Former National Party president Michelle Boag has quit the party after revelations she sent Covid-19 patient details to another National MP.
National Party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse confessed this morning to receiving four unsolicited emails from Boag between June 21 and 25 which contained patient details, but it was not the same information that was sent to disgraced MP Hamish Walker.
"Michelle told me she received this information through her role with the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and I was led to believe it was circulating among a number of other health agencies," Woodhouse said.
His confession follows National Party leader Todd Muller's comments yesterday that he had not asked his MPs whether they had received confidential information as Walker had.
"The issue is sorted from my perspective," he told reporters yesterday.
But a party spokeswoman told the Herald that Muller knew about Boag's emails to Woodhouse on Tuesday.
Woodhouse said this morning he deleted the emails from Boag.
"I recognised that the information in those emails was private so I did not share it with anyone else and I subsequently deleted them."
He did not say why he had not gone public with this information earlier.
Boag: My self-destructive path
In a statement Boag said the last few days "have underscored for me the unhealthy relationship I have developed with politics".
She said she had devoted much of life to supporting the National Party.
"Unfortunately this passion has put me on a self-destructive path. This was confirmed for me as I wrote to Michael Heron QC [who is conducting an inquiry into Walker's privacy breach] last night to advise him that towards the end of June I had sent several emails to Michael Woodhouse comprising notification of a small number of then new Covid19 cases.
"My decisions to share this information were wrong, driven by my distorted view that providing that information would help the National Party to hold the Government to account. In fact it was harmful, not helpful, and it is time that the National Party and I parted ways."
Boag said she had felt the need to defend any National Party perspective.
"My strong sense of obligation to others has manifested itself in extensive work for charities and individuals in need over many years, but in respect of the National Party, my loyalties have severely clouded my judgement. I was always available to defend, to support and to advocate for the party and its MPs.
"I have become an unhelpful distraction in the current political environment. I apologise to all those who have been collateral damage in my quest, both inside and outside the party and I deeply regret my actions.
"I hope my resignation will allow the party to get on with its vital task of setting out its pathway for New Zealand's future in the upcoming general election. I will be making no further comment at this time."
Muller didn't ask MPs about Covid data
Yesterday National Party leader Todd Muller said he had not asked any of his MPs, including Woodhouse, whether they had received the information Boag had sent Walker.
Asked why he hadn't asked Woodhouse, Muller said: "It's very clear from our perspective there's a conversation that's occurred between Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker. We are confident from what we can see that the issue here relates to Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker."
For that reason, Muller said he had not sought assurances from his MPs that they did not have the confidential data. "The issue is sorted from my perspective."
At no point in yesterday's media stand-up did Muller mention that he knew Boag had sent Covid patient information to Woodhouse.
He said there was no issue with "trust and confidence" in the National Party.
"My MPs know exactly what's expected of them. What we saw was a very unacceptable issue [with Hamish Walker].
"We dealt with it and it's resolved."
He said that Walker leaking the confidential details of 18 active Covid cases last week to media did not reflect National Party values.
National deputy leader Nikki Kaye told the Herald this morning she had not received any confidential information about Covid patients from Boag, who used to be part of Kaye's campaign team.
Woodhouse said he had made contact with Michael Heron QC and if his receipt of the patient details from Boag is relevant to the Heron inquiry, he will cooperate.
"I can confirm that Michelle Boag is not the source of my previous information released by me in relation to the Government's Covid-19 response," Woodhouse said.
Woodhouse has previously said that the two sisters who were released from managed isolation early and drove to Wellington had gotten lost and then came into close contact with friends who helped them find their way.
He said they had shared a "kiss and a cuddle". The Ministry of Health rejected this but said they were briefly in close contact.
He has also claimed that a homeless man enjoyed a 14-day hotel stay at an Auckland managed isolation facility, which the Government has investigated but is yet to find any evidence of.
How the Walker patient leak saga unfolded
Walker will no longer stand in the Clutha-Southland seat.
"I sincerely apologise for my actions. I will be making no further comment," Walker said on Wednesday.
He had passed confidential information - leaked to him by Boag - to media to defend a statement he had released which was slammed by the Government as "racist".
In the statement, Walker raised concerns about people flying in from "India, Pakistan and Korea" to be quarantined or placed in managed isolation in the south, but he didn't acknowledge that only New Zealanders could fly in.
He confessed to being behind the privacy breach on Tuesday, saying in a statement that he did it to "expose the Government's shortcomings so they could be rectified".
His statement said he'd sent the document to show the information wasn't password-protected or stored on a secure system which only authorised people could access.
After learning of Walker's role in the scandal, Muller immediately stripped the MP of his shadow portfolios and said he wouldn't be commenting further because of the ongoing Heron inquiry.
But the following morning, Muller said that he didn't have confidence in Walker and had written to the National Party board to have him removed as the Clutha-Southland candidate.
Walker then stood down as the candidate before the board held a meeting.
Boag stood down from her role as acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust - the role in which she'd received the patient's information - as well as from her role in Kaye's campaign.
She said on Wednesday she had made a "massive error of judgement on my part".
Today she quit the party altogether.