Former Minister Hon Stuart Nash's communications with donors
Mr Pete McKenzie made a request to then Minister Hon Stuart Nash for communications with 19 named individuals who were his donors. The then Minister identified 14 email communications potentially within scope but refused the request under section 18(e) of the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) on the basis that the communications related to his role as a Member of Parliament (MP) rather than to his role as a Minister. Mr McKenzie complained to me about that decision.
All of the emails have subsequently been made public, with some redactions. However, I have continued my investigation, which concerns Mr Nash’s decision-making at the time of the request.
Based on the information before me, I have formed the final opinion that 11 of the emails are official information as they were held by Mr Nash in his ministerial capacity, and Mr Nash should not have refused Mr McKenzie’s request for this information under section 18(e) of the OIA.
In respect of three of the emails that are official information, and which concern Mr Nash’s apparent disclosure of confidential Cabinet discussions to his donors, I consider that at the time of the request section 9(2)(f)(ii) of the OIA provided good reason to withhold the first email (Mr Nash’s disclosure) and aspects of the second and third emails (replies to the disclosure by his donors), subject to release of a summary of the emails to meet the public interest in accountability and transparency. In addition, in light of the contents of Mr Nash’s first email disclosing Cabinet discussions, I might ordinarily have considered recommending it be referred it to the Cabinet Secretary. However, events subsequent to Mr Nash’s decision on the request, including referral of Mr Nash’s communications to the Cabinet Secretary and proactive release of redacted copies of the emails at issue, render that unnecessary.
In respect of the remaining emails that are official information, Mr McKenzie has confirmed he is seeking un-redacted copies of the emails, as well as attachments to the emails that have not been released. I intend to seek comments from parties potentially affected by the disclosure of the unredacted emails and attachments, and provide a further opinion at a later date.