Election 2020

National MP sent sex photo to teenager

Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon is the latest National MP to announce he will leave Parliament amid personal controversy, Marc Daalder reports

Andrew Falloon, the first-term MP for the Rangitata electorate, who announced on Monday that he would not contest the upcoming election is alleged to have sent a harmful image to a teenage girl.

Stuff reported Falloon sent an inappropriate image - not of himself - to the teenager and other reports said her parents had referred it directly to the Prime Minister's office.

A spokesperson for Jacinda Ardern said an item relating to Falloon was sent to her office last week. With the permission of the sender, it was forwarded on to National Party leader Judith Collins.

"We treat all correspondence confidentially. All matters to do with Andrew Falloon's resignation are a matter for the Leader of the Opposition," the spokesperson said.

At her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, Ardern similarly declined to go into details.

In a statement, a police spokesperson said, "Police conducted an investigation after receiving a report of an individual sending an unsolicited image. The investigation determined it did not meet the threshold for prosecution. As such, no further action will be taken."

Falloon referred to mental health troubles in his own statement, issued before the allegations came to light.

"As I noted in my maiden speech three years ago, when I was younger I lost three close friends to suicide. It was an extremely difficult period in my life. Unfortunately, recently, another friend took their own life, which has brought back much unresolved grief," he said.

"Recent events have compounded that situation and reminded me of the need to maintain my own health and wellbeing. I have again been receiving counselling.

"I have made a number of mistakes and I apologise to those who have been affected."

Collins said the National Party had been made aware "of an issue relating to Andrew late on Friday afternoon and we have dealt with it this morning".

"Andrew is suffering from significant mental health issues and his privacy, and that of his family, must be respected," she said.

Falloon's decision to drop out of the race comes just two weeks after fellow first-term South Island MP Hamish Walker was pushed out of the party for leaking personal details of the country's active Covid-19 cases to media outlets. The same week, National's Jian Yang announced his own intention not to contest the upcoming election after continued pressure over the former spy-trainer's refusal to speak to English-language media.

It also follows the retirement announcements of high-profile MPs Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye after former leader Todd Muller stepped aside for his own mental health reasons. Adams and Kaye said they were interested in life after Parliament and commentators said their twin resignations on the same day were a blow to the party.

Where to get help:

1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

Anxiety New Zealand - 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)

Supporting Families in Mental Illness - 0800 732 825

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