Prime Minister removes Clare Curran from Cabinet

The Prime Minister has removed Minister Clare Curran from Cabinet after she failed to officially record a meeting she had in relation to a vacant role.

"She has failed my expectations. This is a significant demotion," Ms Ardern announced on Friday.

Ms Curran offered her resignation as Minister for Open Government and Government Digital Services, which Ms Ardern accepted.

She then took the step of removing her from Cabinet.

Ms Curran failed to record a meeting she held at her Beehive office in February with Derek Handley in relation to the vacant role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

It was not recorded in her diary, nor were her staff or any officials made aware of it. It was also left out of a written answer to a parliamentary question.

"The failure to record the meeting in her diary; inform her staff and officials; and accurately answer Parliamentary questions has left the Minister open to the accusation that she deliberately sought to hide the meeting," Ms Ardern said.

"She simply cannot recall the reason it was not included in her diary. That's not good enough, that's why she's been removed from Cabinet."

Ms Curran will remain the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, outside of Cabinet.

It's the second time she has come under fire for not disclosing meetings.

She previously failed to disclose a meeting she had with former RNZ news boss Carol Hirschfeld in answer to a Parliamentary written question.

In a statement, Ms Curran said she "simply forgot" about the meeting when she was addressing the recent parliamentary question.

"I take full responsibility for not following proper process. The meeting with Mr Handley should have been in the diary and my staff should have been informed," she said.

"I apologise for the distraction this has caused to my Government and I just want to put my head down and focus on my portfolio of broadcasting, communication and digital media," she told media at her electorate office in Dunedin South. 

Ms Curran has released the correspondence she had with Mr Handley leading up to and following the meeting.

They talked through Twitter messages, text messages, and Ms Curran's private gmail address which she said was "just another mode of communication".

The Prime Minister said she would not bring a new MP into Cabinet to replace Ms Curran. Instead, Minister Chris Hipkins will take over the Open Government responsibilities, and Minister Megan Woods will take over the Government Digital Services portfolio.

Recruitment for the CTO role is in its final stages and Mr Hipkins will take over from Ms Curran in overseeing it.

The State Services Commission will check over the appointment process to make sure it has been robust and that Ms Curran's meeting with Mr Handley did not influence the outcome. 

Ms Ardern apologised to Mr Handley and said he'd been brought into the issue through no fault of his own.

"He is a qualified and capable candidate who has made it through to the final stages of the appointment process based on his talent, experience. The issue is entirely about the Minister’s conduct, not Mr Handley's," she said.