Former Labour MP Taito Phillip Field said he offered a Thai couple facing deportation accommodation because of their desperate situation.

He said he did not take money from them and paid them $200 for repair work they carried out at his flat.

Field took the stand yesterday as the defence opened in his trial at the High Court in Auckland.

The Crown has alleged Field committed bribery and corruption and attempted to obstruct or pervert the course of justice.

The charges allege that he allowed several Thai nationals whom he was helping with immigration issues to work on seven of his properties between November 2002 and October 2005. The Crown says they received little payment for the work, other than the cost of materials.

The former Government minister also denies trying to obstruct or pervert the course of justice during an inquiry into the corruption allegations conducted by Noel Ingram, QC, and a subsequent police inquiry. In all, he has 35 charges against him.

Field told the court his office dealt with 60 to 80 immigration cases a week while he was an MP.

Sompong Srikaew and his wife Phisimai Phothisarn were the first people to approach him in 2002, as they were due for imminent removal.

"The woman was moving from house to house with a baby," Field said. "At that point I helped them out on a temporary basis by offering for them to stay at one of my rental properties in Auckland until we got a response from Parliament."

Field's lawyer, Paul Davison, QC, asked him: "Was there an issue of compensation or rent?"

Field said he did not charge them to stay there and said he was reasonably sure they would be allowed to stay in New Zealand.

"I do remember their suggestion of making the place look better. I said I had no problem with that."

Field said he made it clear they should give him the bills for any repair work so he could pay for it. He added the couple did not want to take any money, but they eventually gave him a bill and Field paid them about $200.

Opening the defence case, Mr Davison said the Crown's assertion that Field's private property interests involved accepting free work by bribes and obstructing and perverting the course of justice was "totally inconsistent" with his character.

The Crown said Field had acted with criminal intent, but Mr Davison said this claim was "simply not warranted". Field had steadfastly maintained he was innocent of all charges and denied that he attempted to pervert the course of justice.

Field found out that the couple had organised different Thai people to help on his properties, Mr Davison added. Field maintained that he expected to be charged for the work.

He left things in an unsatisfactory administrative state, but he never harboured any intention to exploit his position as an MP to get work done on his properties.

Field felt incredibly vulnerable because of his poor record keeping.

"He was desperate to protect himself, his family and his political career," Mr Davison said.

Field will continue giving evidence today as the 14th week of his trial winds to a close.

- NZPA