One Question Quiz
Winston Peters at the 2017 New Zealand First Convention (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Winston Peters at the 2017 New Zealand First Convention (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

PoliticsNovember 26, 2019

Glossary: How to get your head around the NZ First donations controversy

Winston Peters at the 2017 New Zealand First Convention (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Winston Peters at the 2017 New Zealand First Convention (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Confused about the various details and characters involved in the NZ First Foundation saga? So were we, so we put together a glossary to keep track of them all. 

Like a high-budget prestige drama, it can be hard to keep track of all the characters involved when political scandals break.

The last few weeks, that has been the case with all the stories floating around the NZ First Foundation. With a colourful cast, and a range of organisations to remember, you’d be forgiven for glazing over whenever new updates turn up in front of you. 

Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Not only will this glossary keep you up to date with the current unfolding scandal, it’ll also remind you of the various supporting actors and backstory references that have come up in earlier seasons. 

The NZ First Foundation: The organisation at the heart of this scandal. According to reporting on Stuff, it operates as a “slush fund” for the party, providing loans when the party has at times been hard up for cash. 

NZ First Party: Completely separate from the NZ First Foundation, and how dare you suggest they are connected? Also happens to be the other half of the current coalition government. 

Baseless allegations: How Winston Peters characterises the current claims.

Brian Henry: Winston Peters’ lawyer and the so-called “dark shadow” of NZ First. Separately cropped up in news recently when a company of which he is a director, NZ Future Forest Products, applied to the Provincial Growth Fund, albeit unsuccessfully. 

Clayton Mitchell: The alleged “bag man” of the NZ First Foundation, who reportedly solicited and secured donations for the party which were then diverted to the foundation. 

Matt Shand: A Waikato Times journalist who managed to break a story that a number of media outlets had been sniffing around. Shand’s reporting was hot on the heels of similarly themed reports by Guyon Espiner for RNZ.

Psychos: How Winston Peters has described journalists asking questions about whether NZ First ministers have behaved appropriately.

Doug Woolerton: A former MP and former president of NZ First, who is now a lobbyist running the creatively titled firm called ‘The Lobbyist’. Also a trustee of the NZ First Foundation.  

Winston Peters and lawyer Brian Henry (Radio NZ, Dan Cook)

Thirty million dollars: The damages that Winston Peters’ lawyer, Brian Henry, says he’ll seek from Nick Smith and Simon Bridges if they repeat their allegations about the nature of NZ First fundraising outside the protective shell of parliamentary privilege. 

Winebox: The story that first really made Winston Peters’ name, but in this case much to his advantage. Basically, Peters managed to get an investigation going into alleged corruption and incompetence at the Serious Fraud Office and IRD. The “winebox” in this story refers to the fact that a bunch of crucial documents were brought to parliament by Peters in a winebox.

Winebox 2.0: A bunch of crucial documents about the NZ First Foundation, which were left for Shand in a winebox (and in turn in a skip). This suggests, as Shand noted, that the source has a high functioning sense of humour. 

Owen Glenn: A somewhat interventionist billionaire who was at the centre of NZ First’s last major donations scandal. Peters initially denied that Glenn had given him $100,000, and then later admitted it had actually happened. Parliament later voted to formally censure Peters for knowingly filing a false election return, and the privileges committee recommended Winston Peters be censured for “knowingly providing false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests”.

But Peters was never charged by the police or Serious Fraud Office or anything like that. Peters has often claimed to have been cleared or totally exonerated by the SFO, and that is true up to a point, but the reality is a tiny bit more complex. The SFO decided there was no basis to lay charges, but still had concerns about what had gone on. 

The Spencer Trust: An organisation once administered by Winston Peters’ brother Wayne, which paid party expenses in the early 2000s, and in which some have seen parallels with the NZ First Foundation. 

No: On February 28 2008, Peters called a media conference to address the Owen Glenn controversy. He brought with him a visual aid that would become a part of New Zealand history – a meme before the word meme existed. When then TVNZ political editor Guyon Espiner asked, “Can I just clarify with you: are you saying you have never received one dollar from Owen Glenn or any associate of Owen Glenn?” Peters held aloft a sign emblazoned with the giant word “NO”.

At the press conference’s conclusion, Espiner walked away with it. It was later framed and auctioned for more than $10,000 for families of the Christchurch earthquake victims.

Winston Peters with his ‘no’ sign, used repeatedly at a press conference when facing questions about a $100,000 donation from expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn in February 2008.

National Foundation: The organisation which financially backs the National Party, and which has been pointed to as analogous to the NZ First Foundation. But at least one significant difference between the two: National foundation donations are treated by trustees as donations to the party itself. 

Serious Fraud Office: Not currently investigating the NZ First Foundation, but, who knows, might be in the future. At the moment though they are investigating donations to National, unrelated to all of this – that goes back to the Jami-Lee Ross saga of last year, and his allegations of a big donation being broken up into smaller chunks to get around disclosure laws. 

Electoral Commission: The ones who are actually investigating the NZ First Foundation. 

NZ Future Forest Products: A different story which just happens to include many of the same cast of characters, and broke at basically the same time. 

Winston Peters: an immortal being sent by the gods to torment the parliamentary press gallery.

Keep going!