Paul Foster-Bell's campaign for 'Captain Cook Highway'
Under-fire National MP Paul Foster-Bell has been campaigning for State Highway 1 to be renamed the Captain Cook Highway.
Newshub has learned Mr Foster-Bell has been lobbying for the name change on behalf of Sir Christopher Harris -- a wealthy National Party stalwart who is also a Captain Cook enthusiast.
A source who used to work in Mr Foster-Bell's office said: "Paul's massive groundbreaking idea for a member's Bill was renaming SH1 the Captain Cook Highway."
A portrait of Captain Cook by John Webber circa 1780 (Te Papa)
The source said Mr Forster-Bell was "trying to impress Sir Christopher", who donates to the National Party.
Sir Christopher has confirmed he asked Mr Foster-Bell to push the Captain Cook name change. He said he'd been a member of the National Party for 65 years, "and I donate. I give a bit, but so do a lot people."
Sir Christopher said he knew Prime Minister John Key, and had also pushed the name change with him.
"I've got in touch with him via email. I haven't got to the point of having a chat to him. I have been in touch with the Prime Minister and various ministers over the years."
Mr Foster-Bell declined to comment on the matter. He has been under pressure to explain why 12 staff have left his two-person office in the past three years and why he racked up over $60,000 in taxpayer-funded travel, despite being a Wellington-based backbencher.
Mr Key said while he was aware of proposals to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's arrival in New Zealand in 2019, renaming SH1 was unlikely.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said Mr Foster-Bell had not raised the idea with him.
Sir Christopher's knighthood is a hereditary title -- he is the third Baronet of Bethnal Green. His family ran Bing, Harris and Co, a New Zealand general importing and exporting company established in 1858.
Sir Christopher Harris, right (Supplied)
Sir Christopher is an associate of the Todd family, and has been a director of Todd Corporation interests. He is described as National Party royalty in Wellington and was thanked by Mr Foster-Bell in his maiden speech.
He previously ran lawyer Stephen Franks' campaign for National in Wellington in 2008, and was part of the anti-MMP campaign in the 2011 referendum.
Sir Christopher is passionate about Captain Cook, writing a letter to a newspaper saying: "We should name our main highway after Captain Cook, the man responsible for bringing New Zealand into existence as a state and who did so much to link us with England and the world."
Mr Foster-Bell's Captain Cook campaign dates back to 2014, when he tweeted the highway idea.
In 2014, Mr Foster-Bell also pushed his Captain Cook campaign with then-Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman at a foreign affairs and trade select committee.
Mr Foster-Bell asked if, with the Government considering replacing the navy tanker Endeavour, and given 2019 is the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's arrival, the name would be retained.
As those in the room reportedly chuckled, a bemused Dr Coleman admitted he "hadn't thought about that".