Wed, 07 Jun 2023

WELLINGTON, March 29 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has asked the Cabinet secretary to review communications between former Police Minister Stuart Nash and his donors.

The review, which will take place over the next two months, will look at whether there have been any other breaches of cabinet collective responsibility or confidentiality, or whether there have been perceived or actual conflicts of interest in communications Nash has had with those donors, Hipkins said on Wednesday.

"The scope of this review will be limited to emails, texts and other messages between Stuart Nash and any declared donor to his campaign," Hipkins said, adding he expected to have an outcome in the coming months, prior to the general election later this year.

The prime minister announced on Tuesday to dismiss Nash from Cabinet and stripped him of all of his ministerial portfolios.

However, Hipkins said on Monday he was made aware by a news outlet of an email Nash sent in March 2020 to two contacts regarding a commercial rent relief package that Cabinet had considered.

In the email he sets out both his opposition to the decision Cabinet reached and the position that other Cabinet members took, Hipkins said, adding this is a clear breach of collective responsibility and Cabinet confidentiality.

In addition, the two recipients of the email were donors to Nash. They are also commercial property owners who had an interest in the Cabinet decision, the prime minister said.

"That crosses a line that is totally unacceptable to me," Hipkins said, adding the matter is considered to be "a very serious one."

Ministers are expected to uphold the highest ethical standards and his actions raise perceptions of influence that cannot stand, he said.

Nash's other portfolios include ministers for economic development, forestry, oceans and fisheries. Ministers Megan Woods and David Parker will be acting ministers of these portfolios.

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