Chief Ombudsman reopens investigation into former minister Stuart Nash's refusal to release email

  • 31/03/2023

The Chief Ombudsman has reopened an investigation into former minister Stuart Nash following the latest email drama.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier confirmed he has reopened his investigation into an Official Information Act (OIA) complaint about a decision by Nash.

"The original enquiry was discontinued in May last year in discussion with the complainant. The complainant has now asked me to reopen the case. I have recommenced my investigation," Boshier said in a statement.

"The original complaint was about the former Minister's decision to refuse a request for information about his communications with a named group of individuals on the grounds the information was out of scope."

The email, which Newshub has obtained a copy of, shows Nash in 2020 discussing a Cabinet matter on a commercial rent relief package with two donors - Troy Bowker and Greg Loveridge. That's despite the fact what goes on within Cabinet is meant to be confidential.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins sacked Nash as a minister on Tuesday night when the email came to his attention, but then on Wednesday revealed it had previously been seen in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Hipkins said he had found out on Wednesday the email came up during consultation on an OIA request to Nash's office. It was ruled to be out of the scope of the request, as it was viewed to have been sent in Nash's capacity as an MP rather than a minister. However, the email referred to Cabinet matters, which only ministers attend. But the PMO - under then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - was consulted.

"I will start by carefully examining Mr Nash's original response to me including the material provided by his office at the time," Boshier said.

"I will consider whether or not the information in question was held in his capacity as a Minister, which is subject to the OIA, or as an electorate MP that is not subject to the Act, and whether there was a basis for withholding the information."

Boshier said he plans to complete his investigation as soon as possible.

"I'm required by law to conduct my enquiries in secret so I will not be in a position to comment further until my investigation is completed."