Former New Zealand First Party presidents are denying any knowledge of the mysterious NZ First Foundation, with one saying the party's board is "just for show".

Asked about the foundation, Kevin Gardener – who was party president from 2010 to 2013, said: "I don't know a damned thing about it".

But he said he was not surprised to hear the news of its existence.

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And Gardener is not the only former president and board member who said they were in the dark about the mysterious foundation.

Lester Gray – who resigned as NZ First president in September after refusing to sign off financial reports for "moral" reasons – also denied knowing about the foundation.

The NZ First Foundation was "nothing to do with my role as the president or the NZ First board," he told the Herald.

Former treasurer Colin Forster has also said he had no knowledge of the foundation.
On Tuesday, Stuff reported that the NZ First Foundation appeared to have hidden political donations worth almost half a million dollars between April 2017 and March this year.

Many of these apparent donations to the foundation do not appear on the party's electoral returns.

The Electoral Commission is looking into the issue and Act Leader David Seymour said he was considering going to the Police over the issue.

Gardener was highly critical of his former party – he's no longer a New Zealand First member.

He said when he was president, the board was "titular – just there for show really".

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"The board didn't really have much to do with the caucus. The actual [election] campaign was run separately from the board."

He said when it comes to New Zealand First, things are run by "Winston and his very close friends".

Gardener believes now that the caucus runs the board, which is just there "for show".

"The board is virtually there to carry out the wishes of the caucus, I believe."

The board itself goes through members "like crazy – it's become a poison chalice".

NZ First Party Leader Winston Peters at the party conference at Alexandra Park in 2011. Also pictured are (L-R) Media delegate Brendan Horan; NZ First President Kevin Gardener
NZ First Party Leader Winston Peters at the party conference at Alexandra Park in 2011. Also pictured are (L-R) Media delegate Brendan Horan; NZ First President Kevin Gardener

Meanwhile, the saga of the NZ First Foundation continues to unfold.

Waikato Stud owner Garry Chittick told the Herald this morning he had donated $5000 to NZ First.

He did not recall whether the money had been given to the NZ First Foundation, but was clear he would only have donated if the money was intended to help the NZ First party.

"There's no way in the world I would have donated for anything else – I clearly believed I was helping NZ First get in because of what he did for racing."

It's a similar story with political commentator and public relations consultant and lobbyist Matthew Hooton.

He told Newstalk ZB yesterday his company, Exceltium PR, gave $10,000 to "either the New Zealand First Party or the foundation – I'm not sure who it was".