NZ First funding under further scrutiny, Peters reacts under pressure

Last week RNZ reported: Mysterious foundation loaning New Zealand First money

A mysterious foundation that loans money to New Zealand First is under scrutiny, with a university law professor saying although it’s lawful, it fails to provide the transparency voters need in a democracy.

Records show New Zealand First has disclosed three loans from the New Zealand First Foundation. In 2017, it received $73,000. Then in 2018, it received a separate loan of $76,622, in what the Electoral Commission says was a loan executed to “replace the first loan”. In 2019, it received another loan for $44,923.

The New Zealand First Foundation is the only named entity that has provided any money – in loans or donations – to the New Zealand First party since 2017.

The only information known about the foundation is the names and addresses of the two men who are trustees. They are Brian Henry, who acts as a lawyer for the New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, and Doug Woolerton, a former New Zealand First MP.

New Zealand First party returns show that in 2017 and 2018, the party received more than $500,000 worth of donations in amounts less than $15,000 which do not need to be disclosed under electoral law.

“They are the only political party in Parliament that hasn’t had anyone wanting to give them more than $15,000 and maybe they are unique,” Prof Geddis said.

“Alternatively, they may have managed to structure their fundraising activity so that if someone wants to give more than $15,000, they found a way that that can be given and can be of use to the party without it having to be publicly disclosed.”

Geddis said this is ‘within the law’, but it could be seen as working through loopholes to hide donations and donor identities, which I think would at least be against the intent of the law (unless the law was designed to allow for the hiding of donations).

Today Stuff has more information, and another electoral law expert suggests there could be rule breaches – NZ First Foundation dodging electoral rules? Records suggest breaches

Almost half a million dollars in political donations appear to have been hidden inside a secret slush fund controlled by a coterie of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ trusted advisers.

The secretive New Zealand First Foundation collected donations from wealthy donors and used the money to finance election campaigns, pay for an MP’s legal advice, advertising, fund a $5000 day at the Wellington races and even pay an IRD bill.

A New Zealand First spokesperson said on Monday the foundation had been in existence across several election cycles. “There has never been any suggestion that it is anything other than lawful,” she said.

Records uncovered in a Stuff investigation show a complex web that appears to be designed to hide donations to the NZ First Party via The New Zealand First Foundation.

This deliberate lack of transparency is particularly pertinent given the amount of money that is being handed out, some of it to companies, by the NZ First initiated Provincial Growth Fund.

Stuff has seen records for the foundation that suggest there have been breaches of the Electoral Act and that the foundation is being used to obscure political donations to the NZ First Party.

Donors to the foundation are primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires.

One legal commentator, public law expert Graeme Edgeler who also saw the records, believes there would be different consequences under the Electoral Act depending on whether the party and foundation are separate entities or connected.

In either scenario, Edgeler concluded the Electoral Act had likely been broken.

“If the foundation and party are separate, it is likely a corrupt or illegal practice occurred because donations from the foundation were not declared,” he said.

“If the foundation is part of NZ First, then the party secretary has likely committed offences around declaring donations or failing to keep records.

“If some donors were under the impression they were donating to the NZ First political party when making payments to the foundation, then there are possible breaches of the Electoral Act relating to party donations and ensuring proper records.”

Most credits into the foundation account have ‘donation’ in the description. Stuff has also seen receipts provided to donors for payments received.

The purpose of the foundation is not clear as its website has been taken down.

An archived website, captured in 2018, says the foundation had the “aim of ensuring there is a secure financial base for the New Zealand First Political Party” with activities funded being to “assist with the party long term”.

Some entries are simply labelled as “Deposit” with no names beside them.

Donors to the foundation include food manufacturers, racing interests, forestry owners and wealthy property developers.

With racing, forestry and property development all receiving increased funding from the coalition government, with NZ First having substantial leverage on policies, this deserves scrutiny – and transparency,

Efforts have been made by party officials to find out details of the foundation and some say they were removed from the party when they challenged Peters or Henry about finances. There is now a conga line of NZ First Party officials who say they have been forced out of the party.

Former NZ First treasurer Colin Forster claimed he was moved out of the party after questioning the financial records.

Winston Peters likes to scrutinise other people and parties but isn’t happy when attention is focussed on him and NZ First.

Yesterday: ‘Yes, I am calling you psycho’ – Winston Peters lashes out at journalists after grilling over NZ-First linked company

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters today told journalists to stop the “narrow, myopic dirt when NZ First is concerned”, when questioned about National’s call for the Auditor General to investigate a company that has links to NZ First.

He was asked about the matter by 1 NEWS’ Benedict Collins and a Newshub reporter today, and appeared to label one a “psycho”.

“Yes, I am calling you psycho, because you can’t event even make out the case,” he said.

“You’ve got to be psychologically maladjusted if you can’t make a case out for an investigation and you think it’s sound. The laugh’s on you because you’re meant to be a journalist.”

Peters doesn’t seem to be laughing though. Calling a journalist psycho “because you can’t event even make out the case” seems somewhat ironic given the lack of a case made out in court recently – Peters withdrew allegations that two National MPs had breached his privacy at the end of the hearing, after two years of accusing them.

Following this RNZ continued to report on it:  NZ First-linked company applied for $15m govt loan, pledges transparency

A forestry company with close links to New Zealand First has revealed it applied for a $15 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund, which is overseen by NZ First minister Shane Jones.

RNZ revealed last week that Future Forest Products spent six months in discussions with government officials over its Provincial Growth Fund and also wanted up to $95m in funding through the One Billion Trees programme.

Brian Henry, lawyer for Winston Peters and judicial officer for the New Zealand First party, is a founding director of NZ Future Forest Products, which he helped to set up in March.

His son, David Henry, is another founding director and the company’s managing director, and Winston Peters’ partner Jan Trotman was made a director of the company in August.

In a statement released this afternoon, New Zealand Future Forest Products said it was “aware that two of its directors have personal links to the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister” and would be maintaining a higher level of transparency than required of it as a private company.

“The company has no further plans to apply for financial support from the New Zealand government,” the company said.

Transparency promised after this has all been revealed by journalists.

NZ First are being put under scrutiny and pressure, and Peters is not reacting like a politician with nothing to hide.

Journalists don’t have to seek re-election next year. With NZ First polling around and under the 5% threshold, and questions being asked about their financial integrity, the pressure is on Peters and appears to be getting to him a bit.

Peters to journalists yesterday:

And so get this very clear.

In two thousand and twenty, you’re not going to mount a campaign against a party you don’t like, while you let all the rest off the hook.

More of that standup here: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/yes-am-calling-you-psycho-winston-peters-lashes-journalists-after-grilling-over-nz-first-linked-company

Peters obviously isn’t happy that Jan Trotman has been linked to the company that had sought PGF funds. But Brian Henry is more deeply involved (in the company and in NZ First affairs).

In the case of myself and Shane Jones, well I didn’t even know about it and neither did Shane Jones to the best of our knowledge because it was handled by the process.

But according to the Stuff:

The Provincial Growth Fund bid was eventually rejected by Labour ministers after Shane Jones recused himself from the process.

Surely Jones must have known about it. And didn’t say anything to peters about it? And we’re expected to believe that Henry didn’t disclose his involvement to Peters?

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30 Comments

  1. Well, we all knew it was coming. Helen would’ve told Jacinda, Michael Cullen would have told Jacinda. Coalitions with Winnie end in tears every time. I guess that’s why Winnie made the announcement of who he was going with back 2016 without telling Labour before hand. He didn’t want to give Jacinda time to work out that this was an offer she had to refuse.

    Reply
  2. Corky

     /  19th November 2019

    This is a developing story. I read about it days ago

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  19th November 2019

      So did most people; it was on RNZ last week, as the opening sentence says.

      Reply
  3. Most amusing will be the plight of the Greens, ever anxious to declare Nana Whites $15 donation from selling herbal tea. While Winnie flops his wad out and declares he doesn’t know where this $100k came from and it none of the greens business. And Marama will simply avert her eyes and go on haranguing the middle class.

    Reply
  4. Gerrit

     /  19th November 2019

    Getting the impression that Winston Peters is the Vito Corleone of an organised mafia like family. This story is getting no legs in the Herald.

    Ardern will surely have a “conversation” with Peters to straighten out the mess that is NZFirst. Her options are severely limited. He holds the power to force an early election.

    Now Labour has the same power (force an early election) but I doubt they will want to use it. No fortitude.

    So Ardern is between a rock (early election) and a hard place (continuing with Peters in government). Somehow she will muddle on to the hard place (and election defeat), for decision making. on a $500K salary, is not her strong suite.

    Reply
  5. Blazer

     /  19th November 2019

    lets not forget by far the biggest offendors in this game…the Natz!What’s the latest on the JLR revelations?
    As for millionaire donors,so many Chinese ,so many envelopes…Maurice Williamson’s neighbour still fresh in my..mind.

    Reply
  6. I doubt whether ‘fake news’ claims will work for Peters like they have for Trump.

    Peters has a much smaller support base than Trump has. And a much longer political history.

    Reply
  7. Blazer

     /  19th November 2019

    well Key managed…’a lefty conspiracy…theory’…re Hagers revelations,and alas the faithful so wanted to believe..it.

    Reply
  8. duperez

     /  19th November 2019

    I’m really surprised that a major political party would be covering up it’s funding and donations regimes and exploring and devising schemes to get around rules and maintain total secrecy. Well ‘shocked’ is probably a better word.

    I can’t think of what came over New Zealand First to see them involved in any such strategies and deeds. I’m sure it indeed is a New Zealand first.

    Just kidding. 🙃

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  19th November 2019

      Really surprising ?
      You clearly dont realise that is how the National party covers up the donationsfor virtually every one of its Mps.
      Their donor is listed as ‘NZ National Party’ even though clearly the MP has raised the the money themselves. The reason for doing so is the names must be disclosed for the sweet spot for Mps ($1500or more ) but not for the party ( only $15K over)
      Then there is Nationals scheme to hid very large Chinese donors by having straw donors come just under the $15 k amount and avoid naming as revealed by JLR. How much is done by this method, which they claim is legal.
      This is the Northcote by election return for Dan Bidois

      The only donor is ….National party for $146,832.04….
      Its pretty clear that no real donor name is disclosed and wouldnt be for party either as they under $15K

      Reply
  9. Gezza

     /  19th November 2019

    It’ll probably all work out ok in the end: 😬

    “NZ First leader Winston Peters says he is looking forward to talking to the Electoral Commission about its concerns about donations to his party’s foundation not being declared.

    The Electoral Commission, who oversee electoral law, said they would contact the party this morning following revelations from Stuff around donations to the party’s foundation that were not declared to the Commission.

    “The documents being referred to in the media have not been shown to the Electoral Commission,” a spokeswoman said.”

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117529541/winston-peters-says-his-party-has-always-obeyed-electoral-law-after-new-revelations-about-foundation

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  19th November 2019

      The most plausible explanation Ive seen is the NZF Foundation owns some sort of office block, maybe even housing the party HQ or maybe not, could even be a farm gifted by a deceased estate.
      Rents etc provide money for the party and taxes need to be paid as its trust getting income and not a tax free charity.

      Reply
  10. duperez

     /  19th November 2019

    I’m disappointed in the NZ First funding story. There’s been no mention of the $100,000 bottle of wine yet. There is one isn’t there? There surely has to be. Paula Bennett and Chris Bishop and have let me down.

    Reply
  1. NZ First funding under further scrutiny, Peters reacts under pressure — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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