Letter shows former NZ First president Lester Gray wants to submit on party's donations

A letter to the Justice Select Committee from the former president and former treasurer of New Zealand First shows they want to make a submission on the party's donations. 

The letter, written on November 26, is signed by Lester Gray who resigned as New Zealand First president in October after being elected only a year ago. 

The letter is also signed by Colin Forster, the former treasurer of New Zealand First, who resigned in September claiming he was pushed out of the party after refusing to sign off financial reports for "moral" reasons.

"We write to seek the opportunity to present to the Justice Select Committee as part of your election enquiry [sic]," the letter reads, referring to the committee's ongoing inquiry into the 2017 general election.

"We acknowledge the Select Committee Inquiry is well advanced, but we only became aware of the seriousness of these issues in recent weeks."

The Electoral Commission is currently looking into allegations New Zealand First has been hiding donations through the New Zealand First Foundation.

Gray and Forster said they want to submit to the committee privately without New Zealand First officials being present. 

The pair wanted to present on "revelations over the failure to disclose major donations, the significant expenditure on unauthorised campaign activities and the in appropriate [sic] running of a separate foundation without the proper oversight of elected party officials".

The letter said: "A major issue for us is how it is possible for major goings on to occur in a party's name without elected party officials knowing.

NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell with former NZ First president Lester Gray.
NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell with former NZ First president Lester Gray. Photo credit: NZ First

"We appreciate that it is not for the committee to investigate any wrong doings [but] we want to shed some light on the inappropriate internal workings of the party that seemingly aren't monitored or controlled by electoral law.

"Our major concern is that party affairs have effectively been taken over by the caucus to spite public comments saying the opposite."

Gray and Forster's comments follow a press release New Zealand First leader Winston Peters issued after allegations were raised against the New Zealand First Foundation.

Peters said in the statement the allegations raised were a "party matter". He said he was "confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws".

The letter said the Justice Select Committee "needs to be aware that we face substantial legal and personal threats should we make public statements on these issues".

Last month it was revealed Peters' lawyer Brian Henry had threatened to sue National leader Simon Bridges and MP Nick Smith for $30 million if they repeated allegations about New Zealand First in Parliament.

Gray and Forster said presenting to the committee would be a "safe place for us to disclose our knowledge of what has taken place".

The pair said they are "happy to make [their] submission to a closed committee without New Zealand First officials present" and will make themselves "available at the earliest opportunity".

The Justice Select Committee did not respond to Newshub's request for confirmation that Gray and Forster will be able to make a submission.

The letter was unknown to the public until Dr Smith sought leave in Parliament on Wednesday to table it. He said Gray and Forster had "indicated they're quite happy for it to be made public".

Peters, the Deputy Prime Minister, objected to the letter being released.

Peters has described claims New Zealand First tried to hide donations through the foundation as "filthy allegations without any proof".