Questions raised over donations received by Stuart Nash from timber, forestry industry

Questions have been raised about donations received by Minister of Forestry Stuart Nash from the timber and forestry industry.

Nash is overseeing an inquiry into land use, including forestry slash, but he's received thousands of dollars from the wood processing industry over the last three elections - and he's under pressure to pay it back.

Newshub's interactions with Nash on Tuesday started with him not being keen to talk donations. Later, he relented.

"All my donations from the wood process sector have been declared, so it's not as if I'm hiding anything from the public at all," Nash said.

Still, the Forestry Minister received campaign funding from one of the very sectors he regulates. It is causing concern for academics.

"I think it does create concerns, yes," said Max Rashbrooke from Victoria University.

It's also worrying Federated Farmers.

"It does make you feel a little bit uncomfortable," said Toby Williams, president of Federated Farmers Gisborne/Wairoa.

Nash is now one of the ministers overseeing a land use inquiry announced post-Cyclone Gabrielle with a big focus on forestry slash.

"My integrity is really big for me. If I thought there was personal interest there then I would manage that appropriately and I would work with the Cabinet office and through the Cabinet manual on that," Nash said.

Public records show just how much Nash has received from the timber sector over the last three elections. In 2020, he declared $19,503 from such parties, in 2017 it was $5000, and in 2014 he declared $31,000.

"I think those donations that Minister Nash received should've been returned if for no other reason to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest," Rashbrooke said.

But Nash said he isn't going to do that.

"I mean, part of our political process is going out there and raising money so you can run a campaign. As mentioned, I've hidden nothing. Every donor that I've received a donation from is all recorded, it's all public for people to see," he said.

But Williams said there's unease over Nash's funding.

"A minister is supposed to be impartial, you know, and be the minister for New Zealand," Williams said.

Nash is confident he's exactly that.

"I'm keen to work with any sector group - farming, forestry, environmental, NGOs - to come up with the right decision for what is best for all our communities all up and down this wonderful country."