Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

National Party had high-level concerns over member's influence

Senior whip Michael Woodhouse reported to the National Party board he had a 'disturbing discussion' with party member Simon Lusk. Photo / supplied
Senior whip Michael Woodhouse reported to the National Party board he had a 'disturbing discussion' with party member Simon Lusk. Photo / supplied

Confidential minutes of a National board meeting in March reveal high-level concerns over the influence of party member Simon Lusk in the party.

But Prime Minister John Key, who was absent from the board meeting, suggested he did not share that view: "I don't have any great concern."

Mr Lusk, who is based in the Hawkes Bay, has been a campaign strategist and adviser to MPs at various times and runs his own private candidates college that is not sanctioned by the party.

In an embarrassing leak, the March minutes have been obtained by Labour MP Trevor Mallard, who in the past has accused Mr Lusk of having orchestrated the Act leadership coup against Rodney Hide.

The minutes reveal that senior whip Michael Woodhouse reported to the board he had spoken to MPs with "an involvement" with Mr Lusk.

"He [Mr Woodhouse] has let them know that it is not appropriate for any MPs to engage with any alternative candidates' school that is not sanctioned by the party," the minutes said.

"He said this has been understood by all."

It also said Mr Woodhouse had had a"disturbing discussion" with Mr Lusk and that Mr Woodhouse believed that it highlighted Mr Lusk's motivations and "a very negative agenda for the party".

"It was agreed that light needs to be shed on these issues with key influencers within the party.

"It was further agreed that this issue will be followed up with a further meeting between the president [Peter Goodfellow] and the whip [Mr Woodhouse].

The MPs to whom Mr Lusk has been a campaign adviser in the past include Taupo MP Louise Upston, Maungakiekie MP Sam Lotu-Iiga, Napier MP Chris Tremain, Rodney MP Mark Mitchell and former list MP Aaron Gilmore.

Mr Key said at Parliament yesterday that there were always people on the board with a whole range of views.

Asked if he agreed with the view that there was a serious threat to the party, he said "no I don't see it that way".

"The caucus is unified. The party is polling the best it has in three and a half years in Government."

The party was in good shape.

He said he did not know Mr Lusk very well and had met him once or twice.

"I don't know about him actually terribly well but I haven't seen any great influence."

One of the details the minutes reveal is that Young Nationals signed up 715 new members at orientation promotions in Auckland.

Mr Lusk, Mr Goodfellow and Mr Woodhouse could not be contacted for comment.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 29 May 2017 13:10:10 Processing Time: 1561ms