NZ First's Shane Jones used a rather interesting analogy in defending his leader Winston Peters this week.
Asked if Peters would survive the shemozzle around donations, Jones said Peters was Tane Mahuta.
Tane Mahuta – that grand kauri tree in Northland's Waipoua Forest – is estimated to be as much as 2000 years old.
• NZ First Foundation received tens of thousands of dollars from horse racing industry
• Kiwi model asks for donations to visit her US boyfriend
• NZ First undeclared donations: Serious Fraud Office to investigate
• Donations pour in to help families and victims of White Island
What Jones did not appear to consider was that Tane Mahuta is currently at threat of kauri dieback disease.
All manner of protective measures have been deployed to try to protect the tree.
Peters' equivalent of kauri dieback disease comes on two fronts: there are questions upon questions about donations taken by the NZ First Foundation, and there is National Party leader Simon Bridges' decision to rule NZ First out.
Peters is deploying his own inoculation from the NZ First dieback disease.
He pleaded ignorance.
Audrey Young: The Peters-PM partnership and why he won't step aside
NZ First Foundation received horse racing industry donations
'I was not involved' – Peters distances himself from possible SFO probe
He knew nothing, it was nothing to do with him. It was to do with the NZ First Foundation, not him, and not his party. He was not involved.
His next line of defence was to claim there was nothing to know. Everything was above board.
Everything was pretty legal, to borrow a phrase from another Peters' nemesis, Steven Joyce.
Everything was tickety-boo, but he had asked his party to check its processes anyway.
Now he faces RNZ drip-feeding details about the donations the NZ First Foundation received, and has a Serious Fraud Office probe hanging over his party.
That came after the Electoral Commission declared it did not think everything was tickety-boo with donations to the NZ First Foundation, and referred the matter to Police.
So now Peters – who was riding high as Deputy Prime Minister and on the cusp of making it through a whole term in government without incident – faces another election year of questions and suspicions.
In 2008 there were similar circumstances and NZ First did not make it back in.
2008 saw him campaign in a defensive, combative rage.
The party was cleared of fraud by the Serious Fraud Office, but told to disclose some of the donations it had received through the Spencer Trust.
That was before the election, but the taint had set.
Peters will remember that.
This does not come without a cost to the other parties.
As well as the NZ First Foundation donations, there are the Serious Fraud Office charges against four people in relation to an amount of $100,000 to the National Party.
Those charged have not been named, but National has said none are with the party and it now intends to return the donation(s).
By and large, donors expect the party they are donating to be able to advise them and to meet all the requirements for disclosure.
But there are legal requirements on donors. Donors cannot deliberately try to avoid the law.
If donors are worried about the impact on their reputation or legal consequences, they will simply close up their wallets.
That will affect all parties and could not come at a worst time – in election year.
The current state of affairs has led to inevitable calls for reform.
PM Jacinda Ardern has proposed a review of the donations laws, saying a consensus on those laws is needed and more clarity required.
There is already consensus over the donation laws, although there is debate about the disclosure limit.
They are almost the same as those Labour instituted in 2005 under the Electoral Finance Act.
Other aspects of that law were controversial, and were repealed by National, but the donations laws remained intact.
Those laws are also already clear, although it is convenient for politicians to claim they are not. They are more robust than in many other countries.
They explicitly ban things such as allowing donations from one person to be hidden among a wider collection of donations.
They explicitly ban one person avoiding disclosure by donating several amounts of less than $15,000 through different companies.
Purely anonymous donations are only allowed up to $1500.
For any amount over that sum, the party must keep records of the donors and amounts.
They do not need to be disclosed publicly unless they are over $15,000, but the party's records must be kept in case an inspection is required.
What is missing is not consensus or clarity – but trust. Abiding by the donations laws is actually easy.
The Green Party seems to manage it. So too does Act and Labour.
Where things seem to run into trouble is where parties try to outwit the law.
When it comes to reform, where questions should be asked is around the policing of those laws.
Currently, political parties must file annual donation returns with the Electoral Commission.
By and large, it seems to be a trust model. Perhaps more rigorous monitoring of those returns is needed.
It should not take leaks and the media to flush out questionable donation practices.
The Electoral Commission and auditing process should be able to do that through proper probing of donations returns. Yet here we are.