Jenna Lynch analysis: Prime Minister Chris Hipkins eats humble pie by telling lobbyists the gig is up

So long free-rein lobbying - the Prime Minister has cut off lobbyists' access to the Beehive and called on the industry to come up with a code of conduct to self-regulate. 

Booze, gas, big pharma, and beef farmers - every industry has an interest in what the Cabinet does, but some people get their ear easier than most: lobbyists.

Asked when the last time was he met with a lobbyist, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said: "I certainly have interacted with people that I know to be lobbyists."

There are no specifics there, and there's no requirement for it. The unregulated industry has unregulated access. 

Most of it happens behind closed doors and lobbyists even have swipe card access like staff do to the Parliamentary buildings.

But the Prime Minister wants that axed. 

"My view is that they should go through the front door like every other New Zealander," Hipkins said. 

That's despite just two weeks ago Hipkins saying there was not a sausage to worry about.  

Hipkins said at the time he didn't believe "lobbyists necessarily get preferred access" that other members of the public do not. 

But on Monday he was eating humble pie, telling the lobbyists the gig is up. He called on the industry to come up with a voluntary code of conduct. 

He's instructed the Ministry of Justice to investigate whether there's a need to formally regulate the industry.

"Looking at the international examples, New Zealand is a bit of an outlier in not having anything in that space."

National's deputy leader Nicola Willis said the party supports these initial steps.

"We would like to see it go a bit further. We think a compulsory stand-down period for former ministers," she said.

Influence on Government from the outside has come into sharp focus following revelations Stuart Nash communicated sensitive Cabinet conversations with his donors.

On Monday, Nash announced in a Facebook post that he'll leave politics at this year's election.

Hipkins said it was Nash's decision to make.

As Nash articulated his exit, the Prime Minister announced the investigation into his conduct will look at all texts, emails, Whatsapps and letters with any of his declared donors.

"If I wasn't worried at all, we wouldn't be having this conversation, we wouldn't be having the current review that we're having, and Stuart Nash wouldn't have lost his job," Hipkins said. 

It won't look at Nash's communications with any Labour Party donors. 

"This is about making sure we're getting a result in a relatively short period of time and identifying where the risk is," the Prime Minister said.

The Government has chosen a high-speed but low-political risk investigation.

Jenna Lynch Analysis

What's caused the turnaround from Chris Hipkins on lobbying?

It's almost as if they had a scandal and needed to reclaim the transparency narrative.

The Stuart Nash story compounded the concerns that were raised a couple of weeks back around lobbying and those two things combined were painting a murky picture about the movings and shakings in Wellington.

It's hoped this will lead to a cleaner, clearer picture of who wants what from government - perhaps lobbying firms listing their clients on their website for starters and a more fulsome set of rules for everyone in the game once the Ministry of Justice reports back next year.

It does have a fox building its own henhouse vibe about it, but a voluntary code was the fastest way to address this.

So much of Hipkins' likeability is linked to trust. Nash and lobbyist access were threatening to chip away at Chippy's honest Kiwi brand. They had to move quickly.