John Key. Photo by Getty
John Key helped the Maori Party throw a $5000-a-seat
fundraiser at which diners at the event were promised the
chance to "chat confidentially" with the Prime Minister.
The invitation for the event at Auckland's exclusive and
private Northern Club told "15 specially selected leaders"
that "John Key will change seats so that you will be on
either side of him or directly opposite for ease of
The Maori Party's two ministers, Tariana Turia and Dr Pita
Sharples, were also present at the April 2 four-course
dinner, as was co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.
Attending the event cost a minimum of $5000-a-head and has
been described as inviting accusations of "selling access" to
the Prime Minister.
Mr Key's office is defending it. A spokeswoman said: "The
Prime Minister has attended a number of functions for the
Maori Party and the other parties we have relationships with.
It doesn't signify any deal, it simply illustrates a good
relationship with parties we work with."
She said the wording of the invitation was a matter for the
Maori Party but Mr Key was comfortable with it.
"At fundraising events the PM often changes seats in order to
meet as many people as possible."
And the Maori Party is also defending the arrangement.
Maori Party president Naida Glavich said it showed the close
relationship with the National Party.
"We were having a fundraiser and asked if he would be a
dinner speaker. That's all it was. That just signifies to use
the generosity of John Key."
She said it showed closeness between the parties but did not
shut out coalition options this election.
"As far as the Maori Party and National, we are sitting at
the table of government. If someone else was the government,
we would still be asking to sit at the table of government."
Ms Glavich said seating was changed to move Mr Key around but
that others were also moved.
"We can't control who he speaks to after the dinner."
Asked if the $5000 "donation" price tag was a lot of money,
she said: "It is for some."
"That is the sort of fundraising we need to do to financially
prepare ourselves for the upcoming election."
The meeting was exposed by Maori Television's Native Affairs
show, which captured guests arriving and will feature
exclusive footage on its show tonight.
Labour leader David Cunliffe said he would not comment.
"That is a matter for National and the Maori Party to defend
- if they can."
Otago University political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards said
the deal would feed the belief pushed by opponents that the
Maori Party was "too close to National and not independent
"It's that criticism they have become a rich boys' clubs," he
said. The venue of the Northern Club also played into that -
"It makes them look elitist".
"These people are pretty vulnerable to the criticism they are
selling access to the people making the political decisions
in New Zealand. I think it goes down very badly with the
* Native Affairs in on Maori Television at 8.30pm
- By David Fisher of the NZ Herald