Michael Wood fires back at National's accusations on handling of Stuart Nash email

Labour minister Michael Wood says National's accusations of a "culture of cover-ups" in the Government are a "political attack" and the real blame for the latest email drama lies with former minister Stuart Nash.

Two staff members in Prime Minister's Office (PMO) apologised on Thursday after it was revealed they were previously aware of an email that has since led to the sacking of Nash from Cabinet

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.

The PMO said the staffers were made aware of the email in 2021 as part of consultation from Nash's office on an Official Information Act (OIA) request. However, it said they didn't recognise the significance of the email at the time and didn't flag it with either then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern or her Chief of Staff. 

The email was ultimately ruled to be out of the scope of the OIA 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. 

National claims the email was covered-up - something rejected by the Government.

Labour's Wood, one of Cabinet's senior ministers, told AM he didn't like staff being blamed "when these things happen".

"The reality is here that Stuart Nash is the person who did wrong… He has lost his job," Wood said.

"I'm a minister and I receive OIA requests multiple times per week. The responsibility is on me. I see them all. I sign them out. I'm responsible for what goes out."

Wood acknowledged the staffers should have flagged the email when they became aware, but he said ultimately ministers are responsible.

"Something was passed on to the previous Prime Minister's office. Staff should have alerted the Prime Minister in that case and they didn't. But in the end, it comes back to the minister who's in charge of responding to that OIA. That was Stuart in this case."

Michael Wood.
Michael Wood. Photo credit: Newshub.

But National's Erica Stanford said the issue is no longer about Nash, but about what the PMO knew. She claimed the email was brought to the PMO's attention as it "looked and smelled very bad". 

It was her claim there was a "culture of cover-ups".

"Now the thing we were very clear yesterday to say was, staff don't set the culture in these offices, ministers set the cultures," Stanford said.

"As Michael said in his office, he's obviously got a certain culture set, but in this case, the culture in this office was of cover-ups".

She said it "goes right to the top" and doesn't blame the individual staff member. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said neither Ardern nor her Chief of Staff were aware of the email.

Wood hit back: "This is simply the National Party turning this into a political attack on the previous Prime Minister and her office."

"This is something that was Stuart Nash's responsibility and I do look forward, given Erica is so strong on party leaders releasing information fully, for Christopher Luxon to release the report into Sam Uffindell and all those sorts of things."

At Parliament on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni was standing in for Hipkins, who was in Auckland. 

She also put the blame on Nash and said the staffers made "an honest mistake" and weren't "trying to act in any underhanded way". 

"It's certainly not a cover-up from the perspective of what's gone on between the office here, that certainly hasn't been the case. It was an honest mistake with the handling of information."

Nash on Wednesday afternoon apologised for "causing an unwanted distraction". He said he would remain Napier's local MP "for now", but didn't commit to standing at the election. 

"To the people of Napier, whom it has been an absolute pleasure and privilege serving and representing in Parliament, I also offer my apologies," he said. 

"For now, I will continue to be your local MP and will work hard to ensure you get everything you need and deserve in your journey of recovery after Cyclone Gabrielle."

Timeline provided by the Prime Minister's Office:


3 June: Cabinet Committee agrees to amend the Property Law Act to include an implied clause into leases, with criteria including businesses having 20 or fewer FTE per lease site. Also agreed to government support for arbitration.

4 June: PR from Minister Little announcing the Government will temporarily amend the Property Law Act to insert a clause in commercial leases requiring a fair reduction in rent, and $40m support for arbitration

5 June: Stuart Nash sends email to Greg Loveridge and Troy Bowker

30 June: Property Law Act changes do not proceed after NZ First withdraws support. $40 million in arbitration still proceeds.


8 June: Stuart Nash's office receives an OIA asking for all written correspondence between himself and a list of individuals. This is discussed with staff in the Prime Minister's Office on three occasions.

30 July: Stuart Nash's office emails the deputy Chief of Staff Holly Donald and a senior advisor with the emails found in relation to the request noting that in their view they were out of scope as they weren't received by Stuart Nash in his capacity as Minister. This includes the email of 5 June 2020.  The Prime Minister's Office did not reply.

27 September: Cabinet agrees to a Bill amending the Property Law Act

28 September: PR from Ministers Faafoi and Williams announcing changes to the Property Law Act to help those affected by COVID-19 restrictions

2 November: The COVID-19 Response (Management Measures) Legislation Bill received Royal Assent, This includes changes to the Property Law Act.


1 March: Stuart Nash receives a letter from the Ombudsman regarding an investigation into his response to the 8 June 2021 OIA.

17 March: Stuart Nash's office drafts a response to the Ombudsman and shares it with the Prime Minister's Office. This did not include a copy of the 5 June 2020 email but did include a reference to withholding documents under s9(2)(j). The Prime Minister's Office did not reply.

29 March: Stuart Nash replies to the Ombudsman including a redacted version of the 5 June 2020 email. Includes an explanation that the email was in his capacity as a Labour Member of Parliament rather than in his capacity as Minister.

(The Prime Minister's Office has since said an unredacted version with the text of the email was also included.)

30 March: Office of the Ombudsman responds to Nash's office, acknowledging receipt of his response.

25 May: Office of the Ombudsman emails Stuart Nash's office saying they would not be pursuing the complaint and the investigation was closed.