Prime Minister John Key's office has distanced itself from a staffer who sent photographs to controversial website Whaleoil.

The website published photographs today of rubbish and cigarette butts left over after the Press Gallery's Christmas party at Parliament.

Jason Ede, who works in a communications role in Mr Key's office, was seen by Labour MP Phil Goff and Herald political editor Audrey Young taking the photographs this morning.

He was not named on the website as the photographer.


Mr Ede apologised to the press gallery this afternoon.

In a statement, he said: "It was a silly, spur of the moment thing to do, and I consulted no-one."

The article, titled "Press Gallery Party Aftermath", criticised the press gallery for leaving a mess and smoking on Parliament grounds.

Mr Key's office said Mr Ede took the photos in a personal capacity.

A spokeswoman said: "It is our understanding Mr Ede took pictures of the aftermath of the press gallery function and sent them to a blogger. Mr Ede did this off his own bat."

She added: "In terms of the function, a number of staff from the Prime Minister's office attended and enjoyed themselves and we appreciate the media putting on such a good function."

Mr Goff said: "It shows that there is underlying network of people who get Whaleoil to do their dirty work for them.

"And that network goes as high as the Prime Minister's office."


Press gallery chair and Herald deputy political editor Claire Trevett said: "It seems a bizarre thing to do, especially because the photos do not show anything particularly startling about the after-effects of a party of 600 people.

"It does make me wonder what other contributions Mr Ede might have made, as well as whether this is sanctioned by the Prime Minister in any way.

"As for the cleaners, we are grateful to them for their extra efforts after the Gallery party and have shown that with a token of appreciation, as we do most years."

Labour Party deputy leader David Parker said the publication of Mr Ede's pictures showed the link between the website, run by blogger Cameron Slater, and the National Party.

"Today's unsavoury events prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the links between Cameron Slater and the ninth floor of the Beehive.

"This raises serious questions about the source of many of Cameron Slater's stories.

"We can now safely assume future leaks regarding confidential government information and political attacks National wants to distance itself from, come from John Key's office.''