Greens return to taxpayer $87,000 'gift'

By Audrey Young

The Green Party yesterday paid back to the taxpayer more than $87,000 the Auditor-General said it had unlawfully spent last election - but co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons called it a "gift, not a debt".

The party still believes its spending was inside the rules as they were understood at the time, but it wants to start the year with a clean slate and get on with fundraising for next year's election, she said yesterday.

Although the Greens disagreed with Auditor-General Kevin Brady, "the fact is he is the umpire, he has ruled and we respect that ruling".

Ms Fitzsimons also said the party would not expect its money back if New Zealand First leader Winston Peters eventually decided to challenge the Auditor-General's finding.

"Because this is a gift, not a debt," she said. "There was no legal requirement for us to pay this money - we've done it as a matter of honour.

"I don't think there is any process of getting it back if Winston Peters wins in court but it is entirely hypothetical as to whether Winston will bring a challenge at all, so we decided not to take that into account."

Ms Fitzsimons yesterday presented a Kiwibank cheque to the Parliamentary Service, the body that administers the House of Representatives.

The NZ First caucus this week decided to delay further a decision on whether to challenge until it could discuss the issue with a lawyer.

Asked yesterday when he expected to get his legal advice, Mr Peters said: "I'll tell you when I'm ready."

NZ First is the only party that has not yet decided to repay the money. Labour has promised to do so by the end of the financial year on June 30.

Mr Fitzsimons said the Greens' organisation had raised about half and MPs and co-leader Russel Norman had paid the rest.


Unlawful Spending

Paid
* Greens: $87,192.
* Act: $20,114.
* National: $11,912.
* Maori Party: $54.

Agreed To Pay But Outstanding
* Labour: $824,524.
* United Future: $71,867.

No Decision Yet
* New Zealand First: $157,934.

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