Prime Minister Chris Hipkins orders review of Stuart Nash's comms with donors, reveals Jacinda Ardern's office knew of email containing Cabinet info

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has announced a review into all of Stuart Nash's communications with donors after it emerged he provided confidential information to two.

Hipkins sacked Nash on Tuesday night after it emerged Nash had emailed two businesspeople - who were also donors - about Cabinet discussions on a commercial rent relief package in 2020. Cabinet conversations are meant to be confidential.

The review will be conducted by the Cabinet Secretary over the next two months.

"The review will look at whether there have been any other breaches of Cabinet collective responsibility or confidentiality, or whether there have been any perceived or actual conflicts of interest between Stuart Nash and those donors," Hipkins said.

This will be limited to emails, texts and other messages between Nash and any declared donors to his campaigns.

"Stuart Nash has assured me he will fully cooperate and I expect to have an outcome in the coming months, prior to the general election," Hipkins said.

"In recent weeks I had been given assurances from Stuart Nash that there were no other instances or allegations of misconduct that would be outside of Cabinet rules. Given yesterday’s revelation, I feel it is important to verify this.

Hipkins has also revealed former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office knew of the email containing the sensitive information - but neither Ardern nor her Chief of Staff were aware.

He said the email came up amid consultation on an Official Information Act (OIA) request in 2021. It was found to be out of scope of the request, but the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was consulted by Nash's office.

It wasn't kicked up to the Prime Minister at the time or her Chief of Staff - but it went through the office.

"I have made it very clear to my office that I expect to be alerted about any such matters should they arise and should my office become aware of them," Hipkins said.

He said he couldn't speak to why it wasn't flagged with the Prime Minister at the time.

"I can't speak to the consideration of it at the time. I was not the Prime Minister at the time. I have certainly made it very clear that I expect to be alerted to the existence of any such communications in the future."

Newshub has obtained a copy of the email. It says: "I am as annoyed (and surprised) about the final outcome of the 'commercial rent relief package' as you are."

"I should have argued much harder for this when I saw that things were changing; but without the support I thought I had, it would have been incredibly difficult."

Hipkins is also still leaving it to Nash to announce his future as an MP. He said he had a fair idea of what Nash will say.

Nash has told Newshub: "I am not resigning. There won't be a by-election."

However, if he retires later in April, a by-election doesn't have to be held due to the proximity to the general election - but 75 percent of Parliament would have to agree.

Hipkins said the people of Napier don't deserve to have a by-election right now considering the centre is still recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle.

Earlier this month, Nash resigned as Police Minister after admitting he once rang the Police Commissioner to suggest he appeal a court judgement. That's a breach of the Cabinet Manual as ministers aren't meant to comment on or involve themselves in prosecutions or sentencing.

A day later, it emerged Nash had also once nearly faced a contempt charge after going on the radio and saying the killer of slain police officer Matthew Hunt should receive a lengthy sentence. The Solicitor-General ended up recommending the Attorney-General give Nash a telling-off.

But it didn't end there, with Prime Minister Hipkins then demoting Nash and placing him on a final warning after it came to light Nash had used inappropriate processes to advocate on an immigration case.

"However it is also clear in his pattern of behaviour that Stuart is not acting to achieve personal gain from his actions," Hipkins said at the time.  "The cases in question represent more his desire to get things done in his portfolios and on behalf of his communities."