Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will keep his Ministerial portfolios as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigates the New Zealand First Foundation.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday afternoon told reporters her Deputy deserved "natural justice" and would not pass judgement until the SFO had completed its probe.

She said she never asked Peters to stand down, nor did he offer to.

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But National's deputy leader Paula Bennett said Peters needed to stand aside from his ministerial portfolios as he did in 2008.

Back then, he stood down as Foreign Affairs Minister while the SFO looked into similar issues around his party's donations.

Bennett said: "What we are seeing quite clearly, is that actually the highest ethics are not being upheld within her [Ardern's] Cabinet – she needs to take some responsibility for that."

But Peters said the situation today is different to what it was 12 years ago.

"They [the SFO at the time] said they were investigating me – I stood aside and was cleared by three official bodies."

The SFO's statement today said it was commencing an investigation in relation to the NZ First Foundation.

The timeline of the investigation is not clear.

Nevertheless, Peters said he welcomed the probe.


"We want the truth to be out there, not a whole lot of false allegations."

Last week, the Electoral Commission said NZ First Foundation donations were "not properly transmitted to the Party and not disclosed as required by the Electoral Act".

The Commission referred the matter to the Police, who referred it to the SFO. It took the SFO eight days to confirm it would be investigating the matter.

Ardern has distanced herself from the issue in recent weeks, saying that it was a matter for NZ First.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this afternoon told reporters her Deputy deserved
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this afternoon told reporters her Deputy deserved "natural justice" and would not pass judgement until the SFO had completed its probe. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Asked if she would stand Peters down, she said she was awaiting the outcome of the SFO investigation.

"In my mind, we need to apply natural justice here… that's the right thing to do."

Meanwhile, Ardern continued to face pressure in the House over NZ First's involvement in covert photos of reporters investigating the NZ First Foundation being leaked to a Whale Oil-linked blog.

Those photos, which emerged on the BFD blog last week, showed Stuff and RNZ reporters – who have been looking into the mysterious NZ First Foundation – meeting with former NZ First President Lester Gray.

Peters had told Magic Talk that he had "no idea" how the photos ended up on the blog or who took them.

This time last week, Peters said "we" took the photos in a bid to show the "sort of behaviour" that was going on.

He later walked that back, to say it was a supporter who took them.

Soon after NZ First's weekly caucus meeting this morning, Peters emphatically denied that he, or any of his MPs, had anything to do with the saga.

"Let there be no doubt that after caucus today I can confirm no NZ First Minister or MP sent any photos to any website," he tweeted soon before Question Time this afternoon.

He spent little time fronting up to press gallery reporters through the day – at one point opting to play Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" on his phone rather than answering questions.

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Winston Peters ignores media, opting instead to play Queen’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’. Video / Jason Walls

Instead, he posted a video on Facebook, accusing Stuff and RNZ of running a "smear campaign" against New Zealand First.

"There is a deliberate attempt being made to take New Zealand First down."