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Poll shows Winston Peters' chances in Tauranga near hopeless

Sunday 2 Nov 2008 7:52 p.m.

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A rough election campaign for New Zealand First leader Winston Peters just got a little bit tougher for him with one poll predicting he will be trounced in Tauranga on election day.

A TVNZ poll put electorate support for National's Simon Bridges at 54 percent, up six points since the last poll in August, Mr Peters was steady on 28 percent and the Kiwi Party candidate was on seven percent and Labour's on five percent.

Tauranga support for the New Zealand First in the party vote as also down to six percent compared to 13 percent in 2005.

Mr Peters was hoping to win back his old seat, because his party is struggling to reach the five percent threshold in the nationwide party vote.

Mr Peters has been hit by revelations over not declaring to donations to his party, as well as the saga of Owen Glenn's donations to his lawyer Brian Henry.

Mr Peters was censured by Parliament for not declaring Mr Glenn's donation and the evidence pointed to Mr Peters having known about the donation despite his denials.

The Serious Fraud Office has said fraud was not committed, but the police are yet to announce whether they are to lay charges for the party failing to declare donations from the Spencer Trust, which was run by his brother.

Over the weekend, the Dominion Post published material that appeared to show that one of Mr Peters' advisers - former National MP Ross Meurant - claimed he could get policy deals in exchange for donations.

Mr Meurant brokered donations from Philip Vela, a senior member of the wealthy Vela family, before the 1999 election.

Mr Vela was told by Mr Meurant that he would have an opportunity to frame friendly policy in business areas to which Mr Vela was connected.

Mr Peters said the money had no bearing on his party's racing policy, which he said was written in 1993.

The Dominion Post said it had been sent a box of documents relating to Mr Meurant, the Vela family and Mr Peters.

Mr Meurant sought money from Vela interests to travel as required in his taxpayer-paid job to liaise with Mr Peters, and for when he was "required to provide NZ First with material for debates in Parliament".

He wanted help from Mr Vela "when required to show my face in Parliament to thrash out policy positions which I will have already developed with your people on taxation, fishing, thoroughbred with Winston's bunch".

One transcript of an alleged conversation between Mr Peters and Mr Meurant said Mr Peters wanted the family to provide him with a helicopter so he could paint it in his party's colours and use it during the 1999 election campaign.

When Mr Peters appeared on TVNZ's Agenda programme he did not directly answer questions about the documents, but implied he had never campaigned in a helicopter.

One of his former candidates Gray Eatwell said he campaigned in a NZ First helicopter in 1999 with Mr Peters.

Mr Eatwell is currently standing against Mr Peters in the Tauranga electorate.


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