Ex-National MP Hamish Walker who quit over COVID-19 data leak joins Paula Bennett in real estate

Ex-National MP Hamish Walker, who quit politics after leaking sensitive COVID-19 data to the media, is joining former deputy leader Paula Bennett in real estate. 

Walker announced in July he would not seek re-election as MP for Southland after he confessed to passing on confidential COVID-19 patient data to the press over "pressure of being labelled a racist". 

The findings of a State Services Commission probe confirmed that the breach happened after then-Acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) and ex-National Party president Michelle Boag passed the information, without authorisation, to Walker.

"I sincerely apologise for my actions," Walker said at his resignation, thanking the people of his electorate Clutha-Southland who he said he had "loved meeting, assisting and representing" over the past two and a half years. 

Walker, 35, is now moving on to a career in real estate. 

"My late grandfather always taught me to get up when life throws you a curve ball. It may not be easy, but the important thing is to get up and keep moving," he wrote on social media. 

"Today I'm announcing I've returned to my roots and what I'm good at. I'm joining the wonderful team at Harcourts in Queenstown as a passionate and hard working salesperson.

"I've always cared about our community and this gives me the opportunity to continue to work hard for members of our community helping buyers and sellers reach their goals."

Ex-National MP Hamish Walker.
Ex-National MP Hamish Walker. Photo credit: File

Walker joins former National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett in real estate. 

Bennett announced in June she would step away from politics following a leadership coup in which she and then-leader Simon Bridges were rolled by Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye. 

Bennett had already announced in August 2019 her intention not to seek re-election for her Upper Harbour seat because she wanted to focus on her new role as National's campaign chair - a position she lost after the takeover. 

The 51-year-old, who served as Deputy Prime Minister between December 2016 and October 2017, said it was "time for the next chapter". 

Bennett revealed in September she would begin at Bayleys Real Estate as the director of strategic advisory in its commercial division. 

"It's all about people. I'm going into commercial [where] it's about relationships, it's about listening, it's about talking, it's about seeing ahead," she told The Project

"What's commercial property going to look like after COVID and people wanting smaller premises, or different, and reconfiguring how they go to work and what work looks like? I'm just pretty excited to be part of that."

She recently tweeted a picture of her new colleagues. 

Bennett hoped her Upper Harbour seat would be picked up for National again by Jake Bezzant, the candidate chosen to replace her. But Labour's candidate Vanushi Walters won the seat in an overall election landslide for Labour. 

Walker's Southland electorate was kept blue by National's candidate Joseph Mooney.

Walker and Bennett joined a string of other National MPs who stepped down before the election. The party, which held 56 seats in Parliament after the 2017 election, now has just 35.

The Electoral Commission is yet to announce special votes - people who enrolled on Election Day and those who cast their ballots from overseas. Once the votes are announced on Friday, National's caucus will decide on the leadership of Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee. 

Collins is confident she will remain leader