18 Apr 2016

Contract not linked to donation - Scenic Hotel

6:35 pm on 18 April 2016

A company awarded a government contract to manage a luxury resort in Niue says its executive chairman - who made a big donation to the National Party - knew nothing about the bid.

Matavai Resort, Niue

Matavai Resort, Niue Photo: RNZI

One month before Scenic Hotel announced it had won the contract, its founder and executive chairman Earl Hagaman donated $101,000 to the National Party.

But Scenic Hotel managing director Brendan Taylor said Mr Hagaman didn't know the company was in the running for the Matavai Resort contract.

"Earl wasn't actually even aware that we were negotiating in Niue, because basically that was me and I had it all in-house until such time that we knew we had been awarded the contract.

"I did get [Earl's wife] Lani Hagaman to sign the contract because I wasn't actually available to do it, but apart from that Earl really had no involvement in Niue whatsoever."

In fact, "in the early days, Earl wouldn't have even known where Niue was in the Pacific region", Mr Taylor said.

Mr Taylor said Mr Hagaman's donation should be considered a private matter.

"His donation is something he did purely from a personal situation, and basically the hotel company and what Earl does from a personal point of view we kind of keep separate."

RNZ News could find no record of Mr Hagaman having ever made a large donation to the National Party before.

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National Party president Peter Goodfellow Photo: National Party

In a statement, National Party president Peter Goodfellow said there was no way the $100,000 donation to the party could have influenced the outcome of the Niue public tender.

"There would be no way for a donation to the National Party to impact any decision-making process around a public tender."

The party organisation would not be privy to information about government contracts, and would not communicate with a minister about such a donation received by the party headquarters, the statement said.

Mr Goodfellow also said the National Party would be making no further comment about the donation.

The office of the Auditor-General told RNZ News it did not have any oversight of the Matavai Resort contract being awarded to Scenic Hotels.

It confirmed it had received a request today for an inquiry.