Much ado about nothing

Written By: - Date published: 11:16 am, April 22nd, 2023 - 44 comments
Categories: election funding, elections, national, Politics, racism, same old national - Tags:

Right wing twitter thought it was onto something big yesterday after there were revelations that Human Rights Commissioner Meng Foon had donated funds and cheap premises to Kiri Allan’s election campaign in 2020.  Their belief that Foon was politically biased now had solid evidence in support.

But there was one rather significant problem with this expose, he had also donated to the National candidate in the same election.

From Bridie Witton at Stuff:

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says giving cash to political parties – be they on the left or right – is a family tradition, amid revelations he donated thousands of dollars to Labour Minister Kiri Allan and gave her a rent subsidy for a campaign office before the 2020 election.

Foon and his wife Ying Foon gave $1500 to Allan in 2020, and their company Triple Eight Investments Limited also gave Allan a rent subsidy worth $9185, according to the declaration.

Foon also said he donated “about $1500” to the National Party east coast electorate campaign where Tania Tapsell, who is also the mayor of Rotorua, ran against Allan. A National Party spokesperson said Foon actually donated $1000.

Foon said it was “nothing out of the ordinary” for his family to donate to political campaigns, and it had become a “tradition” to donate to various parties over the years.

The donation of rent in kind probably equated to letting a vacant store be used for cheaper than normal rent for a short period.  The premises may have been empty anyway but this is how the disclosure regime works. Until news of the donation to National was released there was this eruption of told you so tweets from the right.

If they had waited for his explanation they may not have been so jubilant.

At one level I am not surprised that he donated to both National and Labour.  Every time I have heard him speak I have been really impressed by the gentle and careful yet sophisticated way that he approaches issues regarding race and by his generosity of spirit.  Watch this Maori TV documentary about him if you want a sense of who he is.  This Radio New Zealand interview also gives a fascinating insight into his early years.

He is New Zealand born Chinese who became fluent in Te Reo Maori as well as Cantonese.  He served five consecutive terms as Gisborne’s mayor.  He was then appointed as Race Relations Commissioner in August 2019.  He is also a successful businessman.

For anyone to beat up on him would be like beating up on Mother Theresa for being too kind to the poor.

Let us dig into this more deeply.  Is it surprising that a former local body politician may hold political views or donate to a political party?

Or that someone as generous of spirit as Foon may have donated to both major parties after being asked?

The disclosure regime is important.  Since both cash donations were under the electoral law threshold there is no need to disclose them.  And National has this really cute way of centralising all donations and thereby increasing the threshold level from $1,500 to $15,000 unless the donation is from Donghua Liu and would otherwise a $25,000 donation from Liu the day after Maurice Williamson was forced to resign for interfering in a police prosecution relating to Liu would have to be declared.

The implications of Hipkins’ decision will have the major parties scratching their heads.  Allen was not the Minister of Justice who appointed Foon to his role.  Yet Hipkins has now declared that all such donations should be listed.

And what happens about donations to a party in general rather than and individual campaign?  Recharacterising the donation may be an easy way to avoid the need to make disclosure.

Arguably the precedent now set is that any donation of any amount from a person in a Government appointed position will need to be disclosed and entered in the Ministerial Register of interests.  At one level this is a good idea.  This sort of information should be available to the public.  But there is no minimum now set and buying a chook raffle at a fundraiser could conceivably trigger an obligation to disclose.

But I get the strong impression the real problem is that some on the right cannot stand a New Zealand born Chinese man who is fluent in Te Reo and who talks bluntly about racism and colonialism and this is the reason for the beat up.  I hope that Meng Foon continues with his important work in this regard.

44 comments on “Much ado about nothing ”

  1. Incognito 1

    @ Micky, the tweet in the Post doesn’t show up – is this intentional?

    No the tweet was not embedding. I have now put in a screenshot – MS

  2. SPC 2

    I can only quote something I saw on this site yesterday.

    The Babylon Orient Beehive Civilian can also report that the ACT Party has said that no current or former member of the party can be considered for any government funded job (apart from Cabinet Minister, Associate Minister, deputy Minister and under secretary)*, nor can any former or current donor.

    A National Party spokesperson says what they do is pretty legal, but Labour does not understand the rules and should let National decide for them what they can, or cannot, do.

    No one at the Green Party responded, the answer phone said they had gone to Kerikeri for a weekend hui here.

    correction* (and MP's and taxpayer supported caucus staff).

    ps for Pakeha European manuhiri readers, hui here, means bonding session.

    The real issue is that ACT wants to defund the Human Rights Commission.

    And also amend the HRA

    Under its "Freedom to Speak" policy, the ACT Party would repeal parts of the Human Rights Act and the Summary Offences Act which make insulting and offensive speech unlawful. It would also restrict the Harmful Digital Communications Act to complainants under the age of 18.

  3. Anne 3

    But I get the strong impression the real problem is that some on the right cannot stand a New Zealand born Chinese man who is fluent in Te Reo and who talks bluntly about racism and colonialism and this is the reason for the beat up.

    Also, an act of desperation on the part of NAct and their media acolytes to claim some kind of supposed misdemeanours among Labour ministers/MPs to counter the ever growing list of their own recalcitrant members.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    The problem is it wasn't only money donated to Labour, but free rent as well. I didn't see that being offered to a National candidate.

    • SPC 4.1

      All they had to do is win the local electorate seat – blame the voters.

    • Incognito 4.2

      Please provide evidence for your assertion that “free rent” was given, thanks.

      • Belladonna 4.2.1

        In 2021, Allan declared donations for the year before, including $1500 from Foon and his wife Ying Foon.

        The return also shows company Triple Eight Investments – which was partially owned by the couple – provided the East Coast MP with a rent subsidy worth $9185.


        Allan denied taking any monetary donations from Foon but acknowledged he did provide her with "an office space" in 2020.

        She told reporters she was "pretty comfortable" with the arrangement.

        "It was well disclosed. It was his wife's shop, it was an empty shop that they owned on the main drag. We paid some nominal sum per week, and that's all been declared."

        • Incognito

          So, no evidence of “free rent”. Glad you cleared that up.

          • Belladonna

            Heavily subsidised – to the tune of $K9 – rather than free.

            It's been acknowledged by everyone involved as a donation (in kind rather than in cash) – which is why it was (properly) listed by Allen (or more likely her electorate team) in the donations declaration.

            I'm not sure what point you're trying to score here – but you seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill.

            • Incognito

              Just like tsmithfield you seem to have much difficulty with a very simple statement of fact regarding whether it was free or not. Why so much resistance? Why do you invest personally so much into this? The petulant protestations of some here are a never-ending source of fascination.

              The irony is that you missed the title of this Post.

              However, I was indeed making a point @ 4.2, just not the point that you think – the ballet term is en pointe.

              • Belladonna

                Actually – I made no statement about the rent being free – I simply provided an explanatory link and further information.

                The irony is that your 'protesting too much' attitude is garnering more suspicion over the relationship between Allan and Foon rather than less.

                I might, equally, ask why you invest, personally, so much in this?

                • Incognito

                  You joined in the thread and offered no answer to my specific question @ 4.2 to tsmithfield @ 4. Your ‘explanatory link and further information’ did not answer my question and was no help either, on the contrary, it felt like you backing tsmithfield.

                  You missed my actual point, yet again.


                  I might, equally, ask why you invest, personally, so much in this?

                  To be, or not to be, that’s the question …

                  • Belladonna

                    So, my supposed support for tsmithfield existed entirely inside your head.

                    Glad to have that sorted out.

                    It seems as though almost everyone is missing your points these days…. perhaps, just perhaps, you might want to reflect on that.

                    • Incognito

                      You can’t work out the meaning of a simple ballet term? Or of a simple quote from the Bard?

                      Let me try some visual art with you, to see if that works:

                  • Belladonna

                    Yeah. Reflection not happening.

                    Will stop wasting my time.

            • Jilly Bee

              'I'm not sure what point you're trying to score here – but you seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill.'

              And you're not?

              • Belladonna

                Nope. My contribution consisted of A) linking to the reported facts of the case (including subsidised rent); B) commenting that Allan had declared everything correctly at the time.

                Unsure why you should think that this is an issue.

                But feel free to continue interviewing your keyboard and finding conspiracy theories under the bed.

      • tsmithfield 4.2.2

        Link here: And I should correct the statement about "free rent". The article refers to a rent subsidy, which by definition may or may not have been free rent depending on the level of the subsidy.

        From the article:

        “A company called Triple Eight Investments Limited also provided Kiri Allan a rent subsidy worth $9185 according to the declaration.”

    • Anne 4.3

      The problem is it wasn't only money donated to Labour, but free rent as well. I didn't see that being offered to a National candidate.

      If you think that is an uncommon occurrence think again.

      One very good example occurred in the 1990s. For several years the ACT Party hired almost an entire floor of an Auckland skyscraper once owned by Michael Faye (of Americas Cup and Wine Box fame) in the 1990s. I visited the premises on a few occasions and let me assure you they were opulent. I was assured by someone who was a very senior member of the party that it was being leased out to ACT for the nominal sum of $1 per week.

      I also recall a similar rort being levelled at the National Party concerning some building they occupied in Wellington two or three decades ago. I have forgotten the circumstances but someone might remember.

      So, before you throw stones at Labour, Kiri Allen's so-called misdemeanour is tiny compared to some of those committed by their political enemies in the past. Indeed the use of vacant premises for temporary occupation during election periods has been par for the course in all parties since time immemorial.

      Methinks some in the media – with the support of NAct – are trying to turn a mole-hill into a mountain.

      • Ngungukai 4.3.1

        Fine when the Right Wing NACT Party does these things but not okay when the Left Wing Party's do it.

        • Anne

          When the TV1 political editor (somebody Benedict iirc) was revealing the story on the Friday 6pm news he sounded positively gleeful. Ignorance and naivety at best…deliberate attempt to try and discredit the government at worst.

          We can expect a lot more of it in the next six months.

  5. Bazza64 5

    Give an amount to the political party you support & then give 10% of that value to the opposing party – and you are politically neutral ?

    Who could believe such rubbish ?

    love to see this argument used the other way round, no-one on the left would accept it, a disappointing & weak article trying to paint someone as politically neutral

    • mickysavage 5.1

      Cheapish rent on a shop that would have been vacant anyway is hardly a huge donation.

      • tsmithfield 5.1.1

        The amount of rent subsidy is quite a lot though. Nearly $10k.

        For context, the rent on our commercial building of 450 sqm in Christchurch is about $6k a month. I realise Auckland rents are higher. But, depending on the size of the space, it may well equate to a couple of months of rent.

        • Belladonna

          It's Gisborne rather than Auckland – so probably 3-4 months of rent, if not more.

    • SPC 5.2

      It's available to the local electorate MP (he donated to both candidates), but only one can win at a time.

    • Incognito 5.3

      Political donations are as much about supporting the democratic process as supporting specific recipients. If you cannot handle the nuances of political donations to more than one party/Party, with the required disclosures, then perhaps you should drop your binary thinking – it is not necessarily nailing one’s colours to the mast.

  6. Corey 6

    "For anyone to beat up on him would be like beating up on Mother Theresa for being too kind to the poor."

    Ummmmm interesting comparison, Mother Theresa was viciously cruel to poor children and despite catholic propaganda, we've known this for years

    • Ed 6.1

      Christopher Hitchens wrote an excellent book on the matter called ‘The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice’

  7. Thanks Micky. R W trolls very excited yesterday on Twitter with many a fake account being set up to try to put the boot in. Kiri has now declared a conflict of interest. For the record, it was Meng Foon's wife who donated the premises in kind which were empty and these were declared. Sounded bitter that the national party got less. If Tania Tapsell had won (who Meng Foon also donated to), if National had become government and she appointed Justice Minister two and a half years later, would we still be having such a fuss? Doubt it. And btw, I never saw Meng Foon as a "leftie". This is a Gisborne thing. He perhaps should have been more careful as an appointed officer of the HRC but hindsight is a glorious thing.

  8. Ad 8


    Meng Foon is awesome.

    But does BORA enable political donations to be treated as free speech in NZ?

  9. SPC 9

    It's interesting that Maurice Williamson draws a connection, between donating to local electorate candidates (National and Labour) and providing spare office space for the one winning and bias in favour of the Green Party.

    Is this because both of the two women were Maori and he sees this as a conspiracy against the white male dominant National Party caucus?

    PS His desire to punish someone for trash talking someone from white race central Counterspin is noted.

  10. Mike Smith 10

    Meng Foon's family donations also represent a Chinese tradition of donating to political parties across the spectrum as an act of citizen contribution rather than an attempt to gain influence, foreign or otherwise.

  11. Get out the popcorn it is going to be fun.

  12. Mike the Lefty 12

    The amount of money involved here is small compared with the big donations National has received from Chinese racing industry interests over the past few years, but I suppose National would prefer that people weren't reminded of that.

  13. Chess Player 13

    It's very chivalrous of you to defend the minister, but if she can't remember who her biggest donor was (outside of the Labour party) – you know, the guy whose wife provided her with discounted rent all that time (while she still claimed the full allowance), maybe she shouldn't be making serious decisions about justice on behalf of the rest of us?

    The criticism being attracted is not because she's female, gay or brown – it's because she's either dumb or deceptive.

    If you can raise yourself above the tribalistic perspective, you might see that.

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