- Michael Wood loses the Transport Minister portfolio after failing to divest shares in Auckland Airport.
- The Cabinet Office asked Wood 12 times to dispose of them.
- Each time he said he was in the process of doing so, but never did.
- Wood is also the subject of an inquiry for not declaring he had the shares in the first place.
- Hipkins keeps the Cabinet door open for him. Why?
Wood stood down
It became public that Wood had failed to sell what ultimately amounted to roughly $16,400 worth of shares in Auckland International Airport Limited despite multiple warnings. Wood also failed to record those and other shareholdings in the public record.
Wood blows off the Cabinet Office for years
There has been quibbling over how many warnings Wood got, but Hipkins says he was asked by the Cabinet Office 12 times, since 2020, if he’d divested these shares. Each time Wood answered he was either about to do so or was in the process. Instead Wood continued to hold the shares he’d bought as a teenager.
In 2021 former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s chief of staff was advised Wood was in the process of divesting the shares, which turned out not to be true.
Wood says he’s now sold the shares and donated the proceeds to charity.
Inquiry launched into Wood’s finances
The day Wood sold the shares it was announced an inquiry was being launched by the Registrar of Pecuniary Interest regarding Wood’s failure to declare his various shareholdings since becoming an MP in 2016. Wood corrected the register for 2022, but not the previous years.
Newshub reports that despite being asked in writing soon after his third warning from the Cabinet Office, Wood still never disclosed ownership of the shares via the public record.
The Cabinet Manual outlines laws, rules and conventions of the Government including the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament. It calls for yearly declarations and its purpose is to promote “the highest standards of behaviour and conduct by members, thereby strengthening public trust and confidence in parliamentary processes and decision-making.”
Above the rules
Reporter Barry Soper called Wood “patently dishonest” for misleading the Cabinet Office a dozen times over several years.
Columnist Mathew Hooton, remarked that Wood “thinks ministerial disclosure and conflict of interest rules to prevent corruption are about keeping those dirty Tories under control, so aren’t so important if you’re Labour.”
Why Wood acted so unprofessionally over such a trivial matter is puzzling.
It ultimately took little time after the matter was made public to sell the relatively small amount of shares.
Wood denied an application to allow for the North Shore Aerodrome’s expansion in 2022. The airport would have been a direct competitor to Auckland International Airport.
Soper says Wood was advised to green light the expansion by his staff, but made the call himself to deny the request.
After initially defending Wood, ACT leader David Seymour has since called for the embattled minister to be sacked. Seymour doesn’t think Wood was trying to make money off his position, but notes ministerial decisions need to be “squeaky clean”.
Many will chuckle at Wood’s expense as the minister who called anti-mandate protesters a “river of filth” is perhaps not so “squeaky clean” himself.
His dressdown is also notable as Wood was in the running for Labour’s leadership after Ardern’s resignation.
Surprisingly though, Hipkins hasn’t shut the door on Wood’s role in Cabinet. Why?
Feature image by NZ Labour Party