Prime Minister Chris Hipkins battled through what is fast becoming one of the most difficult weeks of his leadership on Wednesday, losing yet another minister from his Government – his third since taking office in January.
Michael Wood resigned yesterday morning as a minister after it emerged he held thousands of dollars worth of additional shares in a trust, some of which raised potential conflicts of interest with decisions that went before him as a minister and Cabinet as a whole. Hipkins indicated that he would have sacked Wood if the embattled politician had not offered to resign.
The additional shareholdings were held in the JM Fairey Family Trust of which he is both a trustee and a beneficiary.
The trust holds “thousands” of dollars of shares, in particular, a stake in Chorus, Spark and the National Australia Bank. Those shareholdings raised problematic questions around potential conflicts, such as decisions made by Cabinet relating to the market study into banks announced on Tuesday, and immigration decisions regarding telecommunications workers.
There is no evidence Wood acted inappropriately in the conflict of interest.
In a statement, Wood said: “I am a true believer in politics and that we are all here to serve the public.
“There has not been a second of my political career where any of my financial interests have influenced my actions or even crossed my mind. In some respects, my de-prioritisation of my personal financial affairs has led to this situation.”
The shareholdings came to light as a result of an investigation after the Herald revealed Wood had not properly declared shares in Auckland Airport and Contact Energy.
The Herald can reveal today Wood had 16 interactions with the Cabinet Office over his Auckland Airport shares, including one in March