Election 2020

NZ Public Party faces donations complaint

A controversial party which has been sharing conspiracy theories about Covid-19 is now under scrutiny over its donations, with an official complaint to authorities

The Electoral Commission is looking into a complaint about the conspiracy-driven NZ Public Party’s collection and use of donations, after receiving a referral from the Serious Fraud Office.

The political party was launched by former blues guitarist Billy Te Kahika Jr. in June, and formed an alliance with disgraced MP Jami-Lee Ross’ Advance NZ after it missed a cut-off to register itself in time for the election.

After Ross was referred to Parliament’s privileges committee last month over Advance NZ’s use of misleadingly edited parliamentary footage, Te Kahika’s party itself is now under the microscope.

An SFO spokesman told Newsroom it had recently received a complaint about the party, which it had referred to the Electoral Commission for further consideration.

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman confirmed it had been sent the complaint “about the collection and use of donations by the New Zealand Public Party”, and it was currently considering what action to take.

In an apparent bid to head off negative coverage of its financial activity, on Tuesday evening the party (through Advance NZ) released some documentation relating to its accounts.

Te Kahika said he had been contacted by a Stuff journalist who had “some internal party documents relating to finances”, which he believed had come from an individual who had since left the party.

“Rather than allow a journalist to spin information and attempt to further one person's smear campaign against us and against you, we are releasing the documents in full, together with two legal letters we have had to send to this person,” he said.

“To avoid any doubt, at all times we have acted within the law, we have acted with integrity, and we have acted transparently. We have no legal requirement to release these documents, but we are doing so to be transparent with you all.”

$65k in koha

The information includes an “up-to-date koha spreadsheet” showing the party received over $65,000 in donations at events between June and August.

In addition, the party released an August 20 letter from Te Kahika’s lawyers to the person who allegedly leaked the financial records to Stuff, asking them to cease and desist from “certain untrue allegations which you have been making about Mr Te Kahika, and publishing to members and staff of” Advance NZ and the NZ Public Party.

“You have been working systematically to undermine Mr Te Kahika and Mr Ross’s leadership of these political parties and have been fostering a spirit of distrust amongst members and staff,” the letter said, adding that the person had allegedly “without permission, deleted or removed access to company or party documents”.

“Should the defamation continue, we have firm instructions to issue proceedings for defamation and to seek substantial damages for the baseless, untrue and defamatory comments which have been published with malice, to jeopardise Mr Te Kahikas’s [sic] political career and to sully his name,” the letter concluded.

Political donations have been a topic of controversy during this term of Parliament, with Labour, National and New Zealand First having all faced investigation by the SFO.

Ross and three businessmen will face trial next year over the investigation related to National Party donations, while the Labour and New Zealand First investigations are still ongoing.

In April, the SFO said it was still on track to complete its investigation into New Zealand First before the general election, at that point set down for September 19.

The election has since been delayed to October 17, but the SFO spokesman said the office had nothing further to say about its April timetable.

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