Radio NZ and their reporter, Guyon Espiner, ran a story about donors to the NZ First Foundation. In their breathless reporting of the facts, they have unwittingly aided a man currently under investigation for theft of those same documents.

And what have they revealed? Well, that neither the donors nor NZ First have broken any laws.

The mysterious foundation bankrolling the New Zealand First Party has been receiving donations from entities connected with some of the country’s wealthiest business people in amounts just under the threshold at which the donors’ names would normally be made public.

Last year companies owned by New Zealand’s richest man donated nearly $30,000 to the Foundation in two amounts that each fell $5.01 short of the $15,000.01 level at which political donations are publicly disclosed.

Church Bay Farm, which is 100 percent owned by Graeme Hart, donated $14,995 to the New Zealand First Foundation on 29 March, 2019, according to documents seen by RNZ.

I’m wondering how come this is news when no one has done anything illegal?

Documents from 2017 to 2019 seen by RNZ show the New Zealand First Foundation has a pattern of receiving donations of $15,000 or just under.

Over that time, donations of that size alone brought in more than $300,000 to the New Zealand First Foundation, yet none of the donors were revealed – even though in some cases, multiple such donations were made by related entities or individuals during a year.

Because the law has been followed. So far it’s all pejorative terms like “mysterious”, “richest man”, “connected”, “linked”, “related”…that’s not evidence or fair reporting.

According to records viewed by RNZ, the Foundation received 12 payments of $15,000 in the two years between April 2017 and May 2019 – one cent under the declaration threshold.

In the same timeframe, the Foundation received a further seven amounts between $14,000 and $15,000 – some of them just a few dollars short of $15,000.

All perfectly legal. So what?

Neither Geddis nor RNZ are alleging that any of the donors named in this story broke any laws or that they were motivated by a desire to keep their donations secret.

So why the story? Is Radio NZ trying to shame people into not donating to NZ First? Has Guyon Espiner entered the debate in a bid to lead the Media party in the next election?

They use the strange explanation again in relation to other donations.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the company or its shareholders or that they were motivated by a desire to keep their donations secret.

The last part is a smear. They are trying to insinuate that there is somehow missing documentation that would suggest that someone was trying to hide something, and they’ve couched it in such a way to suggest impropriety without exposing themselves to expensive litigation. That would be like me saying that there is no suggestion that Radio NZ or its reporter were in any way connected with the illegal theft of documents from the NZ First Foundation, nor are they motivated by a desire to get Winston Peters.

What is interesting is that both Guyon Espiner and Stuff’s Matt Shand seem to have an uncanny ability to sight NZ First Foundation documents. They rather sneakily don’t declare that those documents are part of an investigation into an illegal theft from the NZ First Foundation, but then again perhaps their source never told them that. Their source is, of course, Lester Gray.

How do I know that? Because unsurprisingly Tauranga is a rather small place and people notice things…like Lester Gray and Guyon Espiner walking together at a busy shopping centre.

The BFD. Lester Gray and Guyon Espiner. Photo supplied.

We have even obtained video of it:

Lester Gray and Guyon Espiner from The BFD on Vimeo.

Then there is the recent appearance of Matt Shand shortly after:

Stuff reporter Matt Shand

Wonder no more at how Guyon Espiner received the documents. It is never good for reporters to act so indiscreetly that they reveal their sources. It would be nice if Radio NZ were at least a little bit honest with their reporting.

The entire story is a massive beat up that Guyon Espiner is at pains to say that no one did anything wrong. So you have to ask why would they run their story? The only possible explanation is to try and shame people into not donating to NZ First, and that just makes Radio NZ and Guyon Espiner highly political. It is the same rationale that motivates Nicky Hager.

If reporters and news media want to enter the political fray then they should drop all pretences of being objective, register the Media party and campaign on whatever shallow platform they think will get them elected.

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