NZ First finances: The simple question Winston won't answer

NZ First leader Winston Peters is referring the leaked information to police and the privacy...
NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has refused to confirm whether a foundation giving money to his political party would be considered a donation and needed to be declared.

Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking asked Peters the question eight times this morning but the NZ First leader flat out refused to answer, saying he did not want to answer "hypothetical" questions based on "malevolent" and "misleading" media reports.

The interview follows revelations yesterday that the New Zealand First Foundation appeared to have hidden almost $500,000 in political donations, which were not disclosed to the Electoral Commission.

Stuff reported this morning that money donated to the foundation was spent on NZ First campaign expenses, including $38,000 that went toward the party's campaign headquarters.

Financial records seen by Stuff show the money covered expenses such as rent, furniture, swipe cards and the purchase of a shredder - with none of the spending declared to the Electoral Commission.

Hosking asked Peters if the foundation funded NZ First in any way.

He said "No, it does not, in the context of what these allegations are about. All manner of journalists are making these allegations but the fact is it is not illegal, it is not an organisation doing what they claim it is doing, there's nothing secret about it - that's why it's known as the New Zealand First Foundation."

Peters said media reports that the slush fund had broken electoral laws were "baseless".

He said he did not know the details of how much money the foundation had received.

"Frankly, I'm the political leader of NZ First, I'm on the road often 24/7. I do not have any of this information and these details. One just can't do what I'm trying to do and be over those sorts of details - I just don't know."

The foundation had been set up by a group of lawyers including his own lawyer, Brian Henry. Given the "extraordinary" level of legal experience in the foundation, allegations they had broken electoral law would be "preposterous".

Peters said the foundation existed with aim of promoting democracy in New Zealand and looked for democratic causes to promote.

He would not say if that meant giving money to NZ First.

"We do actually stand for democracy...if they were looking for a democratic institution to promote [then] we might in, terms of what we stand for...be worth subscribing to but you'd have to ask them. I'm not in charge of that.

"We welcome a chance to talk to the Electoral Commission and ensure that this public record...is put right."

Last week the Herald reported the foundation had loaned NZ First money.

Peters confirmed to Hosking there had been a $73,000 loan from the New Zealand First Foundation with a portion of the loan carried over into subsequent years as it was being paid off. It was now paid off in full "to the best of my knowledge".

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