Michael Wood has today resigned as a Minister in the New Zealand Government after it was revealed he holds further shares in companies that produce conflicts of interest with his role.
The new shareholdings are in addition to the Transport Minster’s investments in Auckland International Airport which he failed to disclose, prompting Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to stand Wood down earlier this month.
In light of the new revelation that Wood holds shares in the JM Fairey Family Trust, Hipkins issued a statement saying he had advised the Governor-General to accept Wood’s resignation.
Wood is both a trustee and beneficiary of the trust which holds shares in Chorus, Spark, and the National Australia Bank, parent of the Bank of New Zealand.
Considering he is also the Minister of Immigration, conflict arised Wood made the decision to include telecommunications technicians on the immigration Green List.
Hipkins and the Cabinet Office had repeatedly told Wood to manage the shares but he continuously failed to identify, disclose and appropriately manage them. This includes when Wood was stood down in early June.
The Prime Minister, therefore, deemed that it was not appropriate for Wood to continue his role in the Government.
“New Zealanders expect and deserve very high standards from Ministers,” Hipkins said in a statement.
“While I do not believe Michael Wood has acted with any intent of personal gain, his actions have let himself and the Government down.
“He is a talented and hard-working Minister. However, he has shown a serious lapse of judgment and has taken the appropriate action by resigning.”
Moving forward, Wood’s portfolios will be reallocated to other senior ministers.
Carmel Sepuloni will become Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety and Minister for Auckland, Andrew Little will become Minister of Immigration and David Parker will become Minister of Transport. Kiri Allan will become Associate Finance Minister.
The Prime Minister also outlined five changes he will make to “tighten up” how Ministers disclose their shareholdings.
The five steps include moving quarterly reports of conflicts of interest directly to the Prime Minister, an escalation process if a Minister is not engaging fully with the process or following advice, and in-person annual reviews.
Each Minister will now also have to nominate a dedicated person in their office to support them with the conflict of interest process, while conflict disclosures will become a standing item at the start of each Cabinet or Cabinet Committee meeting.
“Ministers, for whom it is an honour to have such a role, need to ensure they manage their affairs to the highest standards,” says Hipkins.
“These have been unnecessary distractions from my firm focus as Prime Minister on delivering what is most important to New Zealanders.”