Matt Shand has trawled New Zealand First’s past and come up with something that smells fishy:

Winston Peters had dozed off during the meeting in 2001. He was woken by his advisor who handed him a $5000 cheque from fishing magnate Neil Penwarden and a report alleging corruption in the scampi quota system.

 After taking both, he left. 

This set the stage for the so-called “Scampi Inquiry”, which started after Peters alleged corruption in the industry during a speech inside the house, as outlined in Penwarden’s report, then failed to deliver any evidence after it began. 

“It was suggested it was common these sorts of meetings usually generated a donation,” Penwarden says. “We gave the party $5,000. I don’t know if it made it to the party.”  

Handing over money to an MP at these sorts of meetings should not be common practice, it’s con man practice.

If the money made it to the party it should have been recorded and the donor issued with a receipt.

Peters was asked direct questions by Stuff about this incident. His response was to call it “farcical”, belittling the sources contacted individually. Penwarden was able to recall the details. So too was his advisor Ross Meurant who helped broker such meetings. 

Meurant, a former National MP and detective was living in two worlds being employed both by Peters’ as an adviser and by Vela Fishing Group Companies at the same time. 

Meurant says Peters becomes angry whenever someone challenges his own versions of events or stands up to him

“I’m of the view that Winston believes his own version of events,”  Meurant said. 

He may well believe his own version that but it doesn’t mean it’s right.

Meurant is lifting the lid on a long-standing tradition of political influence from the fishing industry and NZ First dating back as far as 2001. . . 

New Zealand First is under investigation by the SFO.

These allegations must be included in that investigation.

What Shand uncovered smells fishy and concludes:

Penwarden never gave any more money to NZ First or to Peters. He says he had learned his lesson. Likewise, other donors to the NZ First Foundation shared this sentiment. Some even asked for the money back. 

“The point is: we learned a lot of Winston Peters and over time standing back and observing his behaviour we were not persuaded in any way about his credibility, honesty and decency and suitability to be involved in politics,” Penwarden says. 

The SFO investigation will take time, almost certainly more time than is left before the election.

In the meantime we have a deputy Prime Minister facing serious allegations about his behaviour and character.

Will Jacinda Ardern continue to stand by him when these allegations aren’t just being made against the party and foundation but against the man himself?

She probably doesn’t even believe the fiction she keeps repeating that because it’s about another party she can’t, as PM, do anything about it and she can’t expect voters to buy it either.

It didn’t wash when it was the party, it will be even less credible now it is her deputy about whom these allegations are being made.

Act x NZ First


The Focus NZ Party, which began life as the Rural Party, has more than 400 of the minimum of 500 members it needs to register as a political party.

The Focus NZ party, headed by Kerikeri farmer and businessman Ken Rintoul, was formed last year around a group of farmers opposed to big rate increases proposed by the Far North District Council. . .

The policies released so far are something of a grab-bag from across the political spectrum, incorporating some of the philosophy and business-friendly approach of Act with a dose of NZ First’s interventionist economic nationalism. . .

Like some other small parties which have started its policies appear contradictory – it wants to cut taxes, which is a business-friendly policy, but it also favours a new tax on international transactions which is business unfriendly.

It’s also opposed to asset sales which isn’t a pro-business stance either.

Fortunately, its chances of being in a position to translate its policies into practice are slight.

Kiwiblog tables the best election results under MMP for parties that didn’t already have an MP in parliament:

  • 99 MPs 0.03%
  • ACT 7.14%
  • Advance NZ 0.05%
  • Animals First 0.17%
  • Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis 1.66%
  • Asia Pacific United 0.02%
  • Bill & Ben 0.56%
  • Christian Heritage 2.38%
  • Christian Coalition 4.33%
  • Conservative 2.65%
  • Democrats for Social Credit 0.08%
  • Destiny 0.62%
  • Direct Democracy 0.03%
  • Ethnic Minority 0.12%
  • Family Party 0.35%
  • Family Rights 0.05%
  • Freedom 0.02%
  • Future NZ 1.12%
  • Green Society 0.11%
  • Kiwi Party 0.54%
  • Libertarianz 0.29%
  • Mana Maori 0.25%
  • Mauri Pacific 0.19%
  • McGillycuddy Serious 0.29%
  • Natural Law 0.15%
  • NMP 0.05%
  • NZ Conservative 0.07%
  • NZ Super & Youth 0.06%
  • One NZ 0.09%
  • Outdoor Recreation 1.28%
  • Pacific Party 0.37%
  • People’s Choice 0.02%
  • Progressive Greens 0.26%
  • RAM 0.02%
  • Republic of NZ Party 0.02%
  • South Island 0.14%
  • Te Tawharau 0.02%
  • Workers Party 0.04%

So of those 38 parties, only ACT have made it in. 31 parties have failed to make even 1% and six parties made 1%. Of those six, four were effectively Christian parties, plus ALCP and Outdoor Recreation.

That list includes the Christian Coalition which was led by sitting, and former National, MP Graeme Lee.

To add evidence of just how difficult it is for a new party to gain traction you could add to that list parties formed by or with at least one sitting MP who failed to win a seat at the next election. Among them was ROC, formed by Ross Meurant who left National to form his own party and who is on the board of Focus NZ.

The 500 members required to form a party is a very low hurdle and Focus NZ will probably find enough people to jump that. Succeeding from there is much harder.

Persuading people to vote for a new party which doesn’t have an MP and is contesting the list vote only takes a lot of volunteers, a lot of good publicity and a lot of money.

Focus NZ  could be seen as a threat to National but there are already plenty of options for people who don’t want to vote for it.

The new party is much more likely to take the disgruntled vote from smaller parties which could hurt them but it would be a safe bet that Focus NZ won’t attract enough support to win even one seat in parliament.

Focus, former MPs bound to fail


Quite why I was in parliament buildings in 1996 I can’t recall.

But I do remember being in the office of an MP with several others including Ross Meurant who had resigned from the National Party and formed the Right of Centre Party when his electorate disappeared with the introduction of MMP.

He told us he’d formed the party to give National a coalition partner. We told him it wouldn’t work.

We were right.

Since then he’s occupied himself in a variety of ways:

Meurant was elected onto the Rodney District Council in 1998. However, his time with the Rodney District Council was short-lived: the entire council was dissolved by the Minister of Local Government after an acrimonious relationship between the general manager and Meurant culminated in a split within the council.

Between 1999 and 2004 Meurant was engaged by parliamentary services as a part time adviser on agriculture, forestry, fishing and racing taxation policy to Winston Peters, . . .

He’s now on the board of another new party – Focus New Zealand (which was, until its first meeting last week, the New Zealand Rural Party).

Another ex-MP, Sandra Goudie is on the board with him.

She won the Coromandel seat from then-Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, served three terms then had the good sense to announce she wouldn’t contest the seat last year.

That good sense has now deserted her.

If either of them had learned anything from their tenure as MPs they would be aware of the time, energy, money and members needed to run a party and win elections. They would also know they won’t succeed.

Perhaps they didn’t realise that when they were in parliament and if they did they can’t have shared it with their fellow board members among whom is  former Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Lachlan McKenzie.

They might attract some votes from the disenchanted and deluded. But unless they can work a miracle which no other new party without a sitting MP has managed Focus NZ will join the long list of wannabe MPs and parties that have come and gone without getting anywhere near parliament.

Inquiry essential


Fran O’Sullivan  is calling for a full inquiry into the allegations against Winston Peters, Peter Dunne and Ross Muerant.

Irrespective of whether Peters and NZ First are returned to Parliament this Saturday (frankly I think NZ First is toast), or, whether it is Helen Clark or John Key who is prime minister after the post-election talks, a full commission probe should take place. . .

. . . Key and Act leader Rodney Hide have benefited politically from the long campaign to unmask Peters’ secret donations from big business. Clark did nothing so as to keep her Government intact.

There is enough on the table to justify all three leaders calling for a proper inquiry. The cards should then lie where they fall.

She is right. Too many allegations have swirled round too many politicians for too long in the old government. The new one, whatever its make up,  needs to set a much higher standard of behaviour and accountability from the start.

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