Walker out of the running

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Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker (left) and National Party Leader Todd Muller during a visit to Queenstown last month. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

“THERE was a clear breach of trust, which goes against the values National holds as a party.’’

They were the words from National Party Leader Todd Muller after he accepted National Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker’s withdrawal of candidacy for the seat of Southland
yesterday.

The downhill spiral of the southern politician started exactly one week ago when Mr Walker issued a press release which was deemed to be racist by opposing politicians and members
of the public.

In it he denounced having Covid-19 quarantine-managed isolation centres being set up in southern cities and towns.

‘‘It’s absolutely disgraceful that the community hasn’t been consulted on this,” he said in the release.

“These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea.”

At the time, Mr Muller said he had spoken to Mr Walker about the release and told him he didn’t condone what he had said.

On Tuesday evening, Mr Walker and former National Party president Michelle Boag confessed to being behind the privacy breach of Covid-19 patient information — which
released the names, dates of births and locations of where people in quarantine had been tested.

Ms Boag resigned from her campaign and electoral roles for National Deputy Leader Nikki Kaye.

The admission two days ago was the final straw for Mr Muller, who stripped Mr Walker of his portfolios.

‘‘[I’m] hugely disappointed, and I’ve made that point known to him, and to the country,’’ Mr Muller said at a breakfast meeting in Oamaru yesterday morning.

Mr Muller had already written to the party’s board asking them to remove Mr Walker before his withdrawal was tendered yesterday.

On social media immediately after yesterday’s announcement, Mr Walker said he sincerely apologised for his actions.

‘‘Today I am announcing that I will not be standing for re-election for the Southland electorate at the upcoming 2020 election.

‘‘I wish to thank the people of Clutha-Southland who I have loved meeting, assisting and representing over the past two-and-a-half years.

‘‘I have fought hard for my community at every opportunity.

‘‘I sincerely apologise for my actions.

‘‘I will be making no further comment.’’

In reply, more than 72 people commented on his post in one hour.

‘‘Pretty disappointing as a National supporter that you guys just can’t get it right,’’ one post said.

‘‘It’s a bloody abomination, us farmers need you guys. You were the only one with your head screwed on so I’m pretty gutted it has come to this.’’

Another said it was a bit of a shame, ‘‘a stupid thing to do but I still think you are the right person for Clutha-Southland. Learn from your mistakes and perhaps we may see you  again’’.

One person commenting said Mr Walker had done the right thing in withdrawing his candidacy.

‘‘You have done the right thing to resign both for you and the National Party. Take it on the chin and move on as you are better than this. Don’t let a momentary lapse destroy you.’’

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