All ministerial decisions made by New Zealand First party Cabinet members need to be audited in light of the ongoing drip-feed of information about who and how the party was handling donations through its secretive NZ First Foundation, says National Party finance spokesman, Paul Goldsmith.
Using documents obtained without the party's permission, Radio New Zealand released a new round of information this morning which shows NZ First received tens of thousands of dollars in donations from participants in the racing industry, channelled through the arms-length foundation, which is now the subject of a Serious Fraud Office probe.
The Electoral Commission this week referred its findings from earlier leaked documents to the police after concluding the papers showed evidence that the foundation "received donations which should have been treated as party donations." The donations were therefore "not properly transmitted to the party and not disclosed as required by the Electoral Act 1993."
The NZ First leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, is Minister of Racing, and has welcomed the SFO probe, saying the party acted within the law and with external legal advice at all times.
Peters has claimed the foundation is based on a model used by the National Party. However, National does not record monies received from its foundation as loans to the party, as the NZ First equivalent has been doing.
Regional Economic Development and Forestry Minister Shane Jones has led the process of delivering $3 billion in loans and funding grants through the Provincial Growth Fund, skating close to scandal on several occasions, including questionable handling of conflicts of interest and urging forestry industry representatives in an after-dinner speech to back NZ First as payback for the support the party had won for the sector.
Goldsmith fingered Jones and his under-secretary, Fletcher Tabuteau, for their role in the PGF, "which doles out large sums of money to individuals and businesses."
"Now the commission has said some donations to the NZ First Foundation weren't properly transmitted or disclosed, and the SFO is investigating, we can't carry on as if nothing has happened," Goldsmith said. "New Zealanders need to be assured that NZ First ministers have not made any decisions about taxpayer funding that unfairly favoured their donors."
He called for an audit of all previous "funding, legislative and regulatory decisions made by NZ First ministers since 2017" and called for the swift release of "all communications from NZ First ministers regarding those decisions."
His comments came after Goldsmith attempted to press Finance Minister Grant Robertson on the issue at a select committee hearing today.
Peters was also Minister of Racing when serving as a minister outside Cabinet in the Labour-led government of Helen Clark.
In the current parliamentary term, he has announced $4.8 million over four years for tax deductions relating to acquiring high-quality breeding horses. Last year's Budget repealed the betting levy, at a cost to the taxpayer of about $14m, as part of a wider strategy to reinvigorate an industry that has too many racetracks for the amount of bettor interest it inspires.