National Party leader Christopher Luxon was holidaying in Hawaii last week, while his social media account suggested he was in Te Puke meeting with businesses.
Luxon confirmed to reporters on Tuesday morning that he travelled to United States while on leave last week. Parliament was in recess at the time and politicians do often take some time off during the winter break.
"Yes, I was on leave last week with my family. I went to Hawaii with my family as I tend to do in July," he said.
Luxon said he didn't stay at his political mentor Sir John Key's Hawaii pad and didn't holiday with the former Prime Minister.
He was asked if social media posts shared on his Instagram and Facebook accounts were misleading as they gave the impression he was visiting businesses and meeting with community leaders last week.
One video posted on Instagram last week features Luxon saying, "today I'm in Te Puke, the heart of Kiwifruit country" and shows the National leader meeting with IT workers, volunteers and learning how logs become wood at a sawmill. A picture posted to his Instagram also shows him meeting University of Auckland vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater. Both of those visits occurred the week prior.
"No, the reality was my social media team released what I am up to over a given week," he said.
"The reality for me was I was here in the middle week of recess working really hard, as I was up and down the country, and equally the week before I was, as you know, overseas in Ireland, Singapore and the UK."
Luxon's social media post of him in Te Puke came under fire at the time as he wasn't wearing a mask indoors, despite Ministry of Health guidance that a mask should be used anywhere indoors outside of the home. The 'orange' light settings say people should wear masks in some indoor environments, like retail and on public transport.
His office told Newshub at the time that Luxon was on leave so couldn't front for an interview. In a statement, he said National MPs are guided by their hosts on mask-use and masks were not required in the meetings he had. The day that video was shared, the Ministry of Health reported more than 30 people with COVID-19 died.
On Tuesday, he reiterated that National MPs follow the rules set down by event organisers.
"We do that really seriously. We also want to encourage people to wear masks where it is practicable. There are times where I am speaking in public forums where it is not practicable to wear a mask. We will do everything we can to encourage people to wear a mask."
The Te Puke video shows a maskless Luxon socialising with people.
National's COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said he believes people should be wearing masks inside.
"The science is pretty clear on this, that mask wearing, particularly of a high-qaulity mask like a N95 or a KN95 or a blue surgical mask, do make a difference," Bishop said. "I encourage people to wear masks and I try wear one inside when I can."
Asked about his leader's maskless social media video, Bishop said there are some settings where people don't wear masks.
"If it is a private function, for example, or a private event, the organisers may say to someone, we are okay with you not wearing masks. Ultimately, it has become an individualised response to some extent. We encourage people to wear masks and I try to wear masks and I think people should be wearing masks."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was also criticsed last week for not wearing a mask indoors in a crowd while posing for a picture. She later said she would politely decline in the future to remove her mask while having photos taken of her with others.
On Tuesday, Ardern said people do make mistakes.
"We know that we are role models and we all work very hard to follow the rules we set and our expectations that we have on others," she said. "We are equally human and from time to time we will make mistakes. But by and large you will see all of us making that effort."