Uffindel escapes censure; returns to National caucus

By James Perry

The National caucus has reinstated Tauranga MP Sam Uffindell following an independent investigation into allegations of bullying and inappropriate behaviour against the rookie MP.

Uffindell was stood down from the caucus on August 9 after a woman made allegations about Uffindell's behaviour when they shared a student flat with four others in Otago in 2003. Uffindell strongly denied the incident that his flatmate described.

King’s Counsel Maria Dew conducted an independent investigation into the woman’s claim, which followed Uffindell’s admission of bullying at King's College, which included beating a 13-year-old student in the middle of the night, an incident Uffindel apologised for and which led to his departure from he school..

Uffindel welcomed the findings of the report. He says he was shocked by the allegations of a former flatmate in 2003. 

"Ms Dew found that this incident did not occur as it was reported in the media. I am not able to go into details, but I want to acknowledge that there was a genuine breakdown in the flat relationship and things were said that I now realise my flatmate overheard. I apologise and regret my part in it," he said.

Uffindell looking to working hard

He says the findings have cleared his name and he is now looking forward to "working hard for the good people of Tauranga".

Fourteen people were interviewed during the investigation, and a number of written statements were provided.

Luxon and National Party president Sylvia Wood received the report late on Thursday night but Wood said the report would not be publically released due to "confidentiality undertakings given".

In a brief summary of the report, Wood said the investigation did not substantiate any allegations of bullying outside Uffindell’s time at King’s College. It also found "differing accounts of what occurred" at the Dunedin flat he shared with four others while at university. 

Luxon confident about MP

"Ms Dew concluded the event was not as it was described in the media. Despite this conclusion, it is clear that the complainant’s experience in a deteriorating flat relationship caused her harm," Wood said.

“The investigation has found there are differing accounts of an incident that happened 20 years ago in the context of a student flat that was breaking up. Mr Uffindell has acknowledged that things were said that he now realises his flatmate overheard, which he regrets,” Luxon said.

Wood says no one else came forward who considered themselves a victim of Uffindell’s behaviour.

Luxon says, “with the known matters having now been independently considered, and with Uffindell’s own acknowledgement that he is a different person now to the person he once was, we are now able to move forward.

“Uffindell is looking forward to working hard for the people of Tauranga. I am confident he can and will do that.”