It has emerged that $255,000 has been donated to the New Zealand Public Party, despite that party never actually registering. But whilst an academic says that this is unprecedented, due to a perceived loop hole in the law, it is entirely illegal.
N.Z.P.P. has been around since June. It was one of a flurry of little parties that started up in early and mid 2020, but unlike the other small parties – Real New Zealand, Prosperity and Hannah Tamaki’s Vision Party – N.Z.P.P. has flourished on the back of its view that COVID19 is a scam; the United Nations has a one world agenda and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is bent on taking away ones rights. Its leader Billy Te Kahika Jnr (not to be confused with his father, a known and respected musician) rose to prominence over lock down for how rapidly he went from embracing it to calling lock down a scam.
In that time its existence has been a wild ride. From leading street protests against lock down to having to answer questions about the state of its finances, policies and association with disgraced former National M.P. Jami-Lee Ross, it has been full on. But today’s announcement might be the biggest hurdle to over come yet, or possibly an embarrassing indictment on our electoral finance laws.
So, a question has to be asked as to whether this is a loop hole in New Zealand electoral law that New Zealand Public Party has taken unethical advantage of. Or is it a case of N.Z.P.P. actually – as Mr Te Kahika claims – not being able to register the party in time?
So, perhaps this is not as straight forward as people are making it out to be. A simple time line of N.Z.P.P.’s history shows that its first meeting was on 11 June. The New Zealand Electoral Commission advises an 8 week wait for a political party to be registered, meaning a party wanting to be registered by the Writ Day, would have to have submitted its registration by 21 June. Writ Day is when Parliament declares an election campaign period to be in progress, and the N.Z.P.P. database shows it would have had 1,200 members at point.
As this was a first registration, it actually IS possible that N.Z.P.P. did run out of time to submit its registration. Compiling the registration and donation details of the 500 members necessary to complete the Party’s application would be difficult enough, never mind another 700 on top of that. From the first meeting to 15 June, which is when Mr Te Kahika said he would have needed to put the application in the post to ensure it arrived in time is four days.
This said, I expect the public will be demanding to know answers about what is going on. There will now be a lot of public scrutiny on what N.Z.P.P. is doing with its finances. There will be pressure on the Electoral Commission to explain the loop hole in the law. As Parliament has dissolved, the 52nd edition of it will not be able to address the matter should a law change be required. Whoever wins will find themselves under pressure to look at appropriate amendments to the Electoral Finance Act to ensure that no such loop hole exists.
I cannot pass judgement on whether something illegal has happened, but I think New Zealanders would be alarmed that this has managed to happen. Illegal or not, it does raise some interesting questions about the use of finances around election time.