New Zealand First donation debacle: Questions over whether donors gained influence

The Prime Minister has completely shut up shop on all matters Winston Peters, donations and the murky New Zealand First Foundation, as questions now centre on who the donors are and what influence, if any, they may have gained.

"That's what the Electoral Commission is for," Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday, when asked if she's certain no New Zealand First Foundation donors have had policy gains from the Government. 

More claims from Stuff have emerged that the New Zealand First Foundation collected more than $500,000 in donations in two years.

The money, allegedly used for party expenses without being declared, included $38,000 on the New Zealand First Party's campaign headquarters.

National leader Simon Bridges asked the Prime Minister in Parliament if she has confidence that Peters, leader of New Zealand First, has been acting within the law at all times.

"It would be an indictment on our democracy to have any other political party ever enquire into any other political parties," Ardern replied.

Stuff says the donors include racing interests, forestry owners and property developers - and Peters is doing little to clear things up.

"Of course they can they've always been able to trust me," he told reporters, going to describe the allegations as "fake news".

"We'll prove that to you," Peters added. "We'll survive this."

But ultimately Peters has left the public none the wiser, laughing when Newshub asked him if New Zealand First policy can be bought through donations.

Former New Zealand First Treasurer Colin Forster says the party is "in trouble".

He says he was side-lined by the party for asking questions about its finances, like the Northland by-election "force for the north" bus tour.

"We were broke so where the money came from for the bus, I have no idea," Forster said.

He's frustrated on behalf of the party's senior volunteers, telling Newshub: "I actually feel bloody annoyed."

He said they would bake cookies and knit to "try and raise the odd money that they can".

"I worry for them they'll be let down dramatically."

The donation debacle has raised speculation Labour could sever ties with New Zealand First by calling a snap election.

But the Prime Minister rejected the notion, making reference to former National Party Prime Minister Robert Muldoon who announced a snap election in 1984 and was subsequently defeated by Labour.

"I'm no Muldoon," Ardern said.