A book, two bottles of wine and a $5 note were the star lots at a Chinese dinner that raised $250,000 for Labour MP Phil Goff's mayoral campaign on Saturday night.
About 350 people attended the fundraising dinner at the Imperial Palace restaurant in Ellerslie where bidding on a book, The Governance of China, written and signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, started at $5000 and sold to a phone bidder from China for $150,000.
There was enthusiastic bidding for a $5 note featuring Sir Edmund Hillary and signed by the mountaineer. It sold for $30,000. Two bottles of wine, signed by Prime Minister John Key and Opposition Leader Andrew Little, fetched $25,000.
Several other bottles of wine signed by Labour MPs, including Annette King and David Parker, sold for between $200 and $1000.
Goff's campaign director David Lewis said the dinner raised about $250,000.
"It was a very successful event that far exceeded expectations," he said.
Lewis confirmed that Goff held a similar fundraising dinner with the Chinese community at the Waipuna Hotel in Mt Wellington two months ago. It raised less than Saturday's event, he said.
Former Labour list MP Raymond Huo was master of ceremonies at Saturday's event. Other Labour politicians present included list MP Jacinda Ardern and Michael Wood, a Puketapapa Local Board member and Labour's candidate for a byelection in Mt Roskill should Goff win the mayoralty.
One guest at the Ellerslie fundraiser, who did not want to be named, said the reason so many people attended and bid strongly for items was because they believed Goff would be the next mayor. Two polls by The Spinoff/SSI show Goff with a commanding lead over businesswoman Vic Crone.
The guest said there were about 35 tables at the event, which each sold for $1680.
Another guest, David Soh, editor of Mandarin Pages, said the man who bought the $5 note made a speech where he praised Goff's father, Bruce, for coming along and supporting his son.
The man wanted to donate the note back to Goff to auction at a future event, but Goff told him to keep it, Soh said.
It was a very successful event that far exceeded expectations
The maximum spending limit for Auckland mayoral candidates is $621,504, including GST, in the three months before the elections on October 9.
Following the elections, candidates must disclose how much money they raised, donations over $1500 and how much they spent on the campaign.
Lewis said Goff's campaign would come in under the spending limit, but would not say if it had raised more than $621,504. Any surplus would go to future campaigns, he said.
The Herald understand Crone's campaign is struggling financially. Last month, she sent a letter to supporters seeking donations of $1500. A source said Crone has been trying to rustle up $10,000 for television advertising.
A spokeswoman for Crone would not say how much money she had raised, "but we won't reach the spending limit at this stage and we are focusing on the ground game".
John Palino, who spent $150,000 at the 2013 elections where he came second behind Len Brown, said he had raised "not nearly enough this time around".
"Donors are usually property developers and land bankers. They put their money into who they think will win. Phil has some of the same donors as Len did," Palino said.
Mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick last month opened her campaign books to show she has raised $2243.30, including $950 from T-shirt sales, $510 in donations, $5.30 from koha at public meetings and $778 from her own pocket.
Her campaign spending of $1130.53 included a $200 enrolment fee, $352.53 producing T-shirts, $200 on graphics, a town hall booking costing $226.94 and $151.06 on Facebook advertisements.
Another mayoral candidate, Mark Thomas, expected to spend less than the spending limit.
"I've been pleased with the level of donations I have received, although there's obviously been competition for funding from people who agree that Goff doesn't have the insights, policies and local government experience to fix Auckland's problems.
"The vast bulk of my donations have come from below the $1500 disclosure level," Thomas said.