A Kawerau man has been arrested after allegedly posting a social media threat against National Party leader Simon Bridges.
He appeared in the Whakatāne District Court today charged with threatening to kill, or cause grievous bodily harm, to Bridges and his family. He was released on bail, with conditions that he not use social media and not enter Tauranga where Bridges lives, and will reappear in court next month.
The Herald understands the alleged threat was made in a Facebook post or message to the MP for Tauranga, who is married to wife Natalie. The couple have three children, two boys and a girl.
Bridges, who has been in Wellington as the chair of the Covid-19 select committee, confirmed he was aware of the arrest but declined to comment as the matter was now before the court.
The opposition leader has had a turbulent week politically.
On Wednesday he was again the subject of rumours of a potential leadership challenge in response to his latest comments on the country's Covid-19 lockdown.
Bridges was forced to defend himself after facing a flurry of online fury over the post about the Government's decision to extend the level 4 lockdown.
The Facebook post attracted more than 16,000 reactions – many of them negative - and the Opposition leader has been facing speculation from some in the media that his job might be on the line.
National's deputy leader Paula Bennett denied reports on Wednesday that she might be lining up with Mark Mitchell to take over the leadership.
"I get people are bored & looking for entertainment but false speculating on the leadership of the Nat party has no factual basis," wrote Bennett on Twitter. "Can't believe a tweet from a known stirring leftie is getting any pick up! Move on, we back Simon. We have a health crises & an economy to fix."
Bridges has also denied any leadership issues and was quick to defend his Facebook post, saying there are "a bunch of different views" online.
When pressed on the negative reactions, he said people were entitled to have their own views.
In the post, Bridges was critical of the Government's level of preparedness when it comes to coming out of the lockdown on Monday.
He said if the Government had done more work while the country was in lockdown, there would be no need for it to be extended.
"I now worry that the harm of staying in lockdown will be greater than if we were to come out," he said in the post.
He added that: "We will no doubt see a rise in mental health problems and stress-related illnesses."
This was an area where many who commented on the post took issue.