Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a text message from entrepreneur Derek Handley about the role of Government chief technology officer but says she did not respond to it.

"I can rule out any direct verbal communication. I haven't spoken with Mr Handley in at least a year, maybe two," Ardern said in Parliament today.

She was being questioned about the appointment process by National leader Simon Bridges, who asked whether she had had any communication with Handley since she became Prime Minister.

Ardern said she recalled receiving a text message some months ago from Handley mentioning the CTO role but she did not directly engage with him because it would have been inappropriate.


"My best recollection is I received a text message I didn't directly engage in. For all other platforms I would want to go back and check, but I don't recall directly communicating in regards to that role," Ardern told Parliament.

Handley declined to comment when approached by the Herald.

Meanwhile, State Services Minister Chris Hipkins has been ordered by Speaker Trevor Mallard to bring to the debating chamber tomorrow all emails exchanged between former minister Clare Curran and Handley via her private Gmail account that have not already been publicly released.

Entrepreneur Derek Handley sent a text message to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the Government CTO role. Photo / NZ Herald
Entrepreneur Derek Handley sent a text message to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the Government CTO role. Photo / NZ Herald

He made the direction after National MP Nick Smith complained that he had asked eight questions of Government about the number of Gmails and their content without success.

"I think it would be a good thing for transparency if, in answering a specific and detailed and well-worded question, the Minister brought the emails to the House and made them available in that way," Mallard said.

Hipkins also confirmed that Curran had communication with Handley between July 30, the date of the final panel interview for the CTO role, and August 24. She had offered Handley the role of chief technology officer by phone, Hipkins said.

Handley has been paid out $107,000 after being offered the role a month ago then having his contract terminated when the Government put a halt to the process.

Handley, who moved his family from New York back to New Zealand, is donating the money to the tech sector.


Digital Services Minister Megan Woods said last week that the recruitment process was stopped while her officials reviewed the role.

"I know that any personal impact it's had on Mr Handley who's been caught in this, of course we would want to send our apologies for the fact this happened. It hasn't been tidy and I'm not going to defend it," Ardern said on Newstalk ZB.

Curran was removed from Cabinet by Ardern over her failure to record and disclose a meeting she held with Handley over the role in February. The meeting was arranged via her Gmail account.

Curran lost her open government and digital services responsibilities but then decided to resign completely as a minister, citing "intolerable pressure" and close scrutiny of her actions for her resignation.