The Prime Minister was touted as a dinner companion in a lucky dip contest fronted by a National Party minister - but never knew he was the prize used to lure entrants.
John Key's office says he was unaware until yesterday he had attended a dinner as the prize of a competition organised by the National Party's Dunedin North committee.
The Weekend Herald has confirmed the lucky dip giveaway was run last September from the National Party's stand at the Dunedin "Women's Lifestyle Expo".
National MP Michael Woodhouse was among those who spent time on the stand where visitors were invited to leave their names and contact details behind for the chance to dine with Mr Key. The dinner took place two months later during the PM's November visit to Dunedin when the winners were slipped into a group dining with Mr Key.
"This is news to us," said a spokeswoman for Mr Key. It didn't break any rules because there weren't any dealing with a situation where the Prime Minister was given away without his knowledge. "To our knowledge ... this has never happened before - and it wouldn't be something we would encourage".
Photographs from the expo show wall-length posters of Mr Woodhouse and Mr Key.
A poster on the rear wall with a photograph of Mr Key encourages people to put their names in the draw for a chance to win dinner with the PM. Mr Woodhouse's office yesterday refused comment because "this is squarely a National Party matter".
Questions were referred to the former committee chairman Tony Allison who confirmed yesterday the Prime Minister had been offered as a prize without his knowledge. He said the winners were selected from the bowl and the prize had been awarded when Mr Key visited Dunedin in November.
"John Key was down here in November. It was drawn two weeks before it."
When told the PM's office had never heard of the contest, he said: "They probably wouldn't know too much about it." He said the local committee had 10 available seats at the table, filled it with guests and the Prime Minister sat at it.
"From the PM's office perspective they probably didn't know how it came about. We just have to give them a list before hand."
He said he would not reveal the identities of the winners because it was a private function. One of the winners was a hairdresser, he said.
"There definitely was a draw and there definitely was a dinner. I wasn't involved at the detail level and I don't actually know who drew it."
He said the personal details of unsuccessful entrants had not been used by the committee for any other purpose. Dunedin Labour MP David Clark said there was a level of transparency around the arrangement which failed the "sniff test". He said it was odd the winners had been slipped on to the table without the PM's knowledge. "I would have thought it would have needed some explanation for those people [who won] - unless they were people in that loop."By David Fisher @@DFisherJourno Email David