PM's stake in Otago vineyard revealed

  • 26/05/2010

By Patrick Gower

Politics is all about perception, and 3 News has been investigating some of the Prime Minister's business investments - in particular the activities of his blind trust.

It has a stake in a vineyard, along with the owners of some of New Zealand's biggest supermarket owners.

The trust was set up after John Key became Prime Minister to ensure he had no possible conflict of interest - it's like a third party running his investments without him knowing.

As a part of this trust, Mr Key has a financial interest in a Central Otago vineyard.

It's no secret Central Otago is wine country, but it's less well-known that Mr Key's investment trust has a stake in a vineyard and a financial interest in the wine it produces. He says he doesn't even know himself, because his interests are tied up in the blind trust - however a month after that trust was set up, he had a dinner conversation with a wine critic, caught on video, in which he spoke about the vineyard.

"You're a vineyard owner yourself aren't you," the critic asked Mr Key. "I am," replied Mr Key. "I have a little bit of a pinot noir and chardonnay-producing vineyard here in Otago, and it's been doing very well. It's successful. It's been exporting some wines, and it's a lot of fun."

Mr Key is talking about his trust being one of 11 shareholders in Highwater Vineyard. It is a part of Mount Michael Wines, a rising star in the industry.

But you won't find this declared on the MP's register of pecuniary interests, because his ownership is held by his blind trust.

It was set up when he came to power to guard against conflicts of interest.

"I don't know whether I own any assets or not," says Mr Key. "The only assets are in our blind trust. I don't know what those assets are."

At Christmas Mr Key gave away as presents 240 bottles of pinot noir with Highwater on the label.

"This is your own wine?" Ms Robinson asked Mr Key. "Yeah… I registered the trademark too… There's no getting past me."

The brand name 'PM's Pinot' has been trademarked by one of his trust's vineyard partners - Mr Key says he asked him to do it.

"I asked him to do that for something for Christmas, and that was a gift and I wanted that so that I could in future years give away wine to all the people that help me," says Mr Key.

He explained today that the wine in the bottles which say it's from Highwater isn't from that vineyard - it's from another one.

The other investors in Highwater Vineyard own some of the biggest supermarkets in the country. They will be concerned about the upcoming liquor law reform.

Mr Key says he doesn't know them or that they were involved, and that there is no conflict of interest.

Mr Key has assured 3 News that he doesn't know what's in his blind trust. He says it's a world-class investment vehicle designed to protect him.

3 News
Read Patrick Gower's blog on John Key's byzantine investments concerning wine.

source: newshub archive