21 Nov 2019

NZ First donor not fussed on Foundation funding pathway

12:35 pm on 21 November 2019

A Waikato stud owner revealed as a New Zealand First donor says he doesn't care how the money got there, as long as it was used to benefit the party.

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New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The Electoral Commission is considering a complaint about the use of the New Zealand First Foundation for donations, and whether the party has met disclosure obligations.

The Foundation has loaned the party nearly $200,000 since the last election.

There are different disclosure rules for loans as opposed to donations and there are now questions about the legality of how the foundation is being used.

Stud owner Garry Chittick donated $5000 to New Zealand First before the last election after being approached by Doug Woolerton, former party MP and President.

Party leader Winston Peters insisted the party had done nothing wrong, saying that would be borne out by the Electoral Commission.

Mr Chittick told RNZ he donated to New Zealand First because they had been such staunch supporters of the racing industry.

He "wouldn't have a bloody clue" whether the donation went to the Foundation or straight to the party, but was not fussed either way as long as it benefited New Zealand First.

RNZ has also contacted a number of senior players in the transport, property, forestry, racing and seafood industries. They either refused to comment, did not return calls or denied making any donations.

Pressure on the PM

Meanwhile, National Party leader Simon Bridges is ratcheting up the pressure on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, calling for her to enforce the Cabinet Manual, the rules for ministers.

Ms Ardern has said it is not her role to investigate other political parties, and it should be left to the likes of the Electoral Commission, the police or the Serious Fraud.

She has dismissed any talk about the impact on coalition relations, saying there was "no need for anyone to get ahead of themselves".

Mr Bridges said this was not about the two leaders of Labour and New Zealand First, but "they're supposed to be running the country".

"The Cabinet Manual is clear, the buck stops with Jacinda Ardern.

"It clearly states at all times Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. Ministers are responsible to the Prime Minister for their behaviour," he said.

"It's time for Jacinda Ardern to take control of her government, show some leadership and assure New Zealanders her Deputy Prime Minister hasn't been breaking the law."