Former National Party president Michelle Boag admits passing COVID-19 patient details to MP Hamish Walker

Former National Party president Michelle Boag has admitted to passing on COVID-19 patient details to National MP Hamish Walker who then leaked the information to the media.

Boag said in a statement on Tuesday that the information was made available to her as acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT), although she said it was sent to her private email address.

Boag has resigned as acting CEO of ARHT.

"This was a massive error of judgement on my part and I apologise to my colleagues at ARHT whom I have let down badly," Boag said. "I very much regret my actions and did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets."

Boag said she was grateful to the media for choosing not to publish the 18 names that were contained within the information.

"I take full responsibility for my actions and have resigned as acting CEO of ARHT... My actions were mine alone and should not reflect at all on the professionalism, integrity and outstanding reputation of the Rescue Helicopter staff."

Boag's statement came just after Walker, MP for Clutha-Southland, admitted passing to the media by email information containing COVID-19 patient details that he said was given to him by a "source". 

Walker said he did it 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."

Former National Party president Michelle Boag has admitted passing COVID-19 patient details to MP Hamish Walker.
Former National Party president Michelle Boag has admitted passing COVID-19 patient details to MP Hamish Walker. Photo credit: The AM Show

Walker said he has received legal advice that he has not committed any criminal offence.

"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."

National leader Todd Muller said Walker has been stripped of his Forestry, Land Information and Associate Tourism portfolios, which have been handed to National MP Ian McKelvie.

"I have expressed to Hamish my view that forwarding on this information was an error of judgement," Muller said in a statement.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins earlier this week announced the appointment of Michael Heron QC to lead an investigation into the leaked information.

Walker admitted that he made "serious allegations against the Government's COVID-19 response" and "passed on this information to prove those allegations".

"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," he said.

"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."

Hipkins warned on Monday "there will be consequences" for the leaked information.

"Somebody clearly had it who shouldn't have had it. If it was a malicious act, then clearly there will be consequences for whoever did that. It is not okay."