Drip of revelations continue on NZ First Party/Foundation

Winston Peters and whoever run NZ First with him seem to have tried to benefit both ways with the NZ First Foundation – they sold it as part of the party, as the name implies, but are claiming it is separate from the party. But the drip feed of revelations continues to suggest what looks obvious, the Foundation is an attempt to avoid donation transparency law.’

There is no evidence that donors to the Foundation, and therefore to the Party, were rewarded with favourable policies, or grants from the Provincial Growth Fund. But the best way to avoid these types of impressions is transparency. The secrecy used – even NZ First MPs and ex-party officials claim to have not known about the Foundation – is always going to raise suspicions. Especially given Peters’ past shadiness and dishonesty regarding donations.

Matt Shand at Stuff today: Who are the donors behind the NZ First Foundation?

Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters claims to be the leader who stands up to corruption and fights for the little man, but donations to the foundation show he is backed by wealthy investors, horse racing figures, food magnates, and property juggernauts.

Quite aside from the legal question over the relationship between the foundation and the party is the question of how Peters presents himself: the honest broker between two old sides of politics.

One of the crucial questions swirling around the NZ First donations saga revolves around who exactly knew what, and the relationship between the party and the foundation. Peters says the foundation is totally separate from the party, and that all questions about it are a matter for the party.

That sounds contradictory and confusing – but Peters often sounds contradictory and confusing.

“I look after the political wing of the NZ First party, that’s an administrative matter,” Peters said in Parliament on Tuesday.

“I’m in charge of the political body of NZ First.

That’s well known.

As for the administrative body, for 27 years we’ve complied with the electoral law in this country”.

That also seems contradictory. “We” suggests he is also in charge of “the administrative body”, bujt it’s not clear what exctly that is. The Foundation?

But Stuff reveals that Tauranga-based list MP Clayton Mitchell acted as one of the bagmen for the foundation – which appears to have operated as a political slush fund – financing NZ First’s party operations.

Many sources, on and off the record have confirmed that Mitchell solicited donations for the party, but would often give out the NZ First Foundation’s bank account details.

So at least one MP was also involved.

It can also be revealed that at least some donors spoken to by Stuff were not aware that donations were going to foundation and not the political party.

The revelation that Mitchell was one of the bagmen for the NZ First Foundation could derail Peters’ assertion that the party and foundation, which received more than $500,000 worth of donations, are not connected.

Donations to the foundation are under the $15,000 threshold required for the party to declare them, but several donors said they believed they understood were donating money to NZ First, and not the foundation.

It seems difficult to separate the two.

But there were other large donations, many of which are from companies and individuals who work in industries that have benefited from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund. Stuff is not suggesting any wrongdoing on the part of the donors, and it may be that those industries would have benefited regardless.

The largest series of donations occurs from Conrad Properties Ltd or companies and trusts connected to that company. The company donated $27,500 to the foundation in 2017 and 2018, as well as $15,000 in 2019 to date.

The largest of those is over the threshold requiring the donor to be identified.

The racing industry feature heavily within the donations, with at least $80,000 identified.

One investor, who Stuff has decided not to name, has connections with the mānuka honey industry, and has spoken out about the need to protect the brand’s copyright.

The Provincial Growth Fund, overseen by NZ First minister Shane Jones, has granted $5.7m granted to the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society to help protect its trademark. There is no information saying the two are linked.

Those sort of links emphasise the need for transparency. If there is no direct connection between donations and PGF grants then everything should be done openly to show it.

The volume of donations is at odds with what the party recorded in its 2017 and 2018 returns.

In 2017 NZ First secretary Anne Martin declared that the party received only 13 donations of $5001 to $15,001, totalling $135,994, for the 2017 calendar year.

In 2018 then secretary Elizabeth Witihera reported five donations totalling $65,000 in the same range, but foundation records show 10 donations totalling $135,000.

Up to April this year, the foundation had received $80,485 in donations.

That will no doubt be checked out by the inquiry started yesterday by the Electoral Commission after a complaint was made to them.

RNZ: NZ First’s political donations: A creeping feeling of deja vu

Swirling rumours of dodgy dealings over political donations, Winston Peters full of bluster and denial, and potentially a drawn-out series of combative but ultimately meaningless exchanges with the parliamentary press gallery.

There are perhaps lessons here too for Jacinda Ardern, as Prime Minister of the Cabinet, and who the opposition will ultimately hold responsible if these allegations gain momentum.

In 2008 it all went wrong for Mr Peters; the months of controversy around the Spencer Trust and attacks on his integrity resulted in a ballot box defeat, ejecting him and his party into the political wilderness.

The central allegation was around a $100,000 donation from businessman Owen Glenn – he insisted he made the donation to New Zealand First with the knowledge of Mr Peters – who said he knew nothing about it.

There were also theatrics – he summoned journalists to the party’s offices in Bowen House where he brandished the infamous “No” sign – the reply to every journalist’s question about receiving the Glenn donation.

Then there was the spectacle that was the Privileges Committee. A super-sized select committee room set up for the occasion with big screen TVs for prime viewing. Main antagonist and ACT leader Rodney Hide took up his position at the front of the public gallery each day as Mr Peters and loyal lawyer Brian Henry were put through their paces.

Mr Peters was censured by Parliament but in the end that was just a slap on the wrist.

More testing were his relationships with then-Prime Minister Helen Clark and Deputy Michael Cullen, who stood by Mr Peters until his resignation as Foreign Minister became inevitable.

National has described the latest claims, if true, as the most serious of their kind in New Zealand history.

But as with internal political scandals, National will have to step carefully as its nose is not completely clean.

For years it used blind trusts to transfer donations to the party itself, a practice that ceased with a law change. Even now there is still an active Serious Fraud Investigation into the National Party relating to the disclosure of donations.

But apart from NZ First the biggest political risks are for Jacinda Ardern and Labour, who chose to go into a coalition with Peters knowing his history.

Danyl Mclauchlan at The Spinoff: The NZ First donations scandal is very serious, and won’t let Jacinda Ardern hide

There are two separate issues here. The first is whether New Zealand First has broken the electoral law. That’s a matter for the Electoral Commission, and if they decide the law was been broken they can refer the matter on to the police or the Serious Fraud Office. Peters says he is looking forward to discussing the matter with the Commission, and is “confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years”.

The second is whether senior ministers in the current government could get caught up in accusations of corrupt practices. When you have companies and individuals making secret donations to a party that holds the portfolios in those industries, there is every reason for the public to ask questions about whether their government is behaving defensibly.

New Zealand First’s coalition partners have dreaded this moment for two years. The prime minister’s instinct will be to distance herself from the scandal and hope that it goes away. “We assume that the law has been followed.” “It’s a matter for the Electoral Commission.” “I am not responsible for the New Zealand First Party.” And so on. But the matter of whether or not she presides over a government linked to allegations of “corrupt or illegal practices” is not a matter for another party or office. The integrity of the government is the prime minister’s responsibility.

One of the things that led to the end of the Clark government was the endless drip feed. The allegations of secrecy and deceit swirling around NZ First just kept coming. And now this government is trapped in the same political hostage situation, with the same politician, facing accusations of engaging in the exact same practices. An early election might be worth the risk if the alternative is a year of ongoing leaks and allegations

I don’t think an early election would help Labour much. Ardern yesterday effectively ruled it out “I’m not Muldoon” but the way information keeps dripping out political reality and necessity may change.

Mclauchlan has been involved in the Green Party in the past. He is now an astute political commentator.

Andrew Geddis: One possibility is NZ First has broken electoral law. The other possibility is worse

Let’s pause and look big picture. We have a political party that is a keystone of the current government. Its members are ministers, with responsibility for (among other things) distributing $3 billion in government largesse around the country’s provinces.

And now we are told that a legally-opaque foundation intimately connected to the party has raised hundreds-of-thousands of dollars from “primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires”. That foundation allegedly has used the money for the benefit of the party and its MPs. And no-one outside of the party and those that gave the money are made any the wiser.

If this is legal, then there’s no way that it should be. You can’t have a country’s political system run in this way and be considered the second least corrupt nation on the planet. Or, at least, you can’t do it for long.

Geddis is a law professor at Otago University.

This is an important democratic issue. There have been past concerns about donation skulduggery by both National and Labour, and there is an SFO inquiry into National after a complaint made by Jami-Lee Ross.

But the biggest issues here are what is being revealed about NZ First – the party and the foundation – and the implications of that for the current coalition government and next year’s election.

Some diverters have canvassed past party malpractices here over the last few days. Please don’t repeat diversion attempts. Either comment on this week’s revelations and their implications, or desist from dredging up squirrels.

And if you continue to grizzle about what I choose to post, it may encourage more rather than less posts on topics you may be trying to bury. A post on diversion and discrediting techniques by political activists is tempting.


More from Stuff today – QComms: the mysterious firm revving NZ First’s campaign engine

An obscure company directed by Winston Peters’ personal lawyer is at the heart of the NZ First campaign engine, documents from a Stuff investigation reveal.

Brian Henry is the sole director and shareholder of QComms. The company that has no online profile, phone number or any other listed information – but in 2018 charged the New Zealand First Foundation for at least $93,000 worth of work and reimbursements to contracted employees. One of these contractors is Henry’s daughter.

Henry is a trustee of the foundation, the director and shareholder of the company, and also the judicial officer of NZ First. This web of connections suggests he receives political donations in one hand and pays his own company with the other.

Invoice records for the NZ First Foundation reveal that two contractors for Thorn Services Limited drew wages from the Foundation account acting on behalf of QComms. One was former NZ First board member John Thorn. The other is Henry’s daughter, Jamie Henry.

Records show at least $93,000 was charged to the NZ First Foundation in contracted wages, reimbursements and other expenses for work done for QComms, a company which appears to have no income other than political donations given to the foundation.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117570433/qcomms-the-mysterious-firm-revving-nz-firsts-campaign-engine

Peters denials on conflict of interest questioned

Winston Peters in a standup with media on Monday regarding questions over a company with connections to people with close connections to NZ First (lawyer Brian Henry and Peters’ partner Jan Trotman) (1 News):

What in earth would the Auditor general investigate? Because an application was made and it failed.

If it came to the question of whether there was a conflict of interest, well in the case of one person who wasn’t even then a director, but became an executive director  after the failure, how would that in any way be caught by a conflict of interest?

And in the case of myself and Shane Jones, well I didn’t even know about it and nor did Shane Jones to the best of our knowledge, because it was handled by the process.

What on earth would the Auditor General investigate?

A journalist asks a question “But if you’re confident everything was done by the book…”

We’re not going to have you running off in a psycho case of attack on a political party without any grounds whatsover.

No no if you want to tell me why the Auditor General is justified give me the reasons. Don’t sit there indolently and snottily and lazily saying you’ve got a case when you ain’t got one, for even a preliminary inquiry.

….Yes, I am calling you psycho, because you can’t event even make out the case.

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.

In Parliament yesterday:

Question No. 4—Finance

4. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Associate Minister of Finance: How much money did NZ Future Forest Products Ltd apply for from the Provincial Growth Fund and what was the application for?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Associate Minister of Finance): I can confirm that N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd applied for a $15 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund. As the information is already in the public domain, I can tell the member that the loan was to carry out a feasibility study for a new engineered timber operation in Gisborne. It’s worth noting that the application has been declined by Ministers.

Chris Bishop: On what date was responsibility for N.Z. Future Forest Products’ applications to the Government for funding through the Provincial Growth Fund transferred from the Hon Shane Jones to him because Mr Jones had identified a conflict of interest?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The transfer occurred on 4 November.

Chris Bishop: Does that mean that the Hon Shane Jones was the Minister in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund from March 2019, when N.Z. Future Forest Products’ application was made, up until 4 November, when the responsibility was transferred to him?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I wouldn’t characterise it as the member has. I’m not responsible for the period where Mr Jones—prior to the transfer on 4 November. Obviously, it was transferred to my office on 4 November. I received advice, and declined the application on 7 November.

Chris Bishop: Is he aware on what date the Hon Shane Jones became aware of the N.Z. Future Forest Products’ application to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.

Chris Bishop: Is he aware of what the conflict of interest is that meant the Hon Shane Jones transferred responsibility to him as Associate Minister of Finance?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’m advised that Minister Jones took advice from the Cabinet Office and acted appropriately in transferring the matter to me for my responsibility to make the decision.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to ask the member to—I mean, he can say no if he—

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Mr Speaker, I don’t have that detail. If the member does wish to put it down in writing, I’m sure we can find an appropriate answer.

Chris Bishop: Is he aware of whether the Hon Shane Jones wrote to the Prime Minister advising of the conflict of interest, as required by section 2.72 of the Cabinet Manual?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’m not responsible for that. I can confirm that the responsibility was transferred to me, obviously, on 4 November, and then, on 7 November, I declined the application.

This casts some doubt on what Peters has stated. perhaps journalists should go more psycho on this. Or at least do some more investigating.

Jaan Trotman was made a director in August. That now appears awkward given these dates.

National are again calling on the Auditor General to investigate – Jones oversaw PGF application for six months

“NZFFP’s application was made in March 2019 soon after the company was registered with Winston Peters’ personal lawyer Brian Henry appointed as a director, with Mr Peters’ partner Jan Trotman being appointed in August.

“This means Shane Jones was in charge of the process for nearly six months while NZFFP was discussing its application with officials.

“Multiple questions arise in this murky affair and the Auditor-General must investigate. Among them, why did it take Mr Jones so long to declare this conflict of interest? What advice led to Mr Peters also declaring a conflict, as he appeared to reveal in Parliament today, and when did he declare that conflict?

Peters declared a conflict of interest? On Monday he sgated “And in the case of myself and Shane Jones, well I didn’t even know about it and nor did Shane Jones to the best of our knowledge, because it was handled by the process”.

In question 1 yesterday:

Hon Paula Bennett: So does she believe it’s appropriate for the Deputy Prime Minister to call journalists “psychos” for asking questions and doing their job?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, when a journalist asks about an application to the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), which was treated only by the independent PGF fund managers and never went to Ministers, and where both Ministers declared a potential conflict of interest and the application did not succeed and failed, one has to ask oneself what sort of mind is it that thinks that the Ministers are so useless that they failed to get the application approved in the first place. That’s what a psycho looks like.

Both Ministers? Jones and Peters?

There may be some justification for further investigation.

Peters claims party financials legal, but no explanation of Foundation

Yesterday Winston Peters claimed that NZ First  has operated “within electoral laws” and that their financial arrangements using the NZ First Foundation are legal, but has given no explanation of how they have handled donations.

A media release:

Rt Winston Peters

Leader of New Zealand First

19 November 2019

Allegations raised this morning by Stuff Limited / Fairfax concern a party matter but I am confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years. Declarable donations were declared to the Electoral Commission.

Our system of democracy is based on the secrecy of the ballot and privacy of party memberships and donations within specified limits.

We look forward to discussing this matter with the Electoral Commission.

Their financials don’t just remain secret from the public. Newsroom: Peters under fire over ‘foundation’ loans

New Zealand First MP and former deputy leader Tracey Martin expressed ignorance about the reports, saying: “I don’t know anything about the New Zealand First Foundation.”

Asked whether she was concerned by the allegations, Martin said simply that they were “interesting”.

Remarkable that she knows nothing about the Foundation, presuming that she is telling the truth – (Peters has a history of making false claims and denials:

Peters would not comment on the allegations in detail when approached by media before New Zealand First’s caucus meeting this morning, but said he would put out a press statement later in the day to “put the record straight”.

“For 27 years we’ve obeyed the electoral law of this country, we’ve never deviated, the last time there was allegations like this was in 2008.

“There were three inquiries, the Serious Fraud Office, the police and the Electoral Commission – they all found us to be exonerated, we’re not going to have this again.”

But:

In 2008, Peters was indeed cleared by police, the SFO and Electoral Commission over allegations of fraud regarding a $100,000 payment from Owen Glenn to his lawyer Henry. However, he was formally censured by Parliament after its privileges committee said he had “knowingly provid[ed] false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests”.

The problem for Peters and NZ First doesn’t look like going way.

Newsroom: Peters allegations another political toothache for PM

Serious allegations about New Zealand First’s approach to electoral laws are some way from being established – but there is enough in the claims to concern both Jacinda Ardern and the public as a whole.

RNZ’s Guyon Espiner opened a crack in the door with a piece asking important questions rather than providing answers about the foundation.

Now, Stuff’s Matt Shand has busted it down with an investigation alleging a concerted effort to cloak hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from “primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires”.

Shand’s story suggests the donations were used to finance election campaigns, pay for legal advice, and even hiring Joseph Parker to speak at the party’s 2017 conference.

So far, Peters has done little to refute the substance of the article.

A press release he claimed would put the record straight amounted to little more than a dodge of the allegations, along with the tautological statement that “declarable donations were declared”.

To borrow another tautology, this is deja vu all over again for Peters.

In 2008, a cascade of claims about donations made to New Zealand First by wealthy businessmen such as Sir Robert Jones, Sir Owen Glenn and the Vela family – but concealed from the public – sparked numerous investigations and contributed to the ousting of the Labour-led government at that year’s election.

Over a decade later, Peters remains unrepentant and insists his name was unfairly dragged through the mud, noting that the police, Serious Fraud Office and Electoral Commission all decided against taking action.

But that is not the glowing exoneration he makes it out to be.

While SFO director Grant Liddell said there was no basis for laying fraud charges, he suggested there were unanswered questions about other possible electoral breaches – essentially punting the matter to the police and the Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commission’s final ruling on the matternoted that the party’s 2007 return was “materially false” but not illegal, as the party secretary had no intention to misstate or conceal the facts, while the 2005 and 2006 returns fell outside of the time limit for prosecution.

Party officials have been leaving the party because they have been put at risk over the financial transactions that they know little about.

It noted specifically that the decision was about the party secretary’s actions only, and not any other members of the party – such as Peters himself.

The police investigation also cleared the party secretary specifically, rather than New Zealand First as a whole.

So Peters claiming exoneration looks farcical, but typical.

Unravelling the claims seems set to take months, rather than days or weeks – and is yet another political toothache that Ardern would rather not be dealing with.

It may run well into election year. Ardern and Labour should be concerned after what happened in 2008.

Stuff: What NZ First slush fund was spent on: Campaign HQ, staff overtime, and a shredder

NZ First officials and MPs were kept in the dark while $38,000 was spent on campaign headquarters and staff overtime by the party’s political slush fund, the New Zealand First Foundation.

Expenses records for the foundation seen by Stuff show it collected more than $500,000 in donations from April 2017 to March 2019 that could be in breach of electoral donation laws, particularly if the foundation was paying party expenses.

Many of these apparent donations to the foundation do not appear on the party’s electoral returns.

Invoices, seen by Stuff, reveal the foundation spent $325,000 in about 18 months to March 2019 – with most of the money appearing to directly benefit the NZ First Party.

This included renting and furnishing the party’s campaign office for the 2017 election as well as advertising material, reimbursements for travel, internet bills, legal advice and consultancy work.

It does not appear this spending was declared to the Electoral Commission by the party.

Nor revealed to many in the party.

One former MP said that discovering details about the foundation “slush fund” undermined the work of NZ First’s volunteer fundraisers.

Former NZ First treasurer Colin Forster said the accounts were disorganised and inaccurate when he took over the role in 2008.

“All of the accounts were all written in a A4 exercise book, like a child would use for school,” he said.

“It would be fair to say they were inaccurate.”

Forster said he had questioned the party’s income at meetings and he could not figure out where the money came from.

“A lot of people have given a lot to this party and they have been kept in the dark.”

In October 2019, Lester Gray resigned from his position as NZ First Party president after refusing to sign off on its financial statements.

Gray said in a letter to the NZ First board that he had not been shown documentation he requested and therefore could not sign off the returns.

“I refuse to sign off the 2019 financial reports with the information I have been provided,” he wrote to the  board.

“As president, the limited exposure I have had to party donations and expenditure leaves me in a vulnerable position.

“This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the party any longer.”

Former MPs say the financial reports and party expenses were never presented to members.

NZ First Party presidents – who are ostensibly in charge of the organisational wing of the party – are not welcome at caucus meetings.

While the NZ First constitution states that “the president has the right to attend any party meeting”, a party spokesman said it was a “longstanding convention since the inception of NZ First” that party presidents did not attend caucus.

NZ First are in disarray with ex MPs and officials apparently willing to break the secrecy.

I don’t think that denials and claims by Peters can be trusted.

And given that Peters appears to have maintained secrecy and control along with few cronies, I think the secret buck stops with him.

Stuff: Electoral Commission probes NZF

The Electoral Commission, which oversees electoral law, said it 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.

“We will be contacting NZ First and the New Zealand First Foundation to seek further information.”

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?

Two political polls with similar results

Newshub released a Reid Research a poll on Sunday with ridiculous headlines and claims. 1 News released a Colmar Brunton poll last night with less dramatic but still over the top claims. Polls are just polls, especially this far from an election, but they try to get value from the expense of polling by making stories out of them that aren’t justified.

Last time the two polled the biggest talking point was how different their results were. The Reid Research poll was regarded as an outlier, being quite different to any other polls this term.

The most notable thing about the polls this time is that the results are very similar, taking into account margins of error of about 3% for the larger results, and the fact that Colmar results are rounded to the nearest whole number.

  • National: RR 43.9% (+6.5%), CB 47% (+2)
  • Labour: RR 41.6% (-9.2), CB 40% (-3)
  • Greens: RR 6.3% (+0.1), CB 7% (+1)
  • NZ First: RR 4.0% (+1.2), CB 4% (+1)
  • ACT: RR 1.4% (+0.6), CB 1% (-)
  • TOP: RR 1.1% (+1.0), CB 1% (-)
  • Maori Party: RR 0.7% (+0.2), CB 1% (-)

I don’;t think it’s surprising at this stage to see National a bit ahead of Labour, Labour has had a mixed month or two and is struggling to make major progress due to the restraint of coalition partner NZ First.

Green support looks at a safe level, but is well below what they were getting last term (about half).

NZ First are still polling below the threshold and will be in a battle to stay in Parliament.

Is is fairly normal these days there are a number of borderline governing scenarios with these numbers, with National+ACT and Labour+Greens thereabouts but not certainties.

A lot may depend on whether NZ First make the threshold or not next election. Both other times they have been in a coalition government they have lost support at the next election.

Trends from Opinion polling for the next New Zealand general election (Wikipedia):

That shows the last Reid Research anomaly well.

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern: RR 38.4% (-10.6), CB 38% (-3)
  • Simon Bridges: RR 6.7% (+2.5), CB 9% (+3)
  • Judith Collins: 5.2% (-1.9), CB 5%
  • Winston Peters: CB 4%

Ardern a bit down, Bridges a bit up but still a big difference.

Newshub also did a poll on performance:

  • Ardern: performing well 62.4%, performing poorly 23.1%
  • Bridges: performing well 23.9%, performing poorly 52.7%

UPDATE: 1 News/Colmar Brunton have also started asking a similar question:

  •  Ardern handling her job as Prime Minister:  +33
    approve 62%
    disapprove 29%
    don’t know or refused 8%
  • Bridges’ handling his job as National Party leader: -22
    approve 29%
    disapprove 51%
    don’t know or refused 20%

Ardern performance is well above her party support, while Bridges is well below National support (about half).

  • Newshub-Reid Research Poll was conducted between 2-9 October 2019.
    1000 people were surveyed, 700 by telephone and 300 by internet panel
  • 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll conducted between 5-9 October
    1008 eligible voters were polled by landline (502) and mobile phone (506)

So both now rely on some polling by something other than landline, Reid Research 30% by internet panel and Colmar Brunton 50% by mobile phone.

1 News link here.

Newshub/Reid Search links here and here.

The Newshun headline says “Jacinda Ardern, Labour take massive tumble in new Newshub-Reid Research poll” but a more accurate description would have been “Newshub poll looks more likely following last rogue poll”. It wasn’t a massive tumble for Ardern, more like a large correction by Reid Research.

Immigration policy changes – families for the rich

Winston Peters is claiming the credit for a toughening up of the Parental Visa Scheme which makes it possible for only high income earners to sponsor family members immigrating too New Zealand.

Peters must see votes for NZ First as more important than families.

RNZ:  NZ First pushed for tightening of parental visa scheme

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the tightening up on who can move to New Zealand is a direct response to his party’s demands during coalition negotiations with Labour.

That sits uncomfortably against the posturing of the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister who this week celebrated the lifting of the moratorium on the parent category visa.

In the last fortnight the government has announced three significant changes to its immigration policy.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme will be boosted by just over 3000 in the next two years, the government has overturned the family link policy that stopped refugees from Africa and the Middle East resettling in New Zealand unless they had family here and it’s reinstated the parent category visa – but with a cap on the number of parents who can come in and a high income test for the child sponsor.

Speaking to RNZ, Mr Peters said the parental category visa changes that switch the financial onus from the parent moving to New Zealand to the child sponsor, and almost doubles the income test is “precisely” what New Zealand First pushed for at the Cabinet table.

“Where in the world can you decide to go and take your parents as well? That’s the reality here,” he said.

Only when a skilled migrant is living in New Zealand, who is critical to the workforce, and is in demand internationally does it make sense to allow them to bring a parent in, Mr Peters said.

“It is a significant tightening up of the parental visa scheme.”

“What we had here was up to 31 percent of the so-called sponsors having left this country to go off to other countries, including Australia, and leaving the cost to the taxpayers.”

The change is going to make it more likely that skilled immigrants will desert the country if they can’t bring in their family members.

For New Zealand First it’s about upholding a nationalist approach, something Mr Peters said always existed until the “neo-liberal experiment unleashed itself on the idea that more immigration meant cheap labour”.

Immigration has been an essential for the growth of New Zealand since long before the so-called “neo-liberal experiment”.

“All these things were meant to be part and parcel of a planned population policy but there was no plan other than to drive up consumption with mass immigration,” he said.

Peters keeps using the term “mass immigration”, which is nonsense but deliberately panders to a small intolerant section of society (and voters). NZ First needs more than them to keep their support levels up – and those who expected him to fulfil his promise to slash overall immigrant numbers (to 10,000, currently about 50,000) may still feel he hasn’t delivered anyway.

Sexual assault claims ‘innuendo’ and ‘lies’

Winston Peters arrived back in Parliament after sick leave and immediately took to stirring up Labour’s sexual assault issue. He also tried to attack Judith Collins by association – much along the lines that have been run at The Standard.

Newshub: Winston Peters labels Labour sexual assault claims ‘innuendo’, NZ First MPs back him up

Winston Peters has wasted no time wading into the Labour Party investigation, calling the allegations “unfounded fiction”, an “orgy of speculation”, and “innuendo”.

The NZ First leader’s inflammatory comments come as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seeks to work with the complainants out of the public glare – but she won’t take her deputy to task.

“I’ve rarely seen such a disgraceful episode of unfounded allegations,” Peters said on Tuesday.

Typical irony from Peters given his history of using speculation and innuendo and allegations without producing evidence (it has often just been threatened).

He said it was “led by a woman called Paula Bennett making all sorts of vile allegations by way of innuendo without a fact to back it up”.

And New Zealand First MPs were lining up to back him up.

“If you are a victim of criminal wrongdoing, do not go to the opposition – go to the police,” Shane Jones, Regional Economic Minister, said.

Tracey Martin, Internal Affairs Minister, added: “[Winston Peters has] got a point – I haven’t seen any evidence be produced.”

So it looks like a coo-ordinated line of attack.

In Parliament yesterday Peters attempted a diversionary attack on Judith Collins was not allowed by the Speaker: 9. Question No. 9—Energy and Resources

Rt Hon Winston Peters: A supplementary question to the primary question today from the Leader of the Opposition: which member of Parliament was associated with this company?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Speakers’ ruling 159/5 says, “It is not reasonable to use questions from the governing party or its support parties to attack other members of the House.” I think it’s clear that what the Deputy Prime Minister is doing is deliberately targeting a member of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: I’ll hear from the Deputy Prime Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That protest might sound meritorious were it not for the fact that the very leader of his own party raised that question during a supplementary in the first question today.

SPEAKER: Well, I’m not convinced that team-tag would make something like this appropriate. My view on this—and it’s a very strict view—is that attacks, especially on the families of members of Parliament, are generally inappropriate. I think that the question was an invitation to attack a family member of a member of this Parliament, and on that basis I’m not going to allow it to proceed.

Coincidentally (perhaps) similar lines have been run at The Standard. This post yesterday went as far as naming Collins: The strange case of Oravida and the rupturing of the Ruakaka jet fuel line:

The rumour mill went overboard at the time with suggestions that an Oravida company associated with Judith Collins was involved.

The post included an Oravido photo with Collins. This is dirty politics by association. Collins wasn’t driving the digger that ruptured the fuel line, and there’s no evidence she had anything to do with it or with the operations of the company – I think it’s extremely unlikely.

Also at The Standard yesterday, again authored by Labour stalwart MICKYSAVAGE: An unfortunate rush to judgment by the media?

Labour’s Council member Simon Mitchell, who is a very experienced and adept lawyer, has made a public statement which directly contradicts the essence of some of the allegations that have been made.

The post strongly supports Mitchell’s statement, and makes no mention of the complainant’s counter statement (it was linked in comments by someone else).

The post features an old photo of Paula Bennett with Cameron Slater, who has no link to the Labour sexual assault story. Associating Bennett here with Mr Dirty Politics is the sort of dirty politics that Slater used. SHG commented

And lprent was again throwing around warnings when comments were made that he didn’t like.

Either Mitchell is lying or this individual victim is lying. I’d be interested in hearing what the other complainants have to say. What a messy situation.

Let us not forget that Sarah is only one of twelve people who have complained.

Also, let us not forget that where sexual assault/rape/harrassment is concerned, only a fraction of the incidents ever result in complaints.

What I’m saying is, don’t fixate on what Sarah did or didn’t say to the Labour Party’s lawyer as if answering that question represents any sort of achievement.

[lprent: Lets not forget that the panel and everyone else in the Labour process have been saying that the sexual assault/rape allegations weren’t raised to them. You have just asserted that it was. That is defamatory.

Please keep trying to make me liable. I am really looking forward to kicking your snarky lying arse off the site permanently.

Second warning. ]

Ironic accusing SHG of being defamatory given the posts smearing MPs.

lprent falsely accused me of lying last week when all I was doing was quoting media reports. He has accused the media and others of lying too.

He and The Standard seem to have a similar agenda to peters and NZ First, It looks like the are doing dirty work for the Labour party establishment in a defence, and an attack on the complainants.

Disclosure: The Standard banned me on Sunday for posting media reports on this issue. The seem to be hard out trying to control the message favourable to the Labour Party establishment, with messages contrary to what Jacinda Ardern has been saying.

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill appears to be still stalled

National MP Nick Smith introduced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to Parliament in March 2016.

The sanctuary was a part of both governing agreements between Labour and NZ First and the Green Party, but after the bill was transferred to incoming Labour Minister of the Environment David Parker the bill seems to have stalled. In nearly three years it hasn’t progressed from it’s Second Reading.

Smith recently stated:

“It is embarrassing for the Coalition Government that it has made no progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary after 18 months in Government.  The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, originally in my name but transferred to David Parker with the change in Government in 2017, has sat on the bottom of Parliament’s Order Paper for 18 months.

Timeline:

8 March 2016 – Bill introduced to Parliament

15 March 2016 – First Reading

22 July 2016 – Select Committee

15 September 2016Govt remains committed to Kermadec sanctuary

The Government is disappointed it has been unable to reach agreement with Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, despite lengthy negotiations, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“We have tried very hard to find a resolution with TOKM, with 10 meetings involving ministers during the past 10 months. TOKM wanted to be able to maintain the right to fish and the right to exercise that at some time in the future. We wanted to protect the integrity of the sanctuary as a no-take area.

“The Government has amended the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to provide a dual name, the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary Bill, to include Maori in the new Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board, and to provide for their inclusion in the 25-year review. We remain committed to the changes to the proposal despite not being able to secure an agreement with TOKM.”

24 October 2017: Governing Agreements

Labour NZ First Coalition Agreement:

    • Work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First.

Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement (24 October 2017):

8. Safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and promote abundant fisheries. Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and look to establish a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary.

11 May 2018Winston Peters says the Greens can have a Kermadec Sanctuary – with a catch

Hope for a Kermadec Sanctuary is back on the table and NZ First leader Winston Peters is confident he can do a deal with the Green Party by the end of the year.

The deal would involve a compromise from the Greens though – accepting that the sanctuary won’t be a 100 per cent no-fishing zone.

While the previous government’s bill to establish it passed its first reading unopposed in 2016, iwi bodies and fishing companies subsequently filed legal action against it. NZ First, which has close ties to the fishing industry, raised serious concerns about the legislation.

To keep the fishing industry happy and to ensure iwi with fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are on board, Peters is proposing a mixed model that allows for roughly 95 per cent marine reserve and 5 per cent fishing.

Peters says it’s entirely possible to preserve species while allowing a small percentage of fishing to keep interested parties on side.

He said the Greens would need to decide whether it was more important to have the best part of a sanctuary, or no sanctuary at all.

23 June 2018 – David Parker address to the Forest & Bird Annual Conference

I am also trying to progress the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, which I have Ministerial responsibility for. I am working to see if I can find a way through that.

24 July 2018Winston Peters confident of Kermadec Marine Sanctuary deal by end of year

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is confident the deadlock over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary can be broken by the end of the year.

Environment Minister David Parker and Mr Peters have been working on a compromise for the best part of this year.

Mr Peters insisted an end-of-year deadline was realistic.

“If we keep working on this issue with the level of commitment that has been exhibited thus far then it’s very likely we can have it resolved by the end of 2018.”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said there was more than one way to uphold Treaty rights and keep the Kermadec Islands a sanctuary.

“We’re committed to a sanctuary, it’s with our confidence and supply agreement with Labour and that’s what we’re committed to keep working towards. I haven’t actually seen details of exactly what Mr Peters and Mr Parker might be working on.”

Greens seem to have been sidelined.

12 February 2019Prime Minister’s Statement at the Opening of Parliament

Cabinet will also consider options to resolve outstanding issues around marine protection for Rangitahua/the Kermadecs.

While the sanctuary Bill seems to have stalled since 2016, despite the coalition and C&S agreements, it seems to remain stalled.

Nick Smith: Kermadec sanctuary lost at sea

World Oceans Day today highlights the Government’s failure to make any progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary in the past 18 months, Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says.

There seems to have been little progress since mid-2016, nearly three years ago.

“New Zealand has responsibility for one of the largest areas of ocean in the world, yet less than one per cent is fully protected. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would protect an area twice the size of New Zealand’s land mass, 15 per cent of our ocean area and it would benefit hundreds of unique species, including whales, dolphins, turtles, seabirds, fish and corals.

“Nothing has been done by the Government to progress the Sanctuary, despite commitments in the Coalition Agreement with NZ First and the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens to establish the sanctuary.

“National will continue to push for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There is strong public support and between National and the Greens, there is a clear majority of Parliament in favour of its establishment.

“We support progression of the Government Bill now at second reading stage. I also have a Member’s Bill in the Ballot to make progress if necessary. The Government needs to make progress on this Sanctuary a priority.”

So why has this bill stalled?

Is David Parker not doing enough to push it?

Are negotiations with Maori interests still getting nowhere?

Are NZ First holding out for their deal or no deal?

Cabinet considering extending employer Kiwisaver beyond the age of 65

NZ First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says that Cabinet is considering extending the age when employers have to contribute to employees’ Kiwisaver. The age employers are required by law to contribute is currently 65.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that no decisions have been made.

And Seniors Minister Tracey Martin says “we need older people to stay in paid work”.

RNZ: Peters and Ardern send mixed messages over KiwiSaver changes

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Minister for Seniors, Tracey Martin, were at a Grey Power conference yesterday to announce an injection of more than $8 million to revamp the SuperGold card website, a new app and in funding digital literacy training for seniors.

During the announcement Ms Martin stressed the importance of maintaining a workforce over the age of 65.

“We are going to increasingly need older people to stay in paid work if they want to. We can not have 1.2 million seniors dropping out of the workforce,” she said.

At the conference, Horowhenua Grey Power president Terry Hemmingsen, who was called in to work after he had retired, asked why his employer – the government – had scrapped its contributions to his fund.

“The day you turn 65, that 2 percent employer contribution stops. With government agencies, so being in education, I could keep paying in myself, and did. But I lost the 2 percent. Now that’s discriminatory on the basis of age, wouldn’t you think?”

On that basis you could also say that paying people National Superannuation from age 65 is discriminatory on the basis of age.

But Hemmingsen has a point. People employed with negotiable wage rates can factor in things like the the employer contribution. The KiwiSaver contribution is part of an overall remuneration package, and once that ceases at 65 theoretically at least pay rates can be renegotiated.

But people employed by the Government with industry wide rates of pay, like teachers, may not be able to do that.

Perhaps a solution is for public servant pay rates to be adjusted once someone turns 65.

NZ Herald: Deputy PM Winston Peters says Cabinet is looking into changes to NZ Super eligibility

He said that Cabinet is considering changing the KiwiSaver rules so people over 65 were able to have their contributions matched by their employer.

speaking at the Grey Power annual meeting today, Peters hinted that changes were on the way in this area.

“Something like 70,000–80,000 people have come into our country … and whether they pay tax or not, have acquired full superannuation just like some of you who have worked 45 years,” he told those gathered.

“The issue of being able to arrive in our country and get full super after just 10 years is being addressed as I speak.”

Speaking to media after the speech, he said the Government was looking into increasing the amount of time someone has to live in New Zealand before being eligible for the scheme.

Asked if the Government’s position on the issue would be unveiled before the 2020 election, he said: “Very much so, yes”.

At the moment, if someone over 65 is still working their employer is not obligated to match their contribution.

Peters said this was “not right”.

“And the Government and Cabinet are looking at that matter as we speak – trying to see why that would be fair and, more broadly, why would we not keep on encouraging older people to keep on saving?

“It’s a serious question, we’re looking at that right now.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was less enthusiastic, but also non-committal:

“New Zealand First has long held a policy in this area and it’s absolutely within any party leader’s rights to reiterate that,” she said at a post-Cabinet press conference today.

“But I note that the Deputy Prime Minister also acknowledged that no decisions have been made.”

“When we make any decision related to retirement or savings, they will be announced – I’m not going to speculate on any other policy work that is being done, or has been done”.

I am concerned that Cabinet could be discussing this possibility and could make a decision according to Peters without proper public discussion and debate.

There is no reference to KiwiSaver in the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement.

Leaked Cabinet paper on cannabis referendum ‘out of date’

A Cabinet Paper detailing cannabis law reform referendum options has been leaked to the National Party (who insist on misnaming the drug) just before the issue will be considered by Cabinet, but Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says that it is out of date.

National: Cabinet Paper shows NZ not ready for (cannabis) referendum

A Cabinet Paper leaked to National which will be considered by the Government tomorrow shows New Zealand will head into the recreational marijuana referendum with many unanswered questions, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“Cabinet will tomorrow consider four different options for the referendum but no matter which option it choses, there are huge holes.

“The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you’re under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20. The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air.

“The paper acknowledges that regular marijuana use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia and is especially harmful to those under 25-years-old. It also acknowledges that there is a one in six chance of young people becoming dependent. This would result in further demand for mental health services.

“Only one of the options being considered will give New Zealanders some certainty about what they’re voting for – the other options will mean a huge lack of information.

“Every option takes us straight to legalisation instead of decriminalisation. Many other countries consider decriminalisation first before leaping straight to legalisation.

“National understands that as usual with this Government, the coalition has been unable to reach a consensus and the decision around which option they will choose has been holding up the process.

“The problem with that is there isn’t time for yet more coalition disagreements on an issue this important.”

The 2020 Cannabis Referendum proposals outline four options including;

  • A general question consistent with the undertaking in the Confidence and Supply agreement: “Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis?” This would not be accompanied by any legal framework or other policy decisions and it would be left to a subsequent Parliament to determine what to do in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.
  • A questions referring to a specific policy framework document setting out the basic principles of what legalisation for personal use of recreational cannabis in New Zealand would entail: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with [published policy document]?” A ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact law changes consistent with that policy document;
  • A question referring to draft legislation that outlines the regulatory model for cannabis: ‘Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis in accordance with [published draft legislation]?” Similar to option 2, a ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact the legislation.
  • A question referring to legislation already enacted but conditional on an affirmative vote on the referendum: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with the [Drug Reform] Act 20XX?” A ‘yes’ vote would trigger the legislation coming into effect.

A leak of a Cabinet paper is rare and serious, and national are playing it hard.

Paula Bennett has been invited a number of times to work together with Government parties on cannabis law reform, but National has chosen to try to spoil and disrupt the issue as much as possible, in this case aided by a leak.

It’s very disappointing if Cabinet are seriously considering any but the last of the above options.

It’s also disappointing to see National trying to make a mess of the issue. Paula Bennett has handled this appallingly, presumably with the approval of Simon Bridges.

Labour, NZ First and National are all at risk of letting the majority of New Zealanders who support cannabis law reform down by playing petty politics and possible trying to get out of fronting up properly on this issue.

If Labour yet again fails on a key policy due to not getting NZ First support, and if National mess things up by not working positively on this, then they will piss a lot of people off.