Labour leader Andrew Little has accused Prime Minister John Key of trivialising the issues raised by the Panama Papers in a bid to distract from them.

Mr Key reported that Inland Revenue's trawl through the Panama Papers had found fewer than 200 foreign trusts in New Zealand among the 500,000 institutions mentioned in the database released yesterday.

He said all of those were registered in New Zealand and so would have to meet information disclosure rules under New Zealand's agreement with other countries.

While Government ministers were careful not to rule out a further development as the media and public trawled through the documents, Mr Key's relief that no major political scandal had so far emerged was obvious.


Mr Key also tried to turn the tables on the left, arguing it was not only the rich named in the documents but also groups such as Greenpeace, Amnesty and the Red Cross. Mr Key's example may backfire. Greenpeace and Amnesty were both in an earlier 2013 leak when it was reported the charities' names had been used without their knowledge or consent to hide the true identity of the beneficiaries.

The lack of a smoking gun did not appease Mr Little, who said Mr Key was not addressing the primary issue of New Zealand allowing foreigners to stash their money in New Zealand to avoid taxes in their homeland.

"This is typical John Key, minimising, trivialising. The National Party will be desperate to shut this down, minimise it, trivialise it. It is not good that we have just under 11,000 foreign trusts and we are part of a small group of countries that helps the mega-wealthy avoid tax responsibilities in their own countries. That's just not something New Zealand should be doing."

Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse said Inland Revenue's preliminary report showed all 200 foreign trusts in New Zealand had met their obligations of disclosure under tax law.

However, Mr Woodhouse would not dismiss it as a storm in a teacup, saying it was a "moving feast." "I'm not saying this is the end of the story but if there was a big reveal we would have seen in the last few days."