Letters of support from two Government MPs for Donghua Liu's
citizenship bid have been kept secret - despite letters from
Labour politicians for his residency bid being released this
The Herald reported in March that Liu received citizenship in
2010 against official advice after lobbying by Maurice
Williamson, the Minister for Building and Construction, and
John Banks, the Mayor of Auckland at the time who later
entered Parliament as an Act MP.
However, the Department of Internal Affairs refused to
release the letters sent by Mr Williamson and Mr Banks under
the privacy and commercial provisions in the Official
The Office of the Ombudsman is reviewing the decision but the
Herald also asked the DIA to reconsider after Immigration
officials released letters from Labour MPs David Cunliffe and
Chris Carter written for Liu's residency bid.
Jeff Montgomery, general manager of Births, Deaths, Marriages
and Citizenship, confirmed today that the department would
not release the letters from the elected politicians.
"I am confident that our decision to withhold some
information was the correct response. We will cooperate fully
with any approach the Ombudsman makes as a result of your
The Herald first asked for Liu's residency file on May 8 and
the Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse asked for
information on the file the next day.
Immigration officials refused the request on Monday, on
privacy grounds, so a refined request was made for any
correspondence from MPs leading up to Liu's residency bid
being granted against advice in 2005.
Two days later, the 2003 letter from Mr Cunliffe to
Immigration officials was released and published online by
the Herald - despite the Labour leader earlier denying he
played any party in Liu's residency.
He has since been battling to save his job and has since
accused the National Party of a dirty tricks campaign in the
lead-up to the election.
Prime Minister John Key had earlier admitted knowing about
the letter from Cunliffe for several weeks after being
briefed by Mr Woodhouse's office, but denied it was a smear
May 8: Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse is questioned
in the House and by media about his meetings and any National
Party association with Donghua Liu. Mr Woodhouse requests
information on the file to see if there is anything relevant
that he needs to know about. The Herald requests Liu's
residency file under the Official Information Act (OIA)
May 9: In response to file review, Mr Woodhouse is verbally
advised - among other things - of the existence of two
Parliamentary advocacy letters regarding Donghua Liu, one
from Mr Cunliffe and another from the office of Chris Carter.
Weekend of 10-11 May: Mr Woodhouse informs Prime Minister
John Key's Office of the existence of the letters.
Week 12-16 May: Mr Woodhouse's office receives hard copy of
Mid-late May: Mr Woodhouse's office provides copy of letters
to the Prime Minister's office.
16 June: The Herald run story on Labour donations and
connections. The Herald's OIA request is declined on privacy
grounds. The Herald puts in a refined OIA request for MP
representations for Donghua Liu to Immigration NZ.
18 June: Immigration NZ release Mr Cunliffe's Donghua Liu
letter to the Herald
• 2pm Mr Woodhouse denies telling Mr Key about the letters
• 3pm Mr Woodhouse says officials from his office briefed Mr
Key's office on the letters.
• 7pm Mr Woodhouse's office says the minister himself told Mr
Key's office about the letters and his office also gave
copies of the letters to Mr Key's office.
- By Jared Savage of the NZ Herald