A Chinese-owned milk powder company reprimanded by Prime Minister John Key for using his photo without permission in its advertising in 2012 has donated $25,400 to the National Party.

Donation returns released yesterday show National's total of $1.4 million included $25,338 in five separate donations from GMP Dairy, a Chinese-owned milk powder company based in Auckland.

In 2012, GMP Dairy subsidiary Cowala used a photo of Mr Key posing with its products in advertising in China after Mr Key opened its Auckland factory that year. That prompted Mr Key to write to the company to complain. A spokeswoman said it "implies the company's product has an endorsement from the Prime Minister which it does not."

At the time the company's chief executive Karl Ye said the advert was created by one store and it had been asked to remove it. The 2012 incident has clearly been forgiven: National Ministers Steven Joyce and Bill English have both attended subsequent product launches for the company, as well as Party President Peter Goodfellow. GMP Dairy also paid for National MPs Jami-Lee Ross and Stuart Smith to travel to China earlier this year.


The first donation was made in June, the same month Mr Joyce attended the launch of its premium infant formula brand and Mr Goodfellow attended a charity event with company chairman Mr Xu Wen and general manager Karl Ye.

The company is owned by Chinese conglomerate Evergrande Group, which has a 51 per cent share and Mr Ye, the owner of GMP Pharmaceuticals. The Companies Office records the 51 per cent share as being held in an investment company in the Cayman Islands.

GMP Dairy is one of a handful of milk powder companies which has approval to export infant milk formula to China after China tightened its rules in 2014 following contamination scares. Last month it signed up as an official partner for the New Zealand Olympics Committee and it also donates some of its proceeds to the Foundation of Youth Development.

Parties must disclose all donations of money, goods or services worth more than $15,000.

National's included $21,900 from Brijesh and Nivedeti Sethi, the owners of private training establishment the NZ School of Education and $21,720 from Stonyridge Vineyard on Waiheke Island. Other donors included Auckland real estate giant Garth Barfoot ($25,000), property developer Adrian Burr ($27,350) and National Party member Kit Parkinson ($17,044). Mr Barfoot and Mr Burr have donated in the past. Christine Che donated $15,800 and National's tally also includes the previously disclosed $60,000 donation from the Gallagher Group. The party also took in about $1.19 in smaller donations.

The Labour Party declared no donations of more than $15,000 and its total of $279,134 came from 50 smaller donations. That was despite a fundraising drive after the Herald revealed it had run in deficit for the past two years and its cash reserves were eroding.

Of the Green Party's $408,000, $237,000 came from its own MPs, who are tithed and must hand over a portion of their salary to the party's coffers. The returns also show Kim Dotcom stopped bankrolling his Internet Party straight after the election - it declared only $676.65 in total, which came from 16 anonymous donations. Act got a total of $162,000, including $33,589 from regular donor Dame Jenny Gibbs and $24,448 from party vice-president Heather Anderson.

Donations of goods, services and cash must be disclosed. All donations of more than $15,000 have to be publicly disclosed in the annual returns, while those of more than $30,000 must be disclosed within 10 working days of receipt.