Peter Dunne has hit out at the Electoral Commission after it refused to budge on its requirements for his party's reregistration, describing it as "petty bureaucracy'," "a rogue elephant" and "living in the days of quill pens and parchment".
Mr Dunne risks losing up to $185,000 a year in parliamentary funding if he cannot reregister United Future quickly, and hoped to persuade the commission that the party did not need to meet the same paperwork criteria as a new party.
But after the commission's board met him yesterday it insisted United Future provide signed and dated evidence of membership from at least 500 members - although it said the party could submit that evidence electronically and did not have to provide the original application forms. All applicants for registration must be treated consistently, it said.
Mr Dunne said it was "an absurd situation" and the Electoral Commission had wasted the chance to bring its processes up to date to recognise online transactions were standard practice, as it was in most other areas of society.
"These guys still live in the days of quill pens and parchment. I think there's now pressure on the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, to bring this rogue elephant into line. This is petty bureaucracy gone mad and I'm surprised a man of the integrity and calibre of [commission chair] Sir Hugh Williams is swayed by such trivial nonsense from his petty advisers."
Mr Dunne said the commission's insistence that it had to treat United Future as a new party was equally ludicrous, given it had been registered for 20 years until a few weeks ago.
"If we are not a new party, we should not be treated as a new party for registration purposes. It's as simple as that.
"The commission cannot have it both ways. It cannot simply shrug its shoulders and say, 'Well, that's not our problem', when I point out the implications of that for our parliamentary funding. This is cavalier irresponsibility."
Parliament's rules mean any new party formed during a parliamentary term must have at least six MPs to be eligible for the extra funding - a stipulation which would rule United Future out if the Speaker took the same interpretation as the commission, even though it qualified for the funding before.
In its decision, the commission said the Electoral Act only provided for it to register parties or cancel registration, not to reregister the same party.
Mr Dunne hoped to meet the Speaker, David Carter, today.