How Stuart Nash went from suiting up NASA astronaut to resigning as Police Minister in just few hours

Police Minister Stuart Nash has resigned from his post after bragging about calling the Police Commissioner and urging him to appeal a court judgement. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says Nash's actions were unwise and that if he hadn't resigned, he would've been sacked. 

But he's stopped short of removing Nash from Cabinet completely and the Opposition says that's the decision that's unwise. 

Suiting up a NASA astronaut, the highlight of Police Minister Stuart Nash's day. But from there, rather than blast-off, it all went downhill.

As soon as he stepped out of his NASA internship announcement, Nash was hit with questions about whether he'd interfered in a police case. 

"Hell no," he said.

Asked whether he would resign, Nash replied: "That was a fantastic announcement. Why would I resign?"

The problem is that prior to that "fantastic announcement", he went on the radio and bragged about calling up his "mate", the Police Commissioner, to urge him to appeal a court sentence.

"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," Nash said. 

Ministers cannot interfere with the police. They operate with complete independence from the Crown.

It's spelt out in black and white in both the law and the Cabinet Manual.

"Ministers do not comment on or involve themselves in the investigation of offences or the decision as to whether a person should be prosecuted, or on what charge," the manual says.

"They should not comment on the results of particular cases, on matters that are subject to suppression orders, or on any sentence handed down by a court."

When it was put to him that he'd breached the Cabinet Manual, Nash said: "I wasn't the Minister of Police."

"I was chewing the fat with a guy who was a mate about a decision that I thought was very bad in the circumstances that I had been involved in when I was the Minister of Police and buying back firearms and I'm going to leave it at that." 

Nash was the Police Minister who banned semi-automatic guns after the March 15 mosque attacks. He lost the portfolio in 2020, becoming Tourism Minister, but recently regained it.

He denied he interfered in police matters. Nash also denied saying he had told Coster, "surely, you're going to appeal this". 

The Prime Minister did not see it that way and Nash was gone by lunchtime.

"I think it demonstrated a serious error of judgement. That is why I have accepted his resignation from the police portfolio."

In the Prime Minister's eyes, Nash only had one fate: goodbye. 

"Had he not offered his resignation, then I would have removed him from the role."

Newshub understands Nash was referring to the case of a Southland man who was found with a banned AR-15 under his mattress.

The man lost his gun licence in 2017, but didn't hand in his guns as required. He also failed to surrender them in the gun buyback scheme.

In 2021, police found an AR-15, a 12 gauge shotgun, two AR-15 magazines, two Ruger magazines and thousands of rounds of ammunition at his house. 

It's understood the man received a sentence of community detention.

"I think it was a terrible decision and I stand by that comment," Nash said on Wednesday. 

Asked what  Nash said as an explanation for his actions, Hipkins said: "He hasn't offered one and I haven't asked for one. I believe that it was a serious error of judgement."

The Prime Minister said he understands there was no appeal from police in the end.

"Minister Nash's representations had no bearing on the Commissioner's decisions or the police's decisions."

Nash is keeping his other ministerial portfolios Economic Development, Forestry and Fisheries, but the Opposition wants him sacked completely.

"He has misused his power as a minister and is no longer fit to hold that office," said National deputy leader Nicola Willis. 

"He interfered, he boasted about it, he won't apologise. That's three strikes, he should be out," said ACT's David Seymour. 

Asked whether Nash should have known better given he's been Police Minister before, Hipkins said: "I think he has demonstrated an error of judgement here, a serious error of judgement and he has certainly paid a consequence for that, the fact he's no longer the Minister of Police."

Nash, no longer fit to be the Minister of Police.