Top official launches inquiry into Michael Wood pecuniary interests after shares shambles emerges

A top official is launching an inquiry into whether Michael Wood has complied with his obligations to declare his interests.

Sir Maarten Wevers, the Registrar of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests, has just released a statement saying he received a letter from National MP Chris Penk requesting an inquiry on Wednesday.

The statement said a preliminary review has been conducted to determine whether an inquiry is warranted. 

"The Registrar noted that Hon Michael Wood had, in recent days, made a number of public statements, including in the House of Representatives, in relation to the need to amend previous returns under the Register," it said.

"The Registrar’s preliminary review also took account of the degree of importance of the matter under inquiry; whether the matter may involve a breach of the obligations to make a return; and whether the matter is technical or trivial."

It said the Registrar has determined an inquiry is warranted.  

It emerged on Tuesday Wood initially failed to declare with Parliament's pecuniary interest register that he held about $13,000 worth of shares in Auckland Airport. 

He eventually declared these appropriately last year, but didn't correct previous registers.

Wood said he did inform the Cabinet Office of the shares when he became a minister. But the Cabinet Office was also told Wood was going to sell the shares, which hasn't happened, something the Prime Minister has said should have happened. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday said the Cabinet Office had asked Wood 12 times whether he had divested his shares and Wood had told officials repeatedly that he was about to or was in the process of doing so.

Wood was asked why he didn't tell reporters it had been 12 times earlier.

"I wasn't aware of that at that time… I had been advised it was eight times and that's the answer I have provided… We have had to go back and check records for this and that was the information I had."

He was then asked why he thought it was eight times, when the Prime Minister said it was 12 times and had listed the 12 dates.

"The team in my office have gone back. Obviously, I don't have a running total in my head of these things. The team in my office have gone back over the period of the last couple of years to pull down the information. That was the information I was provided with.

"Look, I am not going to quibble about this. I was given that advice by the Cabinet Office. I should have followed that through more urgently. I didn't. To some degree, whether it was number A or number B, I don't think it makes a huge difference."

Wood said he didn't feel good about the situation with the shares.

"It's been a very difficult exercise for me, but I take responsibility for it."

Wood has said he previously had a "hitch" with selling the shares. While in the process of doing so, which he began in February last year, he was meant to get information back from the share register but that didn't arrive because they had an old email address.

"I acknowledge the faults. I should have followed up on that and I didn't. That is why I am in this situation," he told reporters.

"This is something I lost sight of. I have a very large job. I work 80 to 90-hour weeks. Some of these things in my life administration, I have let slip. I shouldn't have."

He denied that him holding shares had any impact on any decisions he has made as a minister.