Serious Fraud Office lays charges regarding New Zealand First Foundation


Yesterday it was announced by the Serious Fraud Office that they had charged two individuals in relation to ongoing concerns around New Zealand First Foundation.

It is possible that this will be the long awaited evidence that behind all of the smoke emanating from the N.Z.F.F. there really is a fire. For months claims have been circling of improper financial management by the party and/or the N.Z.F.F. I take you through the media version of events as they are alleged to have unfolded.

On 03 October 2019 former N.Z.F. Party President Lester Gray left his role. It came amid concerns about financial impropriety in the party.

In February 2020, two Radio New Zealand journalists, Guyon Espiner and Kate Newton, discovered that Talleys Fisheries had made a host of donations to politicians from New Zealand First, National and Labour. The donations themselves were not the problem, rather it was how they were handled – or not handled.

In March 2020 former N.Z.F. Member of Parliament Ross Meurant explored his time in the party and the influence of the deep sea fishing industry in an article for Sunday Star Times.

In July 2020 rumours of an impending Serious Fraud Office announcement were made. They followed revelations that Talleys organized two New Zealand First fundraisers and that New Zealand First M.P.’s Shane Jones, Clayton Mitchell and leader Winston Peters were there.

Perhaps though, the most telling concern was that it has emerged that Mr Peters is alleged to have tried to stop the announcement of charges against individuals. This lead reporter Luke Malpass to write about how the announcement of the charges, particularly in this light might be the torpedo that finally finishes off N.Z. First. Too many fishy allegations and donations to be ignored.

With a bit less than three weeks to go and voting starting in less than a week, New Zealand First is running out of time to plug the leaks. It would take a mighty effort to win back the critical 4-5% of the voting public that has not been with the party for sometime now. That does not mean it is impossible, but given N.Z. First exited Parliament in 2008 with similarly poor poll ratings, I struggle to see how it will come back from this.

The rise of A.C.T.


For the last nine year since A.C.T. was thrashed in the Election of 2011, it has been a one man band. It has undergone several leadership changes in that time, before David Blair Seymour became leader in 2014.

This is not the first time A.C.T. has been looking this strong in the polls. A.C.T. formed in 1994 and first contested the elections in 1996, gaining 8 M.P.’s. From 1999 to 2005 it had 9 Members of Parliament. That slumped to two M.P.’s in that year, but surged on the election of National to office in 2008 to five M.P.s. The following Parliamentary term however was rocked by scandals including the admission that former M.P. David Garrett used the details of a dead baby to get a passport, which revolted the voting public. The previous nine years until 2020 have seen A.C.T. very much as a one man band in Epsom.

Whilst the other parties in Parliament have fallen, or are steady, A.C.T. have been climbing, to what would be – if an election were held today – its best ever result. On current polling A.C.T. would have Mr Seymour plus 9 more Members of Parliament. The other nine would be (in listing order):

  • Brooke van Velden (Wellington Central)
  • Nicole McKee (Rongotai)
  • Chris Baillie (Nelson)
  • Simon Court (Te Atatu)
  • James Dowall (Waikato)
  • Karen Chhour (Upper Harbour)
  • Mark Cameron (Northland)
  • Toni Severin (Christchurch East)
  • Damien Smith (Botany)

So who are these people and what would they bring to Parliament in terms of knowledge, skills and backgrounds?

Brooke van Velden is the Deputy Leader of A.C.T. She comes from a mixed background of working in factory environments and as a corporate consultant. She worked in Parliament behind the scenes to enable the passage of the End of Life Choices Bill.

Nicole McKee is a national shooting champion who believes that the Government response to the Christchurch mosque attack was a knee jerk reaction. She runs a business providing firearms safety training. is qualified in law and has experience handling firearms component imports.

Chris Baillie is a full time secondary school teacher. He is a former police officer with 14 years patrol experience. Mr Baillie also owns a hospitality business that employs 14 people.

Simon Court is a civil and environmental engineer with 23 years experience, including managing planning and tendering projects as well as staff teams in Auckland, Wellington and Fiji. Mr Court believes that the R.M.A. needs to be replaced.

James McDowall is the owner of several businesses that include an immigration law firm. He also works for a mental health non-governmental organization. Mr McDowall has also led the development of A.C.T.’s firearms legislative response in the wake of the Government amending firearms laws.

Karen Chhour is a self employed mother of four who lives in Auckland. She believes that “anyone with the right tools can make something of themselves”.

Mark Cameron is a farmer in Northland who has farmed the region for 30 years. He will be driving A.C.T. rural policies.

Toni Severin is a business owner that she runs along with her husband. Prior to that she has 14 years experience as a lab technician working for the Canterbury District Health Board. Mrs Severin is also a licenced gun owner.

Damien Smith has extensive experience in business, banking, and company directorship. Damien has a Masters in Business Administration and is a qualified educationalist.

What do you think of the above candidates?

 

COVID Level 1 for New Zealand from Thursday


On Thursday at 0000 hours COVID Level 2 will take force in Auckland, nearly 6 weeks after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent the country’s most populous region back to Level 3 (2 for the rest of New Zealand). At the same time Level 1 will take effect across the rest of New Zealand.

The country has spent the last nearly 6 weeks at an elevated COVID19 level as it stamps out what appears to be the inevitable second wave. In that time 200+ more cases have been added to the New Zealand tally, whilst 3 more deaths were also recorded.

It has not come without significant controversy though as conspiracy parties such as Advance New Zealand try to make people believe COVID19 is a cover for a takeover of New Zealanders rights by the Government. They point to actions by the New Zealand Defence Force, and Police during the first lock down – actions that are actually sanctioned by decades old legislation: the Health Act 1956; Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002 and the Pandemic Preparedness Act 2006.

However it also means New Zealand has possibly achieved something no other country has yet done: seeing off the second wave of COVID19 without it merging with the mayhem caused by the first.

COVID19 waves and their impacts (IMAGE: VICTOR TSENG)Whilst we had a second wave, the strategy employed meant that only the Auckland area was made to shut down to Level 3, whilst the rest of the country went to Level 2. For the second time this year Auckland will be reopening on Thursday to an elevated alert level and wondering how much of 2020 can be salvaged from two lengthy shut down periods. For the first time too, campaigning for the 2020 General Election will be able to take place.

Many on the far right will continue to say that New Zealand is bent on destroying its own economy. They will continue to claim that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a Communist whose goal is a takeover of the country. These people could not be more wrong, and potentially could not be less empathetic with the families of the dead and the people who have suffered it, if they had tried. But not only that, the level of deceit being foisted upon New Zealanders just trying to get their lives back on track in what has been a very testing year by any reasonable measure, is quite shocking.

As for other countries, Australia, despite having the misfortune of having to watch Victoria slump back into lock down, is still the best friendly country. Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales as well as the Northern Territory are all largely open to domestic travel. Like New Zealand their border is largely shut, with only a few people who are citizens or permanent residents being allowed back.

Watching from a far, it seems like COVID19 is some sort of sinking ship. New Zealand and Australia, plus a few other nations have somehow managed to paddle their life boats away from it, whilst the rest of the world continues to struggle to get away.

The “brain drain” fear is back – or is it?


The “brain drain” fear is back. That old fear/fear mongering of New Zealand losing its best and brightest people – scientists, economists, entrepreneurs, among others – to overseas nations, including and especially Australia, is back.

Or is it? In which case it depends on who you ask. National leader Judith Collins certainly thinks the brain drain danger has returned. For years there was this idea that all of the brightest New Zealanders who could afford to leave were doing so. They were handing in their resignations, chasing up friends who had already left, checking their bank accounts and applying for visas to Canada, Europe, United Kingdom, United States, where they would being a new life working, making money and travelling. Far more serious than a Contiki bus trip that would go to a host of tourist hotspots before the travellers return to their countries of origin, we see people buying one way tickets to another country.

Perhaps the brain drain is simply a National Party attack vehicle to enable them to get at the Government’s economic policies. Perhaps, just as it was heavily used by her National Party predecessors during past stints on the Opposition benches, Ms Collins is using it now to try to gain leverage in a political environment that is not very friendly to unrepentant conservatism. Certainly I can recall former National Party leader Bill English using it during the early part of the 2000’s to criticize the leftist Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark. His successor in that role Dr Don Brash and later former Prime Minister John Key also used it.

In all of these instances it was about the Government’s anti-business attitude; their tax policy; how red tape will ruin New Zealand; how we cannot afford the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process; how our social welfare policy sucks up untold billions. Yet, the moment Labour are not in office, the “brain drain”, is suddenly no longer an issue.

But how seriously do people want to move to Australia at the moment? Since March, New Zealand has gained massive respect from millions of people around the world for its firm line on COVID19. It has seen political commentators who normally have little to do with New Zealand praising the country for its reaction. A response led by Government that for a change put science front and centre. Too often we do not give our scientific community the respect they deserve, and Labour, like National are guilty of using science when it suits them.

Since the Ardern Government began in 2017, new words not normally in political language – kindness and compassion – have entered mainstream political conversations. The 2019 mosque attack, the Whakaari/White Island eruption and now this have all combined to show that whilst Labour-led Governments can be a bit of a challenge to businesses, they address some of the social issues National are less inclined to. So whilst a brain drain is sometimes attached to Labour-led Governments, a social drain sometimes happens on the watch of National-led Governments.

What is New Zealand Public Party doing with its finances?


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.