Chris Hipkins says he has full confidence in chief of staff who resigned from lobbying firm the day before being hired by PM's office

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says he has full confidence in his chief of staff after it was discovered he used to work as a lobbyist for a liquor firm.

Official documents released to RNZ show Andrew Kirton previously worked for lobbying firm Anacta which lobbied about the now-scrapped container return scheme. 

He resigned from Anacta the day before he was hired by the Prime Minister's office, the RNZ report said.

During Tuesday's edition of AM, host Ryan Bridge asked Hipkins about the report and whether Kirton influenced his decision about scrapping the container return scheme - which was announced last week as part of the Prime Minister's policy bonfire to save public money amid the cost of living crisis. 

But Hipkins said Anacta was Kirton's old job and he's left it behind.

"The [policy] reprioritisation process had started before Andrew Kirton had started in my office," Hipkins said.

He said Kirton hadn't spoken to him about the container scheme directly before he began the job.

"I think he may have spoken to other people within the Government", but "I'm absolutely confident that he's removed himself from any of those past relationships that he had in terms of his lobbying work".

He also said there was "good transparency around this" so "people can form their own judgments".

Andrew Kirton.
Andrew Kirton. Photo credit: File

When Bridge asked whether Hipkins declared to the public that Kirton was previously a lobbyist, the Prime Minister said "I think people will understand that Government relations" included lobbying.

Before leaving Parliament to become a lobbyist, Kirton was the Labour Party's general secretary between 2016 and 2018 and was the manager for Jacinda Ardern's 2017 election campaign.