Patrick Gower says National, Sam Uffindell misled voters by not publicly disclosing violent assault during Tauranga by-election

Newshub correspondent Patrick Gower has accused National and MP Sam Uffindell of misleading voters after it was revealed he didn't publicly disclose a violent assault before winning 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.

"I was covering my head … they were smashing me," the victim told Stuff. 

"I don't remember much, but when it was over, everyone ran into the next dorm and lay down on the floor between the beds there to hide."

Speaking with AM on Tuesday, Uffindell said it 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.

Uffindell also refused to reveal whether any National MPs knew about the assault and said as far as he was aware leader Christopher Luxon didn't. This was backed up by Deputy Leader Nicola Willis who told RNZ on Tuesday morning she and Luxon found out about the assault yesterday. 

Uffindell was also forced to defend himself for not disclosing the attack to the public during the by-election campaign. 

"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," he told AM.  

But his answer didn't go down well with Newshub national correspondent Patrick Gower who accused him and National of misleading Kiwis. 

"I think the National Party and Sam Uffindell misled the voters in Tauranga. They misled them by omission," Gower told AM on Tuesday. 

"The voters should have known this, he should have done what he did today with the Bay of Plenty Times or any kind of opportunity. 

"If they were going to allow him to get that far he needed to do this. The voters needed to know."

Gower also went on to suggest if there is another by-election in Tauranga as a result of the revelations, the National Party should pay for it. 

"If there is [another] by-election, National should pay for it not the New Zealand taxpayer. If they need to go back to it it should be on the National Party. They won't do that, the rules don't work that way but they owe us the $1 million that it cost for the by-election," he said. 

He also questioned whether Luxon really wasn't aware of the attack, saying if he wasn't "heads have to roll". 

"If he didn't know about it, and I would be very surprised if he didn't… If you go through a selection like that word gets out, it goes to the board, it goes to MPs, the word gets around. If Christopher Luxon didn't know about it, he should have, and heads should roll."

It's not the first time National's selection process has been questioned in years. The Party's process came under scrutiny after several high-profile departures of 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 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