National's Sam Uffindell: From boarding school to political scandal

Tauranga MP Sam Uffindell was suspended from National's caucus just a week after his maiden speech in Parliament, his undisclosed past having brought the party into disrepute.

Below, the events are laid out chronologically.

A history of violence

2000: A 16-year-old Sam Uffindell at the end of his fifth-form year (Year 11), joined three others in beating a third-former, age 13, at Auckland boarding school King's College. The following day, Uffindell and another boy are asked to leave the school, and he completes the remainder of his schooling at St Paul's College, which is informed of his misdeed.

2003: Uffindell, now at Otago University, is flatting with four others. One, a young woman, has accused him of a pattern of heavy drinking and drug use and intimidatory behaviour. It culminated, she says, in him one night pounding on her bedroom door, screaming obscenities, until she fled through her window, traumatised.

Her father backs up her story, saying he went to Dunedin to help her move out of the flat the next day and found the place trashed.

Uffindell denies the allegations of bullying or intimidatory behaviour. He admits, however, he enjoyed a student lifestyle which included drinking and smoking cannabis.

July 2021: After years in the banking sector in Australia and Singapore, Uffindell settles in New Zealand again - married with young children. He contacts the man he attacked at the boarding school to apologise. At the time, the man said he would never forgive the boy who hurt him, but forgave the man Uffindell had become.

Getting into politics

15 March 2022: Former National party leader Simon Bridges announces his retirement from politics. This will trigger a by-election in Tauranga, a National stronghold.

1 May: Uffindell is announced as National's candidate, having gone through a selection process during which Uffindell's attack on the younger boy at King's College is explored "in depth" by a selection panel.

The panel whittled applications down to four candidates, who were then voted on by 60 local delegates from among party members, Uffindell emerging victorious.

18 June: Uffindell easily secures the Tauranga seat, winning with nearly 11,000 votes compared to Labour runner-up Jan Tinetti on just under 5000 votes.

2 August: Uffindell makes his first speech in Parliament.

"I am here solely on the grace of those delegates who put their trust in me to represent them," he began, but soon turned to criticism of the government over its approach to gangs and crime.

"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. We need friends, family, and, in particular, parents, to step up and show what is right. Ultimately, though, the State must hold people accountable."

His first member's bill goes into the biscuit tin, a law he is proposing that - if it is pulled out, and is passed in Parliament - would introduce anti-cruising laws, and give police new powers to disrupt gang convoys.

Airing past grievances

8 August 2022: Stuff publishes a story revealing the attack at King's College. Uffindell admits to the attack.

9 August: Uffindell makes several appearances on morning media, again confirming the events and expressing that he is sorry but is a changed man, and the event had a significant impact that changed the course of his life. He says boarding schools in the '90s were full of 'rough and tumble', but is quick to defend King's College.

National leader Christopher Luxon backs his newest MP, saying he had been unaware of the attack until the previous day but he believed Uffindell was "a changed individual". However, he says as leader he should have been informed about the attack, as should National's delegates and - most importantly - the wider Tauranga electorate.

Uffindell answers questions from Parliamentary reporters, admitting he was a bully in school and is not proud of the person he was at the time.

Late in the evening, after RNZ sought comment from National over the Otago university accusations, Luxon announces Uffindell will be stood down from the caucus, and a senior lawyer will be brought in to investigate the allegations.

10 August: An interview with the woman who feared for her safety at university, and her father, airs on Morning Report.

Luxon reveals his staff had been informed during the Tauranga by-election about the King's College attack, by Uffindell's campaign chairperson Todd McClay. This information was never passed on to Luxon however, which he believes was a genuine mistake.