Stuart Nash demoted but keeping remaining portfolios

Fri, Mar 17

Napier MP Stuart Nash has been demoted to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings after his political implosion that saw him resign as Police Minister.

However, he is set to remain as Minister for Economic Development, Forestry, and Fisheries.

Speaking to media this afternoon, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he had been advised of a third mishap involving Nash, where he contacted a senior official from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in September last year to ask them to look at an immigration case of a health professional in the Napier electorate.

It comes after he admitted in a radio interview he had called Police Commissioner Andrew Coster in 2021 to query whether the police would appeal a case.

Speaking on Newstalk ZB, Nash told host Mike Hosking: "I’ve seen a couple of judgements, and actually one I phoned up the Police Commissioner and said surely you’re going to appeal this?"

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

His actions prompted accusations of interference with police, which is against Cabinet rules.

Yesterday, it was revealed Nash had previously been warned about making public comments on cases before the courts in 2020.

Further, the Solicitor-General considered prosecuting Nash for contempt following comments he made after the arrest of Eli Epiha, who ultimately pleaded guilty to murdering police constable Matthew Hunt.

Today, Hipkins said that while he did not believe Nash was acting to achieve personal gain, Nash's behaviour did not reach that of what he expected from his ministers.

"Stuart does on occasion speak in a colloquial manner that reflects the sentiments of many in the community, but he does need to take greater care to ensure that what he says, and how he says it upholds the standards of a Cabinet minister.

Former Police Minister Stuart Nash.

"We have processes and rules in place.

"I've repeated that point to him and made it very clear that any future lapses will result in his dismissal as a minister.

"I expect better of him and I expect better of all ministers."

Hipkins said he was not afraid of his decision making him look politically weak.

Nash's ranking does not affect his pay.

Before the announcement National Party leader Christopher Luxon, who is in isolation with Covid-19, said in a statement he would have sacked Nash "by now".

"Mr Hipkins has failed to show leadership and remove Mr Nash despite serious, repeated breaches.

“This would not be tolerated under a National government I lead. New Zealanders expect ministers to hold themselves to the highest standards. It is clear Mr Hipkins does not hold himself or his ministers to the high standard Kiwis should expect of them."

ACT Party deputy leader Brook van Velden said Hipkins should have sacked Nash.

“Chris Hipkins is a weak Prime Minister unable to hold his ministers accountable.

“What do Ministers in this Government need to do to get sacked?"