National Party MP Hamish Walker has admitted to leaking details of active COVID-19 patients to the media, which he says were given to him by a source.
It was revealed last week there'd been a leak and the names, ages, addresses and more personal details of New Zealand's active cases had been sent to three media outlets.
"I did this to expose the Government's shortcomings so they would be rectified. It was never intended that the personal details would be made public, and they have not been, either by me or the persons I forwarded them to," Walker says.
"The information that I received was not password protected by the Government. It was not stored on a secure system where authorised people needed to log on. There was no redaction to protect patient details, and no confidentiality statement on the document."
Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust acting CEO and former National Party president Michelle Boag says she was sent the patients' details to her private email address, and then she passed them on to Walker.
"I very much regret my actions and did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets but I am grateful that the media involved have chosen not to publish the 18 names that were contained within it," she says.
Walker says that by exposing a significant privacy issue, he hopes the Government will improve its protocols and get its safeguards right.
"I made serious allegations against the Government's COVID-19 response and passed on this information to prove those allegations," he says.
"Private health information does not have basic safeguards in place and the Government needs to immediately change its protocols and store the information on a secure, safe network that at a minimum requires a password.
"I sincerely apologise for how I have handled this information and to the individuals impacted by this. I will be fully cooperating with the Michael Heron QC inquiry."
The inquiry was announced by State Services Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday, and it's expected the investigation will be completed by the end of July.
He says Heron can require documents to be produced, summon witnesses and question people under oath.
"The investigation will look at who or what caused the disclosure of the information, identifying what, if anything, might've prevented this from happening, and what, if any, improvements might prevent this from happening again in the future," he said on Monday.
Muller strips Walker of portfolios
National leader Todd Muller says Walker's actions were an "error of judgement" and he's stripped him of his portfolios.
"I have expressed to Hamish my view that forwarding on this information was an error of judgement," he said in a statement.
"I have asked Hamish to acknowledge this to Michael Heron QC and cooperate fully with his inquiry into how the information made it into the public domain.
"While I wait for the result of the inquiry I have transferred his Forestry, Land Information and Associate Tourism portfolio responsibilities to Ian McKelvie."