Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Woodhouse drawn into donor saga

Immigration Minister says Williamson brought up rich investor rule changes

Michael Woodhouse, seen here in his home town of Dunedin, has admitted being lobbied by colleague Maurice Williamson over immigration rules for wealthy foreign investors. Photo / ODT
Michael Woodhouse, seen here in his home town of Dunedin, has admitted being lobbied by colleague Maurice Williamson over immigration rules for wealthy foreign investors. Photo / ODT

Former Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson lobbied Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse about rule changes for wealthy foreign investors sought by businessman and National Party donor Donghua Liu, Mr Woodhouse has confirmed.

Mr Woodhouse's confirmation came after he faced questions yesterday in Parliament over his discussions with Mr Liu about those changes in a fiery session in which Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Chris Hipkins were ejected from the House.

Mr Woodhouse has previously acknowledged meeting Mr Liu at his Newmarket Hotel last year where they discussed immigration issues. The previous year in letters to Prime Minister John Key and then-Immigration Minister Nathan Guy, lobby group the Construction Development Alliance - which Mr Liu belonged to - claimed to have support from the Prime Minister for a new "third category" in immigration rules for investors with softer English language requirements.

A spokeswoman for Mr Woodhouse last night confirmed Mr Williamson had spoken to the minister about the creation of "a third investment category".

Mr Woodhouse's spokeswoman said the minister couldn't recall whether Mr Liu's name came up during discussions with Mr Williamson or whether those discussions took place before Mr Woodhouse's meeting with Mr Liu. He did not know Mr Liu had donated $22,000 to the National Party when he met him.

Mr Key has denied offering support for the the new investor category, and, when asked about the letters in March, said: "Interest groups can interpret the Prime Minister's interest in a conversation as having shown support for an idea, but that is a matter of interpretation."

Meanwhile, when asked by Mr Mallard in the House whether Mr Liu had offered him money during their meeting, Mr Woodhouse said no, but objected to the question.

Speaker David Carter ruled it was implying corruption, which MPs are not allowed to do in the House, and ordered Mr Mallard to withdraw and apologise.

Mr Hipkins interjected that he shouldn't have to, resulting in Mr Carter ordering him out. Mr Mallard refused to withdraw and apologise and was also ordered out.

- NZ Herald

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