Sam Uffindell will remain a National Party MP after a month-long investigation failed to substantiate bullying claims raised about his time as a student at Otago University.
National Party president Sylvia Wood, speaking at parliament, said the report carried out by Maria Dew KC did not find any additional incidents of bullying outside of those verified from Uffindell’s time at King’s College. There were “differing accounts” of the bullying claims raised about Uffindell’s time at university, which hinged on allegations Uffindell had verbally and drunkenly harassed a female flat mate.
The final report was received on Thursday night, said Wood, after investigations took place between August 15 and September 15. During that time, 14 people were interviewed and a number of written statements were provided.
The first objective in asking for an independent investigation was to try and establish “a conclusion about what had occurred”, said Wood, while the second objective was to “establish a safe pathway for people to come forward if they had other allegations”.
Aside from his time at King’s College, and interactions with his flatmate at university, no one else came forward who considered themselves a victim of Mr Uffindell’s behaviour. Dew concluded the Otago University event was not as it was described in the media. Despite this conclusion, National Party leader said “it is clear that the complainant’s experience in a deteriorating flat relationship caused her harm.”
On what had occurred at Otago University roughly two decades ago, Luxon said Uffindell had “acknowledged that things were said that he now realises his flatmate overheard, which he regrets”.
He added: “Mr Uffindell has also publicly acknowledged that he was a bully at King’s College and that this behaviour harmed a number of people, for which he has apologised.”
Joining Luxon and Wood at parliament was Uffindell himself who said he was “genuinely shocked” by his former flatmate’s allegations. He now intended to “work hard and deliver for the great people of Tauranga”.
He called the past six weeks “difficult” and said he had both continued some of his local constituency work while cooperating with Dew’s investigations.
On the photograph of him holding a National Party rosette taken over the weekend, Uffindell admitted this was “silly” and said he probably should not have done it before the investigation had been revealed.
Asked about choosing to release the outcome on the day of the Queen’s funeral, Luxon said he had found the “right balance” in releasing it just a few days after the investigation had been completed.