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$ 255,000 in political donations to NZPP: a party that never registered

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Billy Te Kahika at the merger of New Zealand Advance and the New Zealand Public Party.

Ryan Anderson / Stuff

Billy Te Kahika at the merger of New Zealand Advance and the New Zealand Public Party.

More than $ 255,000 in donations have been made to a political party that never registered, a gap in electoral laws that a political expert says is unprecedented.

The New Zealand Public Party has been criticized by former members and staff who claim up to $ 100,000 at times gathered at events and held in a tin under the bed of leader Billy Te Kahikas is unknown.

Complaints were lodged with the Serious Fraud Office (FSA) and the Election Commission for missing donations, however no investigation results from the complaints.

The Election Commission said because the NZPP was never registered as a party it has no obligation to report donations.

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University of Otago professor of law and political studies Andrew Geddis said Te Kahika’s approach is unparalleled and existing regulations were not designed for a scenario where an entity operated as a political party but was not registered.

The whole regulation we have set about the actions of political parties does not apply to his [Te Kahikas] political party.

This means that NZPP, which has merged with Advance NZ, has no obligation to report a large portion of donations that flood into its accounts such as party membership fees and campaign donations.

All of these donations are placed in a bank account of a limited liability company, of which Te Kahika and NZPP executive Michael Stace are the sole signatories.

Te Kahika said he simply ran out of time to register the political party and this is supported by Stace.

The first NZPP meeting was June 11, Stace said.

The Election Commission advises at least 8 weeks [before Writ Day] required to register. The commission advised the parties that they recommend receiving an application as soon as possible or by mid-June at the latest, he said.

If mid-June is June 15, membership collection, processing and compilation can not be done within four days. It is a difficult and rigorous process.

Eight weeks before Writing Day it would have been June 21, by which time the NZPP database shows that the party had 1,200 financially engaged members.

A political party only needs 500 to register.

Outwardly, the NZPP resembled a political party. There was a leader, a party secretary, party candidates, members and many volunteers.

Stace was asked if the NZPP had defrauded donors by accepting donations and membership fees when it was not a registered political party.

He responded by saying, NZPP is running in the elections and no person was deceived.

Geddis said there are no laws he was aware of to stop people from acting as if they were a political party before registering themselves as one.

We have not had this kind of arrangement for New Zealand political parties in the past, he said.

Even going back to the time of the Alliance, which consisted of separate parties, all those separate parties were registered. This is the first time we have a New Zealand politician running through campaigns as the head of a political organization that is not registered and that voters cannot vote directly for.

Candidates can compete under the NZPP logo in the regions even though the party is unregistered.

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