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The Greens are stitching together a war chest. (Image: Getty)
The Greens are stitching together a war chest. (Image: Getty)

PoliticsMay 2, 2023

From rich list to big knit: The year’s chunky party donations, at a glance

The Greens are stitching together a war chest. (Image: Getty)
The Greens are stitching together a war chest. (Image: Getty)

The Greens just banked $100k from a local knitwear business – but they’re still a way off matching some other parties’ election year donations.

Despite the internal needling that has dominated Green yarns of recent times, the party has just banked a big cheque. And it could hardly be more on-brand. While the hefty donor lists of Act and National tend to read a lot like the rich list, replete with big-cheese business owners, investors and property developers, and the Labour Party’s mixes some of that with union donations, the Greens’ new benefactor is a New Zealand knitting business.

Based in Christchurch, the Weft Knitting Company produces knitwear and thermalwear, and it just donated $100,000 to the Greens. Co-owner and managing director Hugh Douglas also donated to the party before the last election, though then under his own name, to the tune of $25,000. 

“Our motive for donating to the Greens for the last election and this year’s election is because those of us in business need to front up and show our support to the party best equipped to action the initiatives around climate change,” Douglas told the Spinoff. “The fact that a small family business is able to donate 100k to support the Green fundraising efforts – my hope is that it might serve as an example for other companies to do the same.”

The Weft contribution draws the Greens level with Labour in declared donations so far this year. Most parties will have collected substantial other sums (for example, all Green MPs are required to pay around 10% of their MP salary to the party), but only donations over $20,000 are required to be reported within 10 days. That threshold was lowered for 2023; previously it was $30,000.

But as far as the $20k-plus pot is concerned, Act is way out in front. The party has booked just shy of a million dollars that required reporting in 2023 – more than four times the next biggest purse. Most of that landed in the space of a few days, with donors including Graeme Hart, Dame Jenny Gibbs and toy tycoon Nick Mowbray.

NZ First’s 2023 donors included property developers Trevor Farmer and Mark Wyborn, National’s biggest are Christchurch rich-lister Philip Carter and Velocity Freight, and Labour’s banked big cheques from party activist Islay Little and the Dairy Workers Union. The other Green donor was Phillip Mills, executive director of Les Mills and a regular contributor to both Green and Labour parties. 

The Electoral Commission's deadline for detailed 2022 party donation returns was yesterday, but based on the $30k-plus sums (remember, that used to be the threshold for reporting within 10 days), last year’s hauls looked like this: 

Former deputy prime minister Paula Bennett is credited with raising much of that formidable war chest. Combining those reported donations from the start of 2022 to today, National brought in more than $2.5 million with Act not far behind on more than $2.1 million. 

As for knitting, the craft has a storied history in New Zealand politics. In 2002, Judith Tizard was accused of bringing parliament into disrepute for knitting while overseeing legislation, and it was subsequently ruled that knitting was OK in the house but not from a minister’s chair. Former Green co-leader Metiria Turei was a notable parliamentary knitter, and once knitted a Dalek tea cosy that raised $500 for her party at auction. 

These days, the golden needles of parliament are held by Act MP Nicole McKee, while her party complements the big cheques with home-knitted merch. The pink and blue handmade flower crochet lights, at just $25 with batteries included, remain New Zealand’s greatest available item of political party merch.

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