Prime Minister John Key says he supports a proposed inquiry into a donation by a Manukau trust to Auckland Mayor Len Brown's election campaign.
Mr Key yesterday said he supported the view of Local Government Minister Rodney Hide "that it may be appropriate for the Auditor-General to look at the nature of whether the entity that actually gave [Mr Brown] a donation is capable of doing so or whether it's within their rules to do so".
He was referring to a donation of billboard space worth $3375 from the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust, which runs the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre.
Mr Hide, who intends writing to Auditor-General Lyn Provost today to ask her office to investigate the donation, regards the trust as a "council-controlled entity" drawing on ratepayer funding.
He told the Herald earlier that his concern was unallayed by the trust's decision to provide billboard space to any mayoral candidate who asked for it, saying: "It's really about the use of ratepayer resources."
Trust chief executive Richard Jeffery last night denied that the trust was a council-controlled entity.
"We are a community charitable trust," he said. Trust chairman Sir Noel Robinson said no costs were incurred or revenue lost by providing Mr Brown's campaign with billboard space, which his board had made a decision to provide free to any mayoral candidate who approached it.
"As a trust we support the democratic process and are more than happy for candidates to use the billboard as long as it doesn't interfere with our business and that we incur no cost," Sir Noel said.
"A legal opinion said we are well within our right to do so."
Mr Key said he did not have a view on whether the trust was within its rights.
"I simply don't know but the minister [Mr Hide] is simply asking the obvious question whether they can do that."
Mr Brown said yesterday that he was unconcerned about Mr Hide's intention to ask Ms Provost to look into the trust's donation.
- additional reporting Adam Bennett