Prime Minister Chris Hipkins demotes Stuart Nash, places him on 'final warning' after details of another meddling incident emerge

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has demoted Stuart Nash to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings and placed him on a "final warning" after details of another meddling incident emerged.

In September 2022, Nash, acting as the local MP for Napier, contacted a senior official at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to ask him to take a look at an immigration case of a health professional in his electorate. 

Hipkins said in doing so, Nash did not use the "established process for Ministers and MPs to advocate in an immigration case". 

"Minister Nash has assured me there is no personal or other connection between the person in his electorate and him, and he was only intervening to ensure his electorate did not lose a much-needed health professional," Hipkins told media on Friday. 

The Prime Minister said there is a well-established process and channel for Ministers and MPs to advocate on immigration cases and the Cabinet Manual is clear. Hipkin said the public servants involved in the case acted appropriately. 

He said the latest instance "demonstrates a pattern of behaviour which does not reach the standard I expect from ministers".

"However it is also clear in his pattern of behaviour that Stuart is not acting to achieve personal gain from his actions.

"The cases in question represent more his desire to get things done in his portfolios and on behalf of his communities."

Hipkins said Nash often speaks in a "colloquial manner" but he needs to take greater care to ensure what he says and how he says it upholds the standards expected of a Cabinet minister.

"We have processes and rules for a reason, and in part that is to avoid the sorts of questions Stuart is now facing.

"Having considered the thresholds used by previous Prime Ministers I have decided the appropriate penalty is to demote Stuart Nash and place him on a final warning.

"This demotion reflects both his poor judgement on process and his failure to alert me to these past instances. I have repeated that point to him and made clear that any further lapses will result in his dismissal as a Minister.

"As I have said his actions reflect poor judgement, but the specifics of each incident do not warrant dismissal," Hipkins said. 

It comes after Nash stood down as Police Minister on Wednesday after coming under fire for previously calling the Police Commissioner about appealing a court judgement.

It raised concerns about potential interference in independent police operations. The Cabinet Manual for ministers says ministers don't comment on or involve themselves in investigations or decisions around prosecutions.

Then on Thursday, it was revealed the Solicitor-General considered prosecuting Nash over comments made on the radio about the legal process for the killer of police officer Matthew Hunt in 2020.

Nash wasn't prosecuted in the end, but rather given a telling-off by Attorney-General David Parker.