Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says donors to the New Zealand First Foundation are entitled to keep identities secret.

Peters, who is leader of New Zealand First, is running a live chat on Facebook in an attempt to clarify the role of the mysterious New Zealand First Foundation, which is facing a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

Peters said donors are entitled to have their donations kept secret in the same way that voters were entitled to have a secret ballot.

Without donations, then the taxpayer would fund political parties, and NZ First was opposed to that, he said.


Asked if he would step down if found to have received money improperly, Peters said: "I did not receive any money. Full stop. I am not part of the foundation."

In answer to question about whether donations should be transparent, Peters said simply that electoral law should be followed.

He said he was "pretty certain" who had leaked information to the media, which he referred to as "stolen information".

Peters said the NZF Foundation was set up as a similar structure to the National Party's foundation, but National leader Simon Bridges has rejected this, saying that any donation to National's foundation is treated as a donation to the party.

This morning, Radio NZ – which appears to have detailed accounts of donations to the foundation – reported that the foundation had received tens of thousands of dollars of donations from the horse racing industry.

Many of these donations, according to RNZ, fall just below the $15,000.01 threshold at which the donation must be made public.

Peters, also Minister of Racing, has delivered lucrative benefits to the industry since taking the portfolio's reins in 2017.

Peters addressed this issue tonight, saying that "no one is buying any policy here" because he had simply implemented an independent racing policy.


Many of the comments on the Facebook livestream said that they could not hear what Peters was saying.

The Electoral Commission has looked into the foundation and issued a statement saying it believed that electoral laws had been broken.

It referred the matter to police, which referred it to the SFO.

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Peters did not answer questions about NZ First's donations from the racing industry when pressed by media earlier today.

Instead, he would only say: "At 6:30 tonight on my Facebook you will have your answers".

In a midnight tweet, Peters said that he would be letting people know "the truth about the NZ First Foundation" via a Facebook live question and answer session within 48 hours.

National finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith said this afternoon New Zealanders needed reassurance that there had been no undue influence as a result of the donations.

"We have New Zealand First ministers making large decisions about large spending and all New Zealanders want to be assured about the integrity of the decision-making."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defended Peters, calling such accusations "not fair".

"Racing policy, decisions, bills, as with any decision we make, as a Government, goes through considerable scrutiny – no one policy is ever decided by one party, they go through all of us."

In this case, she said, it went before the House and received support from across the House.