20 Apr 2020

Winston Peters superannuation leak privacy court claim fails

5:52 pm on 20 April 2020

Winston Peters has failed in the legal action he took over the leaking of details about his superannuation overpayment to media ahead of the 2017 election.

Winston Peters

Winston Peters Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Peters - deputy prime minister and leader of the New Zealand First party - took State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, former Ministry of Social Development head Brendan Boyle and former National ministers Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett to court, claiming they had breached his privacy.

Peters was overpaid nearly $18,000 over seven years, after he did not fill out a section of his application form that asked whether he had a partner.

He repaid it, and launched legal action.

The case was heard last November in the High Court in Auckland.

In court, Peters argued officials should not have briefed ministers about the overpayment under the "no surprises" convention, which requires departments to inform ministers of matters which might become controversial or be subject of public debate.

In a judgement released today, Justice Venning said Peters had a reasonable expectation that the details of his overpayment would be kept private and would not be disclosed to people who did not have a genuine need to know, or a proper interest in knowing about it.

"In particular, he had a reasonable expectation that the details of the payment irregularity would not be disclosed to the media," Justice Venning said.

"The deliberate disclosure of the details of the payment irregularity to the media would be regarded as highly offensive to an objective reasonable person."

However, Justice Venning said Peters' claim failed because he could not establish that any of the defendants were responsible for the leak.

Further, he said officials had a proper purpose for briefing ministers about it.