There have been some major developments in the saga of National’s Tauranga MP Sam Uffindell overnight.
They first broke at about 11pm, when a statement from National Party leader Christopher Luxon announced Uffindell had been stood down from caucus after “concerning” accusations had emerged. Soon after, statements from Uffindell and National’s new president Sylvia Wood followed.
The allegations were made to RNZ who spoke to an ex-flatmate of Uffindell. The woman, who has chosen to stay unnamed, was at Otago university with Uffindell in the early 2000s and has alleged he was an aggressive and intimidating bully.
“He was smashing on my door and yelling obscenities and basically telling me to get out – ‘hit the road, fatty’,” the woman says of one night in particular. “I ended up climbing out of my bedroom window and ran to a friend’s house to stay the night. I feared for my safety. I was scared.”
It was one of a series of incidents, she told RNZ. “It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Luxon, in his late night statement, said he had stood down Uffindell while an investigation into the claims took place. “This evening my office became aware of very concerning accusations made to RNZ about behaviour shown by Mr Uffindell toward a female flatmate in 2003 while at university,” he said.
“Mr Uffindell disputes the allegations and in the interests of natural justice, an independent investigation will now be undertaken to determine the facts. While this process is underway, Mr Uffindell will be stood down from caucus.”
The investigation will be conducted by Maria Dew QC and should take about two weeks, said Luxon.
Uffindell has rejected the claims, sending out his own statement in which he said he enjoyed a student lifestyle while at Otago University. “[This] included drinking and, at times, smoking marijuana,” he said. “While in second year a number of flatmates fell out – and two of the flatmates left midway through the year. I reject any accusation that I engaged in behaviour that was intimidatory or bullying. This simply did not happen.”
The National Party has been in damage control for the past 24 hours after allegations of bullying by Uffindell were first published by Stuff. This concerned a violent beating of a younger student while Uffindell was at King’s College. He confirmed he had been asked to leave the school over the incident, but maintained that it was the most serious act of bullying he was responsible for.
We’ll have more throughout the day as the story develops.