Sam Uffindell facing fresh bullying claims

It’s Wednesday, August 10 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a news tip or want to get in touch? Reach me on

What you need to know

  • National is in damage control after fresh allegations against new MP Sam Uffindell emerged overnight.
  • They concern intimidating and bullying behaviour while the Tauranga MP was an Otago University student in 2003.
  • Party leader Christopher Luxon has stood down Uffindell and ordered an official investigation into the claims.
  • Uffindell denies the accusations and says he lived “student lifestyle” while at the university.
  • In other news: The number of Covid-related hospitalisations has dipped just below 600.
  • And the controversial three strikes law has been repealed.

Sam Uffindell facing fresh bullying claims

It’s Wednesday, August 10 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Have a news tip or want to get in touch? Reach me on

What you need to know

  • National is in damage control after fresh allegations against new MP Sam Uffindell emerged overnight.
  • They concern intimidating and bullying behaviour while the Tauranga MP was an Otago University student in 2003.
  • Party leader Christopher Luxon has stood down Uffindell and ordered an official investigation into the claims.
  • Uffindell denies the accusations and says he lived “student lifestyle” while at the university.
  • In other news: The number of Covid-related hospitalisations has dipped just below 600.
  • And the controversial three strikes law has been repealed.
Aug 10 2022

Special vote locations in Wellington grow from one to five

It’s democracy, baby (Image: Tina Tiller)

A Spinoff article published back in July highlighted the lack of special vote locations in places like Wellington.

In the capital – the heart of democracy – just one location was expected to be made available for special votes (i.e. for people who had not registered for postal voting). That could prove frustrating for people who don’t have ease of access around the city or, frankly, just didn’t have the time or motivation to make it to the city centre to vote at the voting hub.

Now, the Wellington City Council has confirmed a handful of new locations around the city will be opened for voting in the week leading up to the local election on October 8.

“We’ve had a few questions from the community about where they can cast special votes in the local election,” the council said on Twitter.

“Our awesome Democracy Services team has been beavering away and has organised several new locations around the city where people to cast their special votes!”

Thanks to Jonny, author of the original Spinoff article I cited at the top of this update, for getting in touch to pass on this democratically exciting news.

And to read our local elections coverage launch piece, click here.

Jami-Lee Ross’ secret Simon Bridges tapes played to court

Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross (Photos by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Former National Party leader Simon Bridges has given evidence in the High Court today as part of an ongoing donations fraud trial.

During his appearance, the court heard several recorded conversations between himself and former MP Jami-Lee Ross. The conversations had been secretly recorded by Ross.

In one, Bridges threatened to demote Ross he did not accept an “olive branch”.

“You have acknowledged today you tape-recorded the leader of the opposition without any consent,” Bridges said, as reported by Stuff. “If you don’t take that, I will demote you. And I will take you off the front bench, I will strip your portfolios.”

Bridges also confronted Ross over his alleged sexual misconduct, which he said was “systemic and prolonged”.

Video of Bridges’ appearance in court showed him sitting silently and at times uncomfortably as the secretly recorded conversations were played.

Listen to Gone By Lunchtime’s Auckland mayoral election special

Our biggest city is gearing up for its fifth Super City election, and the golden-voiced Todd Niall – formerly of RNZ and now senior Auckland reporter for Stuff – has seen them all. On a new episode of Gone By Lunchtime, he joins Toby Manhire to discuss the leading contenders for the office some call the country’s second most important elected role, including Efeso Collins, Leo Molloy, Viv Beck and Wayne Brown, who have recent been joined by two unexpected candidates: John Palino (of Florida) and Lisa Lewis (of Hamilton).

Plus: How does 2022 compare with previous campaigns? Why are turnout numbers so risible? And what can a mayor actually hope to achieve?

Follow Gone By Lunchtime on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

The Spinoff’s local election coverage is public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air


Luxon says his staff were aware of Uffindell claims – but he wasn’t told

(Radio NZ, Dan Cook)

Christopher Luxon has let slip that his staff were aware of bullying allegations levelled at new MP Sam Uffindell – but he was never informed personally.

The National Party remains in damage control after a rocky 48 hours in which two separate bullying accusations against Uffindell, the Tauranga MP, have emerged. While he admitted to the first incident, he has denied the second.

Fronting media this afternoon, Luxon said it was “regrettable” he had not been told of the accusations but that he stood by his staff.

It was National MP Todd McClay that told Luxon’s team about the red flags, after he was present on the pre-selection panel when Uffindell put his name forward for the Tauranga by-election. Luxon told media that McClay had “done nothing wrong” as he did indeed raise the concerns with the opposition leader’s team.

The information should have been made public before the by-election, said Luxon.

Asked if Uffindell still retained his confidence, Luxon said he will reserve his judgment. “All I am saying is new and serious allegations came to light last night. I want to make sure they are investigated.”

Covid-19 update: Hospitalisations fall below 600, another 5,169 cases

Image: Toby Morris

The number of Covid-related hospitalisations has dipped just below 600, with 599 people now being treated. That includes 11 people in intensive care.

Most of the hospitalisations – 68 – are in Auckland, while 60 are in Waikato and 59 in Waitematā.

Another 5,169 community cases of Covid-19 have been reported overnight, with the seven-day rolling average of new cases now falling below 5,000. It’s sitting at 4,938, while last Wednesday it was 6,355.

There are now a total of 1,705 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 15.

Bernard Hickey: What Luxon should have done

National Party leader Christopher Luxon (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

This is an extract from an article first published in Bernard Hickey’s newsletter The Kākā. Here, he writes on Christopher Luxon’s errors of judgment throughout the Sam Uffindell bullying saga:

To start with, Luxon should have been crawling all over the selection process for the [Tauranga] by-election earlier this year. This was the first election on his watch. He knew it was being supervised by [then-party president Peter] Goodfellow, who had been roundly criticised both publicly and privately for presiding over the selection of a succession of young, entitled, error-prone, tone deaf, shifty and arrogant candidates who imploded within a term or two under the spotlight.

As any Crown prosecutor will explain, it’s the questions you ask, and the ones that go unasked, that matter. Asking the right questions to nail down the risks and understand the true lay of the land is an essential skill of any leader and anyone in governance, let alone one operating in the white heat of public life and auditioning to be prime minister. Asking the right questions is a sign of knowledge and skill. Proactively delivering bad news to your boss and the public is a sign of character. Knowing who won’t proactively deliver bad news and then asking them the right probing set of questions is a sign of all three traits.

Most people in positions of corporate power know there are few places to hide within a company, but that not everything comes to light immediately. It will eventually end up in the numbers and it’s fair to believe the reports to the executive committee from the underlings. But there’s often time and private space to find the booby traps in all the nooks and crannies before they blow up in everyone’s face.

But even in those reports and meetings with direct reports, it’s also fair to assume there will be embarrassments and unsaid things that need to be teased out and sometimes pried out of those reports and underlings. Any director on one of these boards or executives on a management committee will (or should) know that people like to tell the boss what they want to hear, and leave the ugly bits out.

Anyone in HR long enough to see a few debacles, will know to check with more than just the referees suggested by the candidate.

Bernard Hickey’s writing here is supported by thousands of individual subscribers to The Kākā, his subscription email newsletter and podcast. You can support his writing by subscribing, for free or as a paid subscriber. 

National Party leader Christopher Luxon (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Three strikes struck out

Kiritapu Allan (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The government’s plan to ditch the three strikes law was completed last night, with a repeal bill backed by Labour and the Greens.

Justice minister Kiri Allan called the law, which dictated certain judgments for particular crimes, a “knee-jerk reaction” by the previous National government.

“There was no evidence that it worked. It failed to be a deterrent to offenders, it failed the tax-payer, and it failed victims, because it ensured they were in the system for longer,” said Allan.

The plan to repeal was staunchly rejected by the opposition, with National’s justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith saying New Zealand was now less safe. “It is a perverse priority to reduce sentences for these offenders at a time when gun crime is rampant, gangs are recruiting faster than the police, violent crime is up, and there is a sense of disorder in our communities.”

As the “tough vs soft” on crime rhetoric heats up ahead of next year’s election, expect more debate over this type of legislation between now and September 2023.

The first big local elections deadline is upon us

It’s democracy, baby!

Like daffodils at the break of spring, the billboards are sprouting up everywhere to reveal the full bloom of local body election season. Voting packs will start going out in the middle of next month and at The Spinoff our coverage gets properly under way today. You can read Shanti Mathias’s summary of everything-you-need to know here.

The most pressing deadline is this Friday, which is both the last day to ensure you’re sorted on the roll to postal-vote and the last day to get nominated to contest one of the hundreds of elections around the country, too. Three years ago, shockingly, more than 100 candidates walked in unopposed. Six of them became mayors. One in every two people who stood for local office in 2019 was successful. I’ve written about that, and more, here.

We’ll be striving to cover a breadth of topics, and a range of campaigns around the country, and we’re grateful to the Public Journalism Investment Fund for making that work possible. We’re working on a big slate of coverage, including reporting, data visualisation, podcasts and a different way of doing debates. We’re extremely excited about the return of Policy Local, enhanced and upgraded. We’ll have more to say about that soon but in the meantime you can check out the 2019 model here.

We’d love to hear your suggestions on interesting contests or pressing issues you’d like to see covered. We’re working on a bumper calendar of debates and events, so if you see anything worth including let us know. And, of course, do send any pics of particularly colourful or conspicuous billboards:

person gesturing to a cartoon 'local elections 2022' sign
It’s democracy, baby!

University entrance thresholds dropped due to Covid impact

(Photo: halbergman via Getty Images)

The threshold for university entrance, and for achieving NCEA certificate endorsements, has been lowered due to disruption caused by Covid-19.

To receive a certificate endorsement, students will need to earn 46 credits at merit or excellence instead of the usual 50. University entrance has been reduced down to 14 credits in two approved subjects and 12 credits in a third approved subject, as opposed to the usual of at least 14 credits in three subjects.

Associate education minister Jan Tinetti said the changes were designed by the ministry and NZQA alongside an advisory group.

“We have heard from schools how significant absences of students and teachers as a result of Covid-19 have had a substantial impact on teaching, learning and assessment in the first two terms,” Tinetti said.

“These changes are designed to recognise the disruption and provide relief for students, while preserving the integrity of NCEA and the learning it represents.”

End of year exam dates remain unchanged, Tinetti said, but the ministry was still considering additional catch-up support for students over the summer.

The Bulletin: Government working on apology to victims of abuse in state care

Following recommendations from the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, officials will start working on a national apology to survivors of abuse in care later this year. It is also working on a new, independent redress system for survivors but in the interim, work is underway on delivering more immediate support.

Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins said: “Designing the new system will take time – it is a complex task, requiring input from many different survivor groups to get it right”. Hipkins also said “that survivors should not have to wait until the system is developed to improve the way we help survivors.”

Subscribe to The Bulletin and receive a daily digest of the top news stories every morning at 7am.

Luxon loses trust in Uffindell after being ‘reassured’ King’s incident was most serious

National MP Christopher Luxon (Photo: Getty Images)

National’s leader has lost trust in his new MP Sam Uffindell after serious new allegations have emerged overnight.

The Tauranga MP had admitted beating a fellow King’s College student in the late 90s, but has now been accused of intimidating behaviour while at Otago University in 2003.

It’s sent the National Party into damage control, with Christopher Luxon rolled out this morning to address the concerning news. He told Newshub’s AM that he had, “up until yesterday”, trusted Uffindell. “I was reassured that the King’s incident was the most serious but we’ve subsequently had further allegations,” he said.

“The reality of new allegations coming in overnight… is why I think an independent investigator… is important.”

Maria Dew QC will carry out the two week long investigation, said Luxon.

During his appearance on RNZ, Luxon was encouraged to “put down his talking points” by host Guyon Espiner who questioned whether National had a culture issue. Espiner read out the names of former National MPs, such as Andrew Falloon and Jami-Lee Ross, who had faced serious allegations in recent years.

Luxon said National had been working really hard on improving the candidate selection process, but this also relied on candidates being transparent about their past. As the new National leader, he was “rebuilding a culture,” said Luxon. “We’re working really hard on that.”

Uffindell has denied the new claims, and Luxon said the investigation would allow his side to be heard as well.

National’s Sam Uffindell stood down after ‘concerning’ new allegations emerge

National MP for Tauranga Sam Uffindell (Photo: supplied, design by Tina Tiller)

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.