Whistleblower alerted National to Barbara Kuriger matter two weeks ago, raised concern about MP's actions towards ministry

National's agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger has resigned her portfolio after failing to appropriately handle a personal dispute she had with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

Leader Christopher Luxon said he became aware of the issue on Thursday night but Newshub can reveal his office was told two weeks ago.

Kuriger, named the inaugural Dairy Woman of the Year in 2012, sure knows her way around a dairy farm. But the Taranaki King Country MP has failed to navigate a conflict of interest. 

"This is a significant conflict of interest and the failure to recognise it and to take steps to manage this conflict has been a serious lapse of judgement," Luxon said. 

Kuriger's family is in an ongoing dispute with MPI. Her son Tony, a sharemilker, was convicted in 2020 for the ill-treatment of dozens of cows. 

The failure to manage the ongoing conflict has now resulted in Kuriger resigning her agriculture, biosecurity and food safety portfolios

"There was a conflict of interest that wasn't well registered and managed and it's entirely appropriate that she's resigned her portfolios," Luxon said. 

Luxon wouldn't discuss the nature of the dispute or of Kurigers wrongdoing on Friday, but said Kuriger did not raise the issue herself.  

"A third party raised it with my office, we looked into it and I discussed it in full with Barbara last night," he said. 

Newshub has seen the email from the third party. We've chosen not to name them.

The sender claims to be an MPI employee and alleges Kuriger has used her official letterhead to persistently request official information about her family’s case. They raise concerns about her using her influence.

"Regardless of whether she is using her email, what email address she is using, the big substantive issue here, there is no doubt about it, there is a major conflict of interest," Luxon said on Friday.

The National leader said he's acted swiftly and decisively.

Asked on Friday when he found out about the matter, Luxon said he "became fully aware last night in our conversation". 

But Newshub can reveal National has been sitting on this information for two weeks. The email was sent on Saturday, October 1. A staffer from Luxon’s office acknowledged receipt of the email two days later, saying, "it will be carefully considered".

No action was taken until Thursday night.