National MP Sam Uffindell has defended not revealing he violently assaulted a boy while at school when he was asked about his biggest regret during the Tauranga by-election.
On Monday it was revealed National's newest MP was asked to leave a prestigious Auckland private school more than 20 years ago after a violent nighttime attack on a younger student.
Details of the attack emerged after Uffindell's victim came forward. The victim said the National MP had contacted him last year to make amends. He'd accepted that apology until he saw Uffindell was running for Parliament and felt the apology wasn't genuine.
The victim was only 13 when the attack happened and it involved Uffindell and three other teens at King's College.
Speaking with AM on Tuesday, Uffindell said the attack was the "stupidest and dumbest thing" he's ever done and he's incredibly remorseful.
He said he informed the National Party's pre-selection committee about the attack before he was selected as a candidate and went on to win the Tauranga by-election.
The MP was also forced to defend himself when questioned by AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green about why he didn't disclose the assault when asked for his biggest regret during the campaign.
During the campaign, the candidates were asked what their biggest regrets were by the Bay of Plenty times. While ACT candidate Cameron Luxton used the question to disclose and apologise for drink driving as a teenager, Uffindell said his biggest regret was "not coming back to New Zealand sooner, there's nowhere we would rather raise our kids".
Chan-Green asked Uffindell on Tuesday whether he maintained that was his biggest mistake.
"I think what I gave there was a lighthearted answer to something which I probably should have thought more about," he said.
"But I also, given that it had a significant impact on someone else, I didn't know if that was the right platform to be bridging that. The opportunity was definitely there at the by-election to go through with that and I wish that I had.
"I've been totally transparent with the board, I am totally transparent with you guys now. I am not running from this at all, I take full accountability for what happened, and I own it. I was 16 years old, I am not a perfect person, I make mistakes a lot of people do but I have learned from them and I am a much better person as a result."
The National MP also said he would reach out to his victim again to apologise again.
In a statement on Monday, Uffindell said the assault was "one of the stupidest things I've ever done and something I deeply regret".
"I've worked hard to be a better person than I was as a teenager and to be a good role model to my children," he continued.
It was only last week in his maiden speech that Uffindell highlighted the need to address violence.
"Our region is beset by gang issues and, unfortunately, like the rest of New Zealand, a growing culture of lawlessness, lack of accountability, a sense of impunity, and significant underlying generational social problems," he said.
"We need friends, family, and, in particular, parents, to step up and show what is right."
In a statement to Newshub, the National Party said it "was proactively informed about this incident" by Uffindell during the selection process.
"It was a significant event reflecting a serious error of judgement by a then 16-year-old for which he has apologised and regrets to this day."
National has had several issues with its selection process in recent years, prompting a review of how wannabe MPs are vetted.
It comes after several high-profile departures of National MPs including Hamish Walker, who leaked COVID-19 patient details to media, and Andrew Falloon, who sent unsolicited sexually explicit images to young women.
There was also Jake Bezzant, who left the party last year after serious allegations emerged from an ex-girlfriend.
Where else to find help and support:
Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
Samaritans - 0800 726 666
Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584