Politics

Who are New Zealand's biggest political donors?

Justice Minister Kiritapu Allan has recently proposed changes to political donations after almost all parties found themselves in trouble over allegations of donation fraud.

The changes, if they go through, will require parties to publish the identity of any donor who gives more than NZ$5000 a year, making donors less discrete when contributing large anonymous donations.

It would also change the current threshold, which is NZ$15,000.

Which begs the question, who are the political donors who make those $5,000+ donations in Aotearoa? 

Lani Hagaman, Grant Baker, Graeme Hart, Hon Robert Smellie and Murray Bolton, are just a few names that make considerable contributions. 

They aren't necessarily the biggest political donors in the country, but they have made the largest donations to political parties most recently, according to Electoral Commission.

Lani Hagaman

Lani Hagaman Lani Hagaman

Donated $25,000 on 31 March 2022 and $25,000 on 12 April 2022 to the National Party

Hagaman is the widow of multi-millionaire Earl Hagaman, who died in 2017, aged 92. 

Earl Hagaman was an American-born New Zealand hotel operator and founder of the Scenic Hotel chain.

According to the hotel's website, it now runs 'under the direction' of Lani Hagaman.

In a 2017 article published by Stuff, Hagaman and his fifth wife, Lani Hagaman, were reported to have presided over a $190 million fortune.

Grant Baker

Grant Baker Grant Baker

Donated $5,000 on 29 March 2022 and $50,000 on 2 May 2022 to the National Party 

Baker, born in 1957, was former co-owner of 42 Below Vodka, which drinking company Bacardi, bought for $138 million in 2006. 

He is currently chairman of Turners Automotive Group, Liam Lawson Supporters Partnership, and Me Today Limited to name a few. 

According to a 2021 article published by NBR, Baker is an 'avid collector of Ferraris', with a network of $125 million.

Graeme Hart

Graeme Hart Graeme Hart

Donated $250,000 to the National Party on 1 April 2022

Hart, born in 1955, is the country's wealthiest New Zealander, with his net worth estimated at $11 billion in 2021.

Hart is an owner of UCI Holdings Ltd, Carter Hold Harvey, Beverage Packaging Holdings, Pactiv Evergreen Inc, Rank Group Ltd, and Autoparts Holdings Ltd

His largest acquisition to date was for Alcoa's Packaging & Consumer group in 2008 for US$2.7 billion, later being renamed Reynolds Packaging Group.

Hon Robert Smellie

Donated NZ$100,000 to Labour Party on 20 April 2022 

Smellie, 92, is a retired High Court judge who is a judicial office member at Southern Cross Chambers.  

He was granted the title “The Honourable” for life in New Zealand on 9 August 1998.

Murray Bolton

Murray Bolton Murray Bolton

Donated $250,000 to the National Party on July 1 2022

Bolton, 73, founded Bolton Equities, was Managing Director of the Rural Bank, Executive Director of Brierley Investments, and Chief Executive of the Skellerup Group.

He was also involved with Transaction Services Group, which he founded in 1994.

He has worked primarily on direct investment in emerging New Zealand companies since 1997.

So there we have it, five of the country's political donors. 

A lot of donations to the National Party, a lot of people over the age of 60, and a total donation of $705,000.

Kiri Allan hopes the proposed changes she announced would increase transparency and increase people's trust in political system funding.

After reading about these five political donors, is it worth knowing more?