NZ First leader Winston Peters has finally admitted using helicopters during election campaigns - but says it was for "travel" not for "campaigning".
The admission comes after photographic evidence and now a video have emerged of Mr Peters using a helicopter in the 1999 and 2005 election campaigns.
Mr Peters' admission had previously flatly denied using a helicopter to campaign, calling the suggestion "stupid".
The video, which can be viewed by clicking on the link to the right, shows Mr Peters using a helicopter in 2005 to get out on the campaign trail and as a backdrop for press interviews.
Mr Peters said he denied using a helicopter because of the way the question was framed on the Agenda television program yesterday implied that he had used a helicopter to campaign from, "which of course was ridiculous because of the physical impossibility of speaking to crowds in a noisy gale".
"We used a helicopter to travel and I do not deny that, but to suggest that I somehow stood at the door of a flying helicopter shouting at voters is preposterous. We were campaigning - not deerstalking."
"This is just another media sideshow to divert voters from the real issues they face," said Mr Peters.
Yesterday he said: "Did you see me flying around in a helicopter? Who would try and campaign out of a helicopter?"
But the Herald obtained a photographic sequence of a smiling Mr Peters posing before taking off from Gisborne Airport shortly before the 1999 election.
Mr Peters' initial denial followed a report he demanded the free use of a helicopter during the 1999 campaign from his wealthy backers in the Vela family.
The MP wanted to paint the helicopter in NZ First colours and fly it into rural areas, according to documents obtained by the Dominion-Post.
"Tell him [Philip Vela] to hire me an unmarked helicopter. So I can paint it black/white and NZ First. Then I can drop into small rural towns and schools," he reportedly said.
"Tell those bastards I want a helicopter. Don't give me this crap about the machine needing repairs."
Mr Peters' helicopter demands are in private papers linked to Ross Meurant - an adviser first to the Velas and then to the politician.
Mr Meurant told him the Velas did not want their own helicopter used because "he [Philip Vela] socialises with people who hate you".
The documents show there was "provision of a helicopter".
The helicopter in the Herald's photographic sequence is black-and-white. It was registered to Philip Vela until June 1999, but had changed ownership to the Auckland office of Eurocopter by the time the photo was taken on the campaign trail that October/November.
Philip Vela and his brother Peter, who have a fortune estimated at $180 million from fishing and horse racing, are well-known donors to NZ First.
Mr Peters made further denials on the Agenda television programme yesterday morning, saying: "Let me ask you this question: who would be campaigning from a helicopter, unless he was going on a deerstalking expedition?"
"Which politician worldwide would campaign from a helicopter? Don't be so stupid."
He was then questioned about using a helicopter in 2005, which he admitted, saying there was "one helicopter ride, once". Asked who paid, Mr Peters said: "We did."
The photos were taken by Gray Eatwell, an NZ First candidate in 1999 but now an independent standing against Mr Peters in Tauranga.