National leader Christopher Luxon publicly reprimands MP Harete Hipango over 'silly and unwise actions'

National leader Christopher Luxon has publicly reprimanded one of his MPs over actions he described as "silly and unwise". 

His comments followed revelations that National MP Harete Hipango had instructed a staff member to edit the 'controversies' section of her Wikipedia page

"I recognise that this was an unwise decision and I regret that it may be distracting from what we should be focused on, which is holding the Government to account," Hipango said in a statement to Newshub.

Hipango has various controversies listed on her Wikipedia page, including allegations of misspending Parliamentary funds, using a false quote, and being present at anti-vaccination protests.

Allegations emerged that Hipango was trying to edit the selection of prior controversies, after a person making edits to her Wikipedia page identified themselves as her staff member. 

"I am Harete Hipango's staff member and am editing her page on her behalf. She's stated that much of the information in the "Controveries" [SIC] section is false, and is causing a lot of distress to her family," the editor said.

Other Wikipedia editors judged that this meant the editor had a likely conflict of interest and therefore undid the changes made to Hipango's page. 

It was Hipango's second controversy this year, after she deleted a post earlier this month showing her attendance at another COVID-19 anti-vaccine mandate and lockdown protest.

National MP Harete Hipango.
National MP Harete Hipango. Photo credit: File

Hipango deleted the post after a discussion with Luxon, who at the time said her actions did not "align with those of the National Party".

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Luxon said Hipango - who lost her Whanganui seat to Labour at the election but returned to Parliament on National's list in May following Nick Smith's resignation - had been spoken to again. 

"It's been pretty silly and unwise those actions and what I'd say is that I want all my MPs focussed on their portfolios and on the things that matter most to New Zealanders," Luxon told reporters. 

"I've made that pretty crystal clear in my expectations for them and that's what I expect going forward."

Luxon said his deputy Nicola Willis had spoken to Hipango.  

"What I'd say though is that people actually aren't interested in the story. They're much more interested in inflation and they're much more interested in rapid antigen tests."

Luxon was tight-lipped about what was discussed. 

"Those conversations will stay private but I can just say to you it's pretty silly and unwise and I really want all the MPs focussed on their portfolios and what matters most to New Zealanders. The expectations are crystal clear to all of our caucus about the standards we expect."

National leader Christopher Luxon.
National leader Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: Newshub

Luxon was elected National leader in late November after then-leader Judith Collins was ousted by the caucus in a vote of no confidence. The caucus turned on Collins after she sent out a shock late-night press release announcing she'd demoted her rival Simon Bridges over an allegation of "serious misconduct".

It turned out it was MP Jacqui Dean who, about five years ago, complained to then-Deputy Prime Minister Bill English about comments of a sexual nature Bridges made in front of her and other colleagues.

It was one of many scandals that have plagued National in recent years - scandals that no doubt contributed to Labour's historic win in 2020. 

Luxon acknowledged the party has a lot of trust to build back. 

"We're off to a positive and encouraging start but we've got a lot of work to do and our job is to make sure that team is firing and focussed on what they need to do and opposing the Government in a constructive way but equally proposing ideas through the course of the year and that's what I'm expecting of our MPs as we go forward."

The party's caucus retreat in Queenstown is next week. 

"It's a two-day caucus and really it's a chance for us to say how we're going to work together. It's the what and why of our agenda but also how we're going to be doing it," Luxon said. 

"And again, it's a chance to lay out expectations very clearly about what I expect in terms of delivery from each MP - what the key deliverables are I'm expecting from them in their portfolios and how I expect them to be out there in the real world engaging with stakeholders and broader industry and voters and people and finding out what their needs are. 

"We'll talk a lot about what it takes for us to get where we sit today to where we need to be in 2023."

Luxon said he spent the summer planning National's strategy. 

"A lot of it has been planning and thinking about how making sure each MP is crystal clear about what they need to do in their job and laying out the criteria by which we'll be judging their performance

"There's a lot of conversation around what are the key themes of the year and what's our position and our thinking and ultimately how we come forward with proposals about those ideas. 

"We've got good policy but I want it sharpened up. I want it really clear what the three to five things you're going to do in each portfolio that we think would make the biggest difference for New Zealanders."

He said MPs often get "lost in too much intellectualism" with "big policy documents".