aged 15, he attacked a fellow King’s College student that was two years younger. The beating left the 13-year-old with severe bruising and significant trauma. Uffindell was asked to leave the school alongside three other students involved in the attack.

“It was one of the silliest, stupidest things I’ve ever done. I really regretted it, I do really regret it still,” Uffindell told Stuff.

According to the unnamed victim, Uffindell only apologised last year – 22 years after the attack and less than a year before announcing his political intentions. But Uffindell denied that the timing was politically linked. “That wasn’t my motivation at all. I called the guy up because I was regretful about what happened and I wanted to close that off,” he said.

The victim told Stuff he was approached out of the blue by a mutual acquaintance in July last year. After some consideration, he forgave Uffindell. “But then a few months later I sat down to watch the news on the couch with a beer and there he was, running for parliament. I felt sick.”

They added: “At the time, he said not a day had gone by when he didn’t think about it. He used his family, saying he has daughters and would be sickened if anything happened to them,” he said. There was no mention of any political aspirations, they said.

Sam Uffindell
National’s Tauranga byelection candidate Sam Uffindell (Photo: Supplied)

According to the victim, the attack was unprovoked and happened late at night. “I was covering my head … they were smashing me,” he said, claiming wooden bed legs were used in the attack. “I don’t remember much but when it was over everyone ran into the next dorm and lay down on the floor between the beds there to hide.”

Uffindell admitted the attack to Stuff, but said he couldn’t remember whether bed legs were used. “I went over to the person and punched them several times in the arm and the body and they were hurt… It was the last day of the year and we were just being silly and playing up… we got carried away and we did what we did,” the MP said.

“I regret it and I was really stupid and I’m apologetic for what happened, and since then I’ve tried to make myself a better person and set an example for my children. I’ve learned a lot from the experience from 20 years ago.”

The National Party had been aware of the incident since he joined the party, said Uffindell.

In recent years, National had faced several scandals relating to candidates or MPs accused of prior inappropriate behaviour. Since the 2020 election, National pledged to improve its candidate selection processes and leader Christopher Luxon said this had happened for the Tauranga by-election too.

“We have reset our candidate selection processes. We did that over Christmas,” said Luxon earlier this year.

The Spinoff has approached Luxon’s office for comment.

Read Kirsty Johnston’s full report on Stuff here

New Zealanders confuse Americans on primetime TV


There’s not much more to it than what I wrote in the headline, but for context: New Zealanders Rhys Darby and David Farrier popped up on Celebrity Family Feud in the US this week. We can’t see it on the telly here in New Zealand, but a few clips have started showing up online.

And generally, it just seems like mayhem.

In the clip below, host Steve Harvey asks Darby and his team mates for an unkind way of saying someone has died. Darby’s response of “carked it” proves that some seemingly common expressions really don’t work in the United States.

John Palino, who is in Florida, announces Auckland mayoral run

John Palino speaking at an Auckland mayoral debate in 2016 (Getty Images)

There’s been a late entrant into the race to become Auckland mayor.

John Palino has confirmed a fourth run for the job, after pulling out in 2019 due to health reasons. He came in fourth back in 2016, but managed to place second behind incumbent Len Brown back in 2012.

There’s one catch with Palino’s latest mayoral campaign, however. He’s not actually in New Zealand at the moment. The former restaurant owner is currently in Florida and, according to Stuff, it’s unclear when he’ll make it back to New Zealand.

Palino’s policies include creating additional Auckland CBDs to stop people needing to commute so far, telling Stuff this would prove a “responsible strategy for global warming”.

It’s not the first time Palino has announced a political campaign while living on the other side of the world. In 2020, The Spinoff reported that Palino had launched a parliamentary bid from the United States. He was running for the very (very) minor Tea Party, which ultimately ended up with no seats in parliament.

John Palino speaking at an Auckland mayoral debate in 2016 (Getty Images)

Covid-19 update: Child under 10 among latest 13 deaths, 654 now in hospital

Image: Toby Morris

There are 4,006 new community cases of Covid-19, a bump on yesterday’s tally but still substantially lower than in recent weeks.

The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today now sits at 5,288. Last Monday it was 6,990.

According to the Ministry of Health, there are now 654 people in hospital with Covid-19. That includes 16 in intensive care. Most hospitalisations – 75 – are in Auckland, with 61 in Waitematā and 60 in Waikato.

There are now a total of 1,638 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor. The seven-day rolling average increase in total deaths attributable to Covid-19 is now 14.

The overnight death tally has risen by 13. So far, it’s not known how many of deaths were directly linked to Covid-19. A child under 10 is among the latest death count, with the ministry report the remaining new deaths were all people over 60-years-old.

The most golden Commonwealth Games ever

Joelle King and Paul Coll celebrate victory over during the squash mixed doubles (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

This year’s Commonwealth Games (or, as most newsreaders call it, Comm Games) will go down as New Zealand’s goldest ever.

We’ve pulled in a record 19 gold medals in Birmingham, beating the record 17 earned at the Auckland games back in 1990. Overall, New Zealand sits fourth on the medal table with 48 overall, including 12 silver and 17 bronze.

Our historic run started early on with great success in the pool which then carried on into the velodrome where we picked up a handful of prizes.

The history-making golds went, overnight to Aaron Gate in the men’s road race and Joelle King and Paul Coll in the squash mixed doubles.

1News – like most outlets – has a wrap of the golden games, you can check it out here.

Joelle King and Paul Coll celebrate victory over during the squash mixed doubles (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

National reverting to ‘old tropes’ on benefit dependency – Ardern

Image: Getty Images, additional design by Tina Tiller

The prime minister says National’s newly announced welfare plan is simplifying the issue and shows just how out of touch with reality the party is.

Announced yesterday at their first party conference under Christopher Luxon’s leadership, National’s plan would see young jobseekers given a dedicated job coach after three months on a benefit. There would also be a $1000 bonus to those under 25 who stay in employment for a year after being on the  benefit for 12 months or more.

Speaking to RNZ this morning, Luxon denied that New Zealand’s low unemployment statistics meant there was no need for changes to the current jobseeker system. “We’ve got businesses crying out for workers up and down the country,” he said.

“All we’re saying is something is wrong with the system. If you can’t get people from welfare into work now, when will you do it?”

Luxon signalled that the Ministry of Social Development was “funding failure”, and young New Zealanders were at risk of losing out on a pathway through benefit dependency. “So we want to use community organisations and they can connect people to jobs,” he said.

But the prime minister denied there was an issue that the government wasn’t already tackling. Citing programmes like Mana in Mahi, Jacinda Ardern said National’s announcement didn’t into account the increase investment in case management that had already taken place.

“We have programmes that support them once they’re in the workplace, we have programmes like driver licensing to overcome the barrier that roughly 70% of entry level jobs require that skill,” said Ardern. “So let’s look at what’s needed rather than just jumping to the old tropes that we see from the opposition.”

Ardern questioned how many young New Zealanders the opposition had actually spoken to when trying to understand the issue. “Let’s focus on the reality and the evidence, rather than the politics,” she said.

Ardern and Luxon have squared off on the issue of welfare dependency Image: Tina Tiller

The Bulletin: Shortage of council candidates to stand in local government elections

Deadlines to stand as a candidate in October’s local government elections close this coming Friday. There have been a few stories lately about a shortage of people putting up their hands to stand across the country.  As RNZ reports, many councils were still without the bare minimum of candidates needed to fill their vacancies.

Otago Regional Council only has two candidates for the six seats of its Dunedin constituency and five for all 12 seats. This feature for Critic Te Arohi from Elliot Weir points to some strife at the ORC. In Timaru, no one has raised their hand to run for mayor yet. In Bluff, only one person is listed as running for their community board.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.

New poll: Nearly half of New Zealanders pessimistic about the economy

A new poll has revealed that just under half of New Zealanders think the state of our economy will get worse over the next year.

It’s the first of TVNZ’s Kantar Public Poll results that will be revealed today, with the big headliner results – namely for political party and preferred prime minister – set to be released at 6pm tonight.

While the 49% pessimistic figure may seem bad, it’s actually slightly better than the results from the same poll earlier this year. In March, 53% of those surveyed thought the economy would get worse, while the number was 50% a couple of months later in May.

Over this time, the government has moved to act on the cost of living crisis and introduced cuts to petrol tax, public transport fares, and rolled out its cost of living payment.

A quarter of New Zealanders believe the economy will remain stable for the next 12 months, while slightly more – 26% – think things will improve.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast, 1News political editor Jessica Mutch-McKay said that the cost of living issue is going to continue dominating political chatter. “I really feel we’re going to be talking about this ‘how people are feeling’, the state of the economy, and the cost of living crisis a lot over the next year.”

Read more here