NZ First in the clear over donation claims: Peters

National leader Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern are set for talks at Parliament...
Winston Peters. Photo: Getty Images

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters insists his party is in the clear over allegations of donations and says he plans to discuss the matter with the Electoral Commission.

In a short statement this afternoon, Peters rejected allegations which suggested there were legal issues around the NZ First Foundation and party donations.

"Allegations raised this morning by Fairfax Media (Stuff) concern a party matter but I am confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years."

"Declarable donations were declared to the Electoral Commission."

Speaking to media before going into the House, Peters refused to elaborate – referring reporters back to his media statement, instead of answering further questions.

But, when questioned about the NZ First Foundation, Peters said it was an "administration matter" and he looked after the "political body of New Zealand First".

This is despite the fact that former NZ First President, Lester Gray, told the Herald this morning the NZ First Foundation was "nothing to do with my role as the President or the NZ First board".

He said New Zealand First's system of democracy is based on the secrecy of the ballot and privacy of party memberships and donations within specified limits.

"We look forward to discussing this matter with the Electoral Commission."

Peters this morning promised to "set the record straight" later today in regards to any allegations around electoral donations.

His statement comes after Stuff reported that the fund appeared to have hidden political donations worth almost half a million dollars.

The foundation was reportedly controlled by advisers of Peters, including his lawyer, Brian Henry, with money used to fund NZ First's electoral campaigns and legal advice for an MP.

Senior NZ First Minister Tracey Martin denied any knowledge of the fund this morning.

Electoral law specialists, including Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis and Public Law expert Graeme Edgeler, have both questioned the legality of the fund.

The Electoral Commission issued a statement this morning saying it was looking into the matter.

"We will be contacting New Zealand First and the New Zealand First Foundation to seek further information."

And National Leader Paul Bennett is also sceptical about the Foundation.

She said this morning that changes had been made to the electoral law which were meant to help make it more transparent.

That law now makes it clear that donations are to be declared, and the New Zealand First Foundation did not seem to be in the spirit of the law, Bennett said.

 

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