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Gone: Outgoing Queenstown MP Hamish Walker

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

HE was gone by lunchtime.

Hamish Walker becomes the second Clutha-Southland MP to resign before the next election from what is, arguably, one of the safest blue seats in the country.

His predecessor Todd Barclay was rolled in 2017 after a phone recording scandal.

But for Walker, it was a case of three strikes and you’re out.

His two-and-a-half year tenure ended just after noon on Wednesday when the 35-year-old issued a short statement, as the National Party board was about to meet to discuss his future within the party, announcing he won’t seek re-election come September.

The writing was on the wall after the week from PR hell.

Last Thursday he issued a press release saying Queenstown, Southland and Dunedin could expect up to 11,000 people from “India, Pakistan and Korea” arriving in the south to quarantine.

It was a statement widely labelled as racist – a sentiment he denied.

His response, though, was arguably an own goal.

Walker, on Tuesday, publicly admitted to being the person who leaked confidential details of 18 Covid-19 patients to the Otago Daily Times and two other media outlets to prove he was right.

But the information provided, which no media recipient published, didn’t.

By Tuesday night Michelle Boag, former National Party president, and (now former) Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust acting chief executive, fell on her sword after admitting being the person who sent the information to Walker.

On Wednesday morning she also resigned from her National Party roles.

By the time Walker issued his statement, new National leader Todd Muller had already stripped him of his portfolios, said publicly he’d lost confidence in him and had written to the board asking for him to de-selected.

Walker’s first faux pas was in February, when the former rugby ref was caught telling pork pies after posting a photo of himself in Mataura on social media, claiming to have been door-knocking and gathering signatures for a petition asking the government to fast-track the removal of dross from an unused paper mill building.

Except he hadn’t been.

It’s an almighty fall from grace for the outgoing Clutha-Southland MP, who was, at one point, tipped to be a future leader of the party – last year he even entered the ‘preferred Prime Minister’ polls.

Along with going in to bat for numerous migrant workers in need of help, including perhaps most notably Queenstowners Dinesha Amarasinghe and her husband, Sam Wijerathne, and their three young boys, even organising a protest march in Queenstown to pressure Immigration NZ into keeping them in the country, he’s also put his full weight behind the Lumsden Maternity Centre, trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to overturn a decision to downgrade it to a maternal and child hub.

Last year he was nominated as a NZ Herald People’s Choice ‘Our Heroes’ for 2019 after he talked a man on a ledge, looking ready to jump, down days before his wedding to now-wife, Penny.

Mountain Scene understands Walker was in Dunedin on Wednesday when the proverbial hit the fan – a sign on his Queenstown electoral office says he’s on annual leave till July 20.

According to the Herald, Walker fessed up to Muller on Monday, after the government already announced it would launch an inquiry, to be led by QC Michael Heron.

The delay in that being made public, according to the Herald, was because Walker lawyered up and sent a letter to Muller asking the party leadership not to out him.

Ironically, it allegedly cited “privacy concerns”.

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz