16 Mar 2023

Stuart Nash admits he 'stuffed up', wants to retain other portfolios

12:32 pm on 16 March 2023
Labour MP Stuart Nash

Stuart Nash says he plans to continue in his other roles in the portfolios of forestry, oceans and fisheries, and economic development. (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Stuart Nash, who resigned as police minister in a matter of hours on Wednesday, admits he "completely stuffed up" but plans to keep working on his other portfolios.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he had confidence in Nash to perform his other roles, and he had been assured the mistake would not be made again.

Nash joined Hipkins on a trip to Gisborne to announce government funding for a coastal shipping route between the city and Napier, to support the regions in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

After landing, he told RNZ he had got it wrong when he boasted on Wednesday about phoning the police commissioner to discuss whether a case he disagreed with the judge on would be appealed.

"Absolutely, I completely stuffed up, and you know what - if I was the prime minister I would have done exactly the same thing as our one did," Nash said.

"I own it, made a mistake, and onwards and upwards."

Hipkins has said Nash's removal from the police portfolio was proportional to the offence, but opposition parties and commentators have called for his removal from Cabinet entirely, his other portfolios stripped.

Nash said he planned to continue in his other roles.

"Nah, I've got a hell of a lot of work to do. I'm very, very engaged with what I need to get done in the Bay and I'm loving Forestry, Economic Development and Fisheries," he said.

"I've got a lot of work to do across my portfolios and a lot of work to do in my home region of Hawke's Bay and my electorate and I'm really keen to make sure that we get it right there, so I'll be working incredibly hard to make sure we get it right for the people of Hawke's Bay."

He said he had learned from his mistake.

"If I make the same mistake again, the prime minister will have to take further action - but we learn from our errors."

'I stuff up like this again then I'm gone'

Speaking later, after the shipping announcement, he said he completely regretted his actions on Wednesday.

"No doubt about that, I fell way below the expectations of a Cabinet minister ... everyone knows I love that police portfolio, the prime minister has stripped that portfolio from me. I've made a mistake, I apologised for it," he said.

"The prime minister's made it very clear to me if I stuff up like this again then I'm gone. I will work incredibly hard to earn back the trust of the prime minister and the country, and people will judge me on that."

Asked why he deserved to remain in Cabinet, he said there was still a lot of work to do.

"And I'm prepared to knuckle down and do the work to make sure the East Coast recovers in a way that allows us to come back better ... let's concentrate on the issues that are really important to the people of the East Coast.

"I'm aware of the Cabinet manual. I've been a minister for five-and-a-half years now, when I became a cabinet minister I read the Cabinet Manual because it's sort of required reading. I got it wrong, I admit that. There's nothing else to say."

Hipkins said he had confidence in Nash to carry his other portfolios.

"He's a conscientious, hard-working minister who's made a mistake. He's owned the mistake. I'm confident that he won't make that mistake again.

"I have confidence in him filling the other roles that he's got, I'm confident that he won't repeat the mistake, so now we've got work to do - so it's time to move on and do that."

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Nash had assured him there were no further inappropriate conversations with officials relating to those other roles, he said.

"He's given me a reassurance that he hasn't, I've accepted that," Hipkins said.

"I think the New Zealand public are ultimately very fair people. They'll acknowledge that Minister Nash has made a mistake, he's owned his mistake, he's paid a price for it, I think New Zealanders are actually very fair, reasonable people."

Nash was not police minister at the time of his conversation with the commissioner, but the government is expected to remain independent from judicial and police prosecutorial decisions.

He initially refused to back down on his comments about the judicial decision and said the conversation with the commissioner was just him "chewing the fat" with a "mate".

However, by the time Parliament began sitting at 2pm on Wednesday, Hipkins had announced Nash's resignation.