The gloves came off in the increasingly bitter fight between National leader Simon Bridges and his former friend and colleague Jami-Lee Ross after the latter made good on his promise to lay a police complaint.

"He has defamed me, and he has lied," Bridges told media yesterday.

Bridges struck back after Ross held another lengthy stand-up following a visit to Wellington central police station to lay a complaint alleging donation fraud by his former leader.

"I won't stand, and I didn't stand, for what he's done," Bridges said.


"I am glad, as are all of my colleagues to a person, that he is no longer part of our caucus."

Bridges appeared to be controlling his anger when he spoke to reporters, speaking through gritted teeth at times as he laid out his knowledge of a $100,000 donation Ross said was at the heart of his complaint.

"The reality is, today he did his worst and he is thoroughly discredited. He is wrong in every regard around electoral laws. He has defamed me and he has lied. Nothing he said stacks up, and that was the worst he could do.

"He has made vexatious, criminal allegations to the police and he's attempted to blackmail me. I don't stand for that sort of nonsense as leader of the National Party, and 55 MPs agreed with my assessment and that's why he's gone," Bridges said.

West Coast list MP Maureen Pugh became collateral damage in the deepening row when Ross yesterday released audio of a conversation with Bridges about the $100,000 donation which Ross secretly recorded.

On the audio, Bridges described Pugh as "f***ing useless" during a side conversation about MPs and candidates.

Yesterday he offered her a "heartfelt apology".

"I've apologised profusely to her for my wrong comments. I'm mortified, there's no excuse for them and they were entirely thoughtless. They're not how I feel.


"This is really a big and hard lesson for me."

Bridges detailed his involvement with businessman Yikun Zhang, who Ross alleged made a donation of $100,000 which was split into eight payments to avoid being declared.

Bridges said that he attended a dinner with Zhang because Ross knew him well and was keen for them to meet. He then went to another dinner where Zhang was present.

"He told me that he and his supporters wanted to donate a large sum of money, I think around $100,000. I thanked him and made clear that that's something Jami-Lee Ross should deal with," Bridges said by way of explanation.

"I then, that evening I think, let Jami-Lee Ross know that."

Bridges said the audio did not back Ross' "lies to [the media] over the last 24 hours or so, quite the reverse. There are a number of donations there from a number of individuals".

Asked why he didn't explain that earlier, Bridges said his background as a lawyer made him cautious.

"I'm a cautious person who takes things seriously and I take this seriously. It was a very serious allegation of corruption.

"I wanted to make sure that I'd done my due diligence, that I'd talked to the National Party about things that were, in a sense, news to me."

Ross spent two hours with police yesterday. The ousted MP told reporters afterwards he played police the recording of his conversation with Bridges.

He said Bridges asked him to split up the donation but he did not have a recording of that conversation.

Bridges called Ross' complaint "bogus, stupid and vexatious" and said he was not worried about the police investigation.

"He's a terrible person," Bridges said.

The audio also reveals a conversation about getting rid of list MPs to make way for new ones.

Bridges tells Ross that having two Chinese MPs would be "nice", but putting them on the list and keeping everyone happy would be "bloody hard".

"Depends where we're polling ... that sort of thing. Two Chinese would be nice but would it be one Chinese and one Filipino. What do we do?"

Ross replies that two Chinese would be better than two Indians.

Bridges agrees but says that adding two Chinese would create a "sh*t fight" with sitting MPs. He then talks about cutting some list MPs to make way for new ones.

"I reckon it's all three of our MPs who ... not thinking of obvious ones like [Chris] Finlayson or [David] Carter, but actually we just want them to go. Like Maureen Pugh's f***ing useless."

Ross responds by adding National MP Nicky Wagner's name to the list of MPs who may not be wanted.

Bridges says he doesn't want them all to go "this year".

Asked about the conversation yesterday, Bridges said he stood by National's effort to have a mix of ethnicities on its list, but he said it was discussed in a blunt manner.

"I obviously didn't mind my Ps and Qs. I am something of a rough diamond sometimes. I'm not perfect."