20 Jul 2020

New Zealand First Foundation not operating, not taking donations, Winston Peters says

8:02 am on 20 July 2020

The New Zealand First Foundation is not operating at the moment, New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters says.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters at his 2020 election campaign launch.

New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Peters was being asked about his involvement with former Brexit campaigners Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore.

He told Morning Report: "I have over a long career, learned from other peoples' experiences internationally. I was talking to those two gentlemen and they said to me ... 'what can we do' and I said 'Have you got any bright ideas then let's talk about it'. But that's all it is..."

Earlier in July, he denied hiring the pair.

Asked if help from the UK pair were paid for by the New Zealand Party or the New Zealand First Foundation, Peters said it was paid for by the party.

The foundation was not operating at the moment, he said.

"If it's not operating, it's not taking donations any more... It's been the subject of an investigation, things have stopped pending that investigation."

Asked about his involvement with the foundation, Peters said: "I have had no involvement at all [with the foundation] other than to say 'whatever you do, make sure it is legal'. And I know from the legal advice that I've been getting subsequent to these investigations, that it has been."

NZ First Foundation background

The foundation is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office

In February the Electoral Commission said it believed the New Zealand First Foundation had received donations which should have been treated as party donations and had referred the matter to police to investigate.

The police referred it on to the Serious Fraud Office on 11 February and a week later the SFO launched a formal investigation.

The investigation followed revelations by RNZ and Stuff that the foundation received donations from entities connected with some of the country's wealthiest people in the business, fisheries and horse racing worlds.

NZ First's immigration position

The interview had begun with a discussion about the New Zealand First campaign launch at the weekend where immigration was raised.

The party position on immigration is that no more than 15,000 people should come into New Zealand each year - and that they're all highly skilled workers.

Peters said the bottom line for any potential coalition line was that one of his MPs must be immigration minister for that to happen.

He told Morning Report that other parties could not be trusted to reduce immigration, so NZ First needed the portfolio to ensure that happened.

"The old parties on this matter say one thing but when they get into power they do something else and do everything they can to ensure this does not happen."

There was nothing complex or difficult to it, he said.

"It'll be numbers, it'll be skills. All immigration is about ethnicity and all immigration is about race. Why? Because everybody has got an ethnic background and a race. There's nothing unusual about that."

That did not mean "in any way, shape or form" that the party would give certain countries or races preference.

"It means ... that some populations are highly skilled in certain areas."

An example was places like India and Israel having high numbers of IT experts, Peters said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs