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Nats declare massive election donation haul - the most ever in a year

Claire Trevett, Thomas Coughlan and Adam Pearce ,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 May 2024, 3:41pm
Photo / File
Photo / File

Nats declare massive election donation haul - the most ever in a year

Claire Trevett, Thomas Coughlan and Adam Pearce ,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 May 2024, 3:41pm

The National Party has disclosed a massive $10.4 million in donations in its election year haul for 2023, more than double the amount declared by any other party and believed to be the most ever taken in one year. 

The Electoral Commission has released the political parties’ annual donations returns today, including donors of more than $5000 and the sum of smaller donations. Parties only have to disclose donations of more than $20,000 immediately. 

National’s war chest totalled $10.4 million, while Labour raised less than half of that with $4.8 million. The Act Party declared $4.3 million, the Green Party $3.3 million and NZ First $1.8 million. 

Te Pāti Māori disclosed $161,000 - by far the least of any of the parties in Parliament. Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere was the party’s biggest donor, giving $50,000. 

National’s $10 million haul followed a $5 million haul in 2022 after netting several large donations from rich listers and businesses. That $5 million was the record for any year at the time. 

The donation disclosure thresholds have been lowered since the last election, so political parties have to disclose donors of more than $5,000 (previously it was $15,000). They must also reveal how much they earned in total in donations of less than $5,000. 


National Party 

National’s return showed it got $6 million in donations of less than $5,000 and a further $4 million in donations of more than $5,000. It also took in $363,000 as donations protected from disclosure - donations which are sent to the Electoral Commission to pass on to the parties without telling them who the donors are. 

The returns show National returned its second-highest donation of $200,000 back to Buen Holdings Limited on August 23 last year - one day after a Newsroom article linked the donor to a migrant hostel that was being investigated by Auckland Council and Tenancy Services after complaints that the hostel was being used unlawfully. 

The Herald in May last year revealed the investigations were taking place into conditions at the East Auckland property, but the company’s link to the National Party was not referenced. 

According to the returns, the donation was made on July 10 last year and returned about six weeks later. 

Among National’s previously undisclosed donors were $18,950.00 from Auckland businessman Leo Molloy, $13,500 from Rod Drury, and $11,600 from former MP Hamish Walker. 

It got $20,000 from AJR Finance, which has also donated to NZ First and whose director has links to a quarrying company which was among those sent letters about the government’s proposed fast track consenting process. 

Its largest donation was $500,000 from Auckland businessman Warren Lewis, which was disclosed back in June. Its second largest was from Graeme Hart’s Rank Group ($150,000). 

Other large donors included rich-lister property developer Trevor Farmer ($50,000), Christopher & Banks LTD ($100,000) - a company directed by Christopher Huljich, and philanthropists Brendan and Jo Lindsay ($100,000). 

Farmer had also given $200,000 to the Act Party and a further $50,000 to New Zealand First. 


The Labour Party 

Labour’s total included tens of thousands of dollars in fortnightly donations from its own MPs. 

Over 2023 former Prime Minister and Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern made regular donations worth $13,954. 

Current leader Chris Hipkins donated $22,790, while deputy Carmel Sepuloni donated $14,336.82. The rest of the caucus donated between $5,000-$12,000. 

Artist Dick Frizzell gave $13,850 – likely the donation of an artwork for Labour’s fundraising art auction. 

Property developer Mark Todd gave $50,000 and gym entrepreneur Phillip Mills gave $50,000. 

Former MP Pete Hodgson chipped in $24,912, while former Prime Minister Helen Clark gave $11,200. 


The Green Party 

The Greens recorded regular tithes from MPs, with most giving close to $20,000, while the co-leaders gave close to $30,000.  

Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron and wife, actress Suzy Cameron gave $50,000. Mark Todd and Phillip Mils, who also donated to Labour, gave $20,000 and $50,000 respectively. 

South Island knitting company, Weft, gave $100,000. 


This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here. 

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