Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon made $1000 donation to National in same month as money to Labour

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon made a $1000 donation to National's East Coast electorate ahead of the 2020 general election, the party's confirmed to Newshub.

Foon earlier told Newshub it was a "family tradition to support left and right parties" and that donations had been made to previous candidates, including National's 2020 East Coast candidate Tania Tapsell.

While her election return doesn't show any donation from Foon, only candidate donations above $1500 are required to be disclosed with a name and address. Her return does include a donation from the NZ National Party's East Coast electorate of more than $13,300.

The National Party confirmed to Newshub on Friday afternoon that it did receive a $1000 donation from Foon in June 2020.

That's the same month as "M and Y Foon" made a donation to Labour's Kiri Allan. That donation was $1500 and included on Allan's return.

Allan's return also shows Triple Eight Investments provided $9185.04 in rent subsidies to Allan between August and September 2020. According to the Companies Register, Foon was a director of the now-deregistered company.

Foon was appointed as Race Relations Commissioner in July 2019. His role at the Human Rights Commission is to promote "positive race relations". It's meant to be independent of Government.

Asked earlier if it was appropriate for him to make a donation to Allan, Foon said it's been a "family tradition" to support political parties of different stripes and any conflicts with his role "didn't cross my mind".

"It's just a thing that we do automatically," he said.

But Foon was confident he could be independent and expects the Government to also be independent in who they choose for the Human Rights Commission roles.

Foon said he didn't regret his support and, speaking of the donation to Allan, "it's only a minor sum". Between the donation and rental subsidies, it's a total of more than $10,500 to Allan's campaign.

The rental subsidies related to a shop that was his wife's business, he said.

Speaking to media on Friday morning, Allan said she was "comfortable" about the donation and it was "well disclosed". 

"It's his wife's shop. It was an empty shop that they owned on the main drag. We paid some nominal sum or a sum per week. That has all been declared."

She stressed she wasn't involved in the appointment of Foon.

"I had nothing to do with Meng Foon's appointment."

Allan was a backbench MP at the time of the donation, but is now the Justice Minister who recommends to the Governor-General who to appoint as Human Rights Commissioners.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said there was a "well-established process" for managing conflicts of interest.

"The conflict of interest process involving the Cabinet office does look at things like political donations for example, so that if someone who's made a political donation comes up for appointment, a minister who has a conflict would be excused from participating in that process."

The ACT Party's David Seymour said Foon needs to go immediately.

"Foon can't be independent if he's a Labour donor, not that he ever called out racism from the left anyway," Seymour said.

"Kiri Allan is now the Minister of Justice responsible for appointing the Commissioner. She didn't appoint Foon but would be responsible for his re-appointment."