Transparency Times September 2019

Local body elections: Time for transparency of all donations

Suzanne Snively Transparency International New Zealand

Suzanne Snively
Transparency International New Zealand

From the Chair:

September 2019

Lack of fair funding for candidates in general elections has attracted a lot of angst over the years.

The consequence of unequal access to campaign funding is that people who end up in public office tend to be those who have access to that funding or personal savings. This undermines diversity and provides barriers for younger candidates to run. 

An immediate challenge is finding a solution to address the lack of transparency about campaign financing.

The Shelly Bay debacle

Local government campaign funding has tended to be under the radar. 

OR at least it has been until now. 

The ongoing Shelly Bay debacle in Wellington shows local government candidate funding faces issues very similar to those for national elections.

Property developers donated nearly three-quarters of the $211,362 in declared donations given to Wellington Mayoral Candidates in 2016. And there is evidence that these declared donations are just a small amount of the total.  (See Time to rein in the cash in local politics? – Pete McKenzie)

Over a period of a year during the 2016 election cycle, for example, Ian Cassels donated at least $50,000 with various amounts going to several of the mayoral candidates.  Ian and his partner Patricia Caitlin Taylor own property development firm The Wellington Company. To enhance what it sees as the benefits for the Shelly Bay location, The Wellington Company has been negotiating with the Wellington City Council for many years.

Then just last week – two weeks into the six-week local body election campaigning period – The Wellington Company bought the final piece of land in Shelly Bay owned by Taranaki Whanui for $10 million. Opponents of the transaction complain that the price is way under market.

Fair Representation

The concern for national general elections is to ensure that different political ideologies and perspectives have a fair chance of being represented. 

For Wellington, the motivation of property-developer donors is to build support for their projects.  Even though it isn’t promoting an ideology or partisan political party, the impact on diversity in elections is the same.

More importantly, the approach has the potential to undermine democratic process for property development decisions.

Offshore Donations

Another growing concern is donations coming from offshore interests into New Zealand. 

During a recent briefing to the Justice Select Committee, the Director General of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Rebecca Kitteridge and the head of the Government Communications Security Bureau, Andrew Hampton, told the MPs on the committee that they had seen “relationship building and donation activity by state actors and their proxies that had concerned them”.

With new central government funding for regional development projects, the potential for these donations to impact on local body elections in increased.   These projects are designed to result in improved investment returns, which is attractive to offshore investors who may target local government candidates throughout New Zealand.

Transparency can shed more light on donations

Banning foreign donations, while important, is unlikely to be effective on its own.  Transparency with more stringent disclosure requirements has a proven impact on preventing conduct with corrupt intent.  Greater transparency and accountability will improve the ability of the agencies to trace and investigate donations. Effective transparency and accountability also inform the wider public and the media, enabling a wider scope in scrutiny that detects and prevents corruption and other misconduct.

A starting point is to lower the bar for reporting of donations from the current threshold of $1,500.  Further, it is important for donations to be published in real time during the election campaign instead of delayed reporting after the campaign is finished.

Greater transparency can assist in creating an equal playing field, so electors are able to fairly compare political candidates, even when there are diverse advertising campaigns.  Electors will be better placed to make informed choices about candidates’ wisdom for making future infrastructure and other decisions.

The practice of transparency and accountability

Transparency and accountability are objectives that almost all candidates claim to aspire to. These two words are thrown around like confetti during their election campaigns.

To promote greater understanding of what these terms mean in practice, Transparency International New Zealand has included five sets of questions in this newsletter to be used when talking with local body candidates, and for candidates to reflect on themselves.  These questions are being circulated around New Zealand to many local body election candidates.

Applicable to all positions – Council and Regional Council, District Health Boards and community boards and trusts – the questions focus on integrity, transparency and accountability.

Wellington Mayoral Candidate Forum

These questions have already been sent to the Mayoral candidates for Wellington who will be presenting their responses at a public lunchtime event hosted by TINZ on Thursday 26 September 2019, 12:30 – 1:30 pm, at the Old Government Buildings (OGB – the home of the VUW Law School).   The venue is the OGB Lecture Theatre 3, on the ground floor at the back.

There are 9 Mayoral candidates in Wellington. The two leading candidates are incumbent Mayor, Justin Lester who has received donations from The Wellington Property Company, and, Andy Foster, whose supporters include Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. 

The commentator at this 26 September event will be Max Rashbrooke, and the Chair will be Lambton Ward Candidate Tamatha Paul.

Suzanne Snively, ONZM


Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

Brain Food Integrity Forums

Attendance fee:

  • $40 per forum
  • Members $30 per forum

CPD Certificates Available


  • Victoria University of Wellington
  • Lecture Theatre OGB LT3 (ground floor)
  • Old Government Building
  • Pipitea Campus
  • 55 Lambton Quay

Register online

Please register and share!

Wellington – Old Government Building

12 September – Modern Gangsters in NZ – there’s been a big change and it matters

3 October – Where in the World are we? – how can we maintain our reputation, values and opportunities during geopolitical changes?

10 October – Hate Speech – Free Speech

Modern Gangsters in New Zealand

Thursday 12 September 2019, 12:30pm-1:30pm

Who is doing the crime? Are they doing the time? Insights into the modern underworld, and fraudsters – what are they doing, who are they targeting and what actions are being taken to reduce their impact on people, businesses and communities.

Presenters: Paul O’Neil, General Counsel, Serious Fraud Office New Zealand; and Detective Superintendent Greg Williams, National Manager Operations Organised Crime, NZ Police.

Register Now!

Where in the World are We?

Tuesday 3 October 2019, 12:30pm-1:30pm

The centre of economic geography is re-aligning to Asia. New Zealand is close to the action, and close to risks. How can we maintain our reputation and values of integrity, fairness and pragmatism whilst making the most of our opportunities?

Presenters: Vangelis Vitalis, Deputy Secretary Trade and Economic, MFAT; and Colin Keating, former Permanent Representative of NZ to the United Nations, Senior Research Fellow Columbia University, former Executive Director of Security Council Report.

Register Now!

Hate Speech – Free Speech

Tuesday 10 October 2019, 12:30pm-1:30pm

Most people who think about this topic sit on and off fences, wanting to enable freedom of expression, but not wanting the result to be discriminatory or dangerous. This is an opportunity to think more deeply than clickbait. Hear different points of view and offer your view in respectful discussion.

Presenters: Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University; and Liam Hehir, Partner, Fitzherbert Rowe Lawyers, and regular blogger on this and other social topics.

Register Now!

Venue: Victoria University of Wellington, Pipitea Campus, Old Government Building, 55 Lambton Quay, Lecture Theatre OGB LT3 (ground floor).

Registration is required for each event, there will be no registration at the door. There is a modest charge per forum ($40) which goes directly towards supporting the work of Transparency International New Zealand.


Local Body Elections: Questions for Candidates

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) has designed six sets of questions that can be used when talking with a candidate standing for local body elections, for which voting closes on 12 October. They are applicable to all positions. 

TINZ is also sending these to a large number of local body candidates around New Zealand. We will encourage candidates to reflect on the questions and select some to focus on in their social media or other promotions. 

Our questions focus around integrity, transparency and accountability, including encouraging broader community participation in decision-making. 

TINZ is non-partisan. It is up to the public and individual citizens to form their own view on responses.

A key objective of these questions is to emphasise the accountability of leaders to be transparent about their policies and political agendas. 

  • Personal motivation
    1. Why are you standing for election?
    2. What does integrity in local government mean to you?
    3. Tell me about conflict of interest and how you manage it.
  • Access to information
    1. Do you think that the Council (or Board or Trust) gives the public the right amount of information and access to meetings?
    2. Tell me what you know about the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act and the Official Information Act?
  • Public participation
    1. What are your ideas for getting more public participation in local decisions? Who do you think is missing out?
    2. What are your ideas for helping people who don’t have good internet access, to be involved and have their say?
    3. What are your plans for engaging with young people
  • Tangata whenua
    1. What do you think are the main issues that are important to local tangata whenua?
  • Fair representation/diversity
    1. Does your Council (or Board or Trust) Council have fair representation of women as councillors and employees, including leaders?
    2. What is your opinion about diversity on and in the council (eg gender, ethnic, disability)?Accountability
  •  Accountability
    1. How will you balance economic, social and environmental issues?
    2. When it comes to a decision, what will you prioritise?
    3. How can I trust you will follow through on your promises?

Download these questions as a handy reference.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“She’ll be right” will not protect New Zealand’s democracy

Guest author

Elizabeth Longworth

Elizabeth Longworth

Guest author in her private capacity
Campaigner for New Zealand’s OIA legislation in 1980s

The survival of New Zealand’s democracy faces unprecedented threats over the next thirty years:

  • Risks from systemic global economic instability 
  • Major upheaval from adaptation (or not) to climate change 
  • Dislocation arising from automated and intelligent machines.

A kiwi characteristic that could severely impede our capacity to respond, is the complacency of “she’ll be right”.

Actually, it won’t be!  Democracies need to be nurtured and supported – or risk having them turn into something else.

There are four critical steps to shore up our democracy and sustain it.

1. Use the Public Service Bill to encourage open government

Firstly, treat the proposed changes to the State Sector as a future-proofing process.

The commitment of Government to improving transparency is also a core tenet of Open Government. The intention is to modernise the Public Service to tackle interdependent challenges in an integrated manner. But there is a missed opportunity if the Bill fails to give impetus to a much more dynamic relationship between Government and the public – one which requires far more commitment to citizen consultation and engagement than is currently accepted in the Bill’s background documents.

2. Overhaul the Official Information Act 1982

Secondly, overhaul the OIA, which predates the digital transformation in online communication and data storage. There are many issues to consider while evolving a freedom-of-information regime to a digital environment.

The current mentality of interpreting Open Government as a largely passive concept should change. It will be necessary for agencies to redirect, and even shepherd, requests through the OIA process.

3. Educate to discern the truth

The confluence of our reliance on social media, the value of accessing big data, and, the potential for manipulation of our biases, all conspire to exert undue influence over our individual view of the world.

Overseas experience with manipulation of voters’ social media, questions the extent to which an election can now be considered “free and fair”. 

So, it is critical to make a conscious effort to educate New Zealanders about how to discern what is “truth’ – what is fact versus perception – and how to verify or assess trusted online sources.  It is essential to raise awareness of the implications of how algorithms work and their potential to influence our technology content and use.

4. Kiwi youth as kaitiaki

The fourth imperative rests with kiwi youth as kaitiaki (trustees, custodians), to guard against complacency.  We need a national awareness to re-invigorate and modernise the notions of civic engagement and citizenship.

Dynamic and rights-based education programmes could be designed for communities, schools and social media use, so as to “reinterpret” the application of Open Government. The focus would be on how to engage in policy debate and acquire the tools and expertise to participate in decision-making processes. 

A key objective is to emphasise the accountability of leaders to be transparent about their policies and political agendas. This could be a youth-led movement if it turned on those issues of profound significance affecting the future of the next generation. 

Time to prepare our democracy for the future

While submissions to the ‘State Sector Act Reform 2018’ closed last year, the drafting of the emergent Public Service Bill can be responsive to this unique opportunity. With objectives based on principles of full and enhanced participation, the new Public Service Act can be empowering of greater levels of civic involvement.

The Public Service Bill presents a unique opportunity to ensure that our democracy:

  • Has a strong and vibrant base, capable of carrying the people with it
  • Is built on the principles of full and enhanced participation, transparency and a revamped concept of civic engagement, namely civic activism.

This article is a summary of Elizabeth Longworth’s original article

The following links are relevant to the Public Service Bill currently being processed (submissions closed last year):

Board members, staff and volunteers of CLCT Integrity Fiji: (L to R) Ricardo Gabrielle, Joseph Veramu, Perina Vocea, Debbie Gee, Adi Makelesi Charles, Rita Tamton, Stephanie Fong, and Sakeo Cama.

TINZ facilitates stakeholder engagement for CLCT Integrity Fiji

Debbie Gee: TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for Whistleblowing, Affiliations, and OPG

Debbie Gee: TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for Whistleblowing, Affiliations, and OPG

Joseph Veramu

Interim Chief Executive

Civic Leaders for Clean Transactions Integrity Fiji

Anti-corruption non government organisations like ‘Civic Leaders for Clean Transactions Integrity Fiji’ (CLCT Integrity Fiji) need proactive engagement and communication strategies to spread the message of integrity, transparency and accountability. This was one of the key messages presented by Debbie Gee of Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) while facilitating a one day workshop in Suva City, Fiji, on 10 August 2019.

Debbie worked with CLCT Integrity Fiji to develop their stakeholder engagement and communications strategies. These are focussed on building relationships with potential partners and collaborators, and enhancing effective methods for reaching out to the public. Her work in Fiji focussed primarily on advancing Objective 6 of CLCT Integrity Fiji’s business plan: Combat Corruption through building relationships.

A TINZ Member with Delegated Authority, Debbie has a background in strategic engagement and communications. Her training visit to CLCT Integrity Fiji was made possible through a generous grant from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and facilitated by TINZ.

Debbie worked with Board members, staff and volunteers of CLCT Integrity Fiji to discuss strategies for identifying and building key relationships and skills for using mainstream media such as print, radio and television, and to educate and inform the public on anti corruption issues. Social media was also an important strategic tool for disseminating information to the Fijian public.

While in Fiji, Debbie met CLCT Integrity Fiji’s Board and its youth wing, ‘Youths for Integrity’. A very constructive meeting was also held with the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) at which they indicated their willingness to work on anti-corruption initiatives, with CLCT Integrity Fiji and TINZ. They offered to provide resources and deliver training free of charge.

“We very much appreciated Debbie Gee’s contributions to strengthening the work of CLCT Integrity Fiji in the anti corruption space in Fiji,” said Joeli Bili, the Acting Chairperson.

Educating management to achieve SDGs Agenda 2030

John Hall
TINZ Director
Civics & Human Rights, OGP, Auckland Events

John Hall

TINZ Director,

Civics and Human Rights, Open Government Partnership

The United Nations’ ‘Principles for Responsible Management Education’ (PRME) is transforming business and management education, research, and thought-leadership globally. It’s prime focus is to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

PRME supports academic institutions to ensure they provide future leaders with the understanding and skills needed to balance economic and sustainability goals, for delivering change tomorrow. This global initiative of the UN Global Compact, has six New Zealand signatories. Each is committed to providing 2-yearly progress reporting for international sharing of information on progress.

At the centre of PRME is SDG target 4.7 – to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.

Six principles

The six principles of PRME for education sector signatories are:

  1. Purpose: To develop capabilities of students to be future generators of sustainable value for business and society at large and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global economy.
  2. Values: To incorporate into our academic activities and curricula the values of global social responsibility as portrayed in international initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact
  3. Method: To create educational frameworks, materials, processes and environments that enable effective learning experiences for responsible leadership.
  4. Research: To engage in conceptual and empirical research that advances our understanding about the role, dynamics, and impact of corporations in the creation of sustainable social, environmental and economic value.
  5. Partnership: To interact with managers of business corporations to extend our knowledge of their challenges in meeting social and environmental responsibilities and to explore jointly effective approaches to meeting these challenges.
  6. Dialogue: To facilitate and support dialogue and debate among educators, students, business, government, consumers, media, civil society organisations and other interested groups and stakeholders on critical issues related to global social responsibility and sustainability.

SDG-16 and ethical leadership

Of particular interest to Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) is PRME’s focus on SDG-16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

By way of example, PRME’s first New Zealand signatory, Victoria University of Wellington (VUW)’s Business School, has identified six SDGs including SDG-16, to be closely linked with the above mentioned Values principle. It’s recent PRME progress report places significant emphasis on further development and practice of ethical leadership. This it argues, must stave off complacency arising from New Zealand’s consistently high Corruptions Perceptions Index, its geographical isolation, etc.

New Zealand is clearly facing substantial new risks to its integrity not only from domestic but also internationally-linked corruption, together with changing outlooks on corruption, that we must not be naive about. The terms ‘ethics’ and ‘ethical leadership’ are also peppered throughout VUW’s PRME progress report under the other PRME values it reported on.

TINZ Submissions activity

TINZ encourages its readers to exercise their democratic responsibilities by making submissions and responding to government consultation processes with your opinions on future direction-setting and legislation.

The following two centralised websites invite and facilitate public submissions on a variety of legislation, policies, levies, plans and projects currently being processed, together with updates about progress for recently closed submissions:

Not all government agencies utilise one or both of these facilities. Many government agencies conduct their own publicity when seeking submissions.

In the spirit of the new and joined-up open government, TINZ’s recommendations are that:

  • There be a single submissions website link where all requests for submissions are listed 
  • This same website location is administered with constantly improving frameworks for the making of submissions and for following-up on submissions. The process would ideally:  
    • provide analyses of the responses to submissions, by key population indicators including geographical spread, and of the individuals and organisations that make submissions 
    • summarise the content of submissions and how the content becomes included in policy development and legislation 
    • provide timelines/milestones to track the progress of submissions passing through the submissions/legislative processes.

Submissions currently being sought

The following invitations to submissions known to and of relevance to TINZ, are currently open for public comment by their stated deadline. We encourage our readers to take the time to draft a submission, even if it is a short one. The submission process is an opportunity to exercise your democratic rights. 

Venture Capital Fund Bill

  • Deadline: Monday, 23 September 2019 
  • Public submissions are invited by the Finance and Expenditure Committee
  • This bill would establish a venture capital fund to be managed and administered by the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation

Online Gambling in New Zealand

  • Deadline: Friday, 30 September 2019
  • Public submissions are now being called by Department of Internal Affairs
  • The Government is interested in knowing what is important to you when it comes to regulating online gambling in NZ. How is online gambling affecting the lives of New Zealanders?

‘LocalismNZ’: Reinvigorating local democracy

  • Deadline: Sunday 15 December 2019
  • Public submissions on a discussion paper are sought by Local Government NZ (LGNZ) 

Recent TINZ submissions

View earlier submissions prepared by TINZ, or search on the ‘Submissions’ category at the bottom of TINZ homepage . 

Coming events

12 September 2019, 12:30-13:30 Wellington: TINZ Brain Food Integrity Public Forum: ‘Modern Gangsters in New Zealand‘.  Presenters are: Paul O’Neil, General Counsel, Serious Fraud Office New Zealand, and Detective Superintendent Greg Williams, National Manager Operations Organised Crime, NZ Police.  Register here.

26 September 2019, 12:30-13:30 Wellington: TINZ Local Body Election forum: Integrity in Our City. Hear the 2019 Mayoral candidates speak on integrity, transparency and accountability and what it means to them and YOUR community.
Free public event at Lecture Theatre 3, Old Government Building, Victoria University of Wellington, 55 Lambton Quay. Register here to be part of the conversation!

27 September 2019, 12:30-13:30 Wellington: Open Government: Getting It Right. Keitha Booth, New Zealand’s IRM, will launch her latest report. This reviews the design of New Zealand’s 2018-2020 Open Government Partnership National Action Plan for its likely effectiveness by 2020, and to influence design of the next National Action Plan 2020-22.
Free public event at Lecture Theatre 3, Old Government Building, Victoria University of Wellington, 55 Lambton Quay. RSVP for this event

3 October 2019, 12:30-13:30 Wellington: TINZ Brain Food Integrity Public Forum: Where in the World are We? Presenters are: Vangelis Vitalis, Deputy Secretary Trade and Economic, MFAT, and Colin Keating, former Permanent Representative of NZ to the United Nations, Senior Research Fellow Columbia University, former Executive Director of Security Council Report. Register here.

10 October 2019, 12:30-13:30 Wellington: TINZ Brain Food Integrity Public Forum: Hate Speech or free Speech. Presenters are: Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University, and Liam Hehir, Partner, Fitzherbert Rowe Lawyers, and regular blogger on this and other social topics.  Register here.


In case you missed it

New Zealand Elections

Call to lower voting age in New Zealand to 16 Waikato University academic Patrick Barrett argues New Zealand should lower the voting age to 16.

NZ spy agencies call for greater transparency on political donations The heads of the intelligence agencies also told MPs they support “more stringent” rules around disclosing donations but said a blanket ban on foreign money was not the answer.

Politicians must pick up pace on donations reform It’s clear that New Zealand’s laws governing political donations need change – but any overhaul before the 2020 election will require politicians to pick up the pace, Sam Sachdeva writes.

Jacinda Ardern describes $150,000 donation to National ‘outside spirit of the law’ Jacinda Ardern’s comments followed NZME’s revelation that National received the donation through a New Zealand-registered, but Chinese-owned company.

New Zealand transparency, integrity and accountability

China’s influence on campus chills free speech in Australia, New Zealand Chinese students poured into Australia and New Zealand in the hundreds of thousands over the past 20 years, paying sticker prices for university degrees that made higher education among both countries’ top export earners. Now, as a more-authoritarian China projects its influence deeper into the South Pacific, attempts by Chinese students and diplomats to interfere with anti-Beijing dissidents and stifle free speech on campuses pose an uncomfortable challenge for both U.S. allies. Washington Post

Ministry to analyse public OIA submissions and report back to Justice Minister Andrew Little

Tracking the data breach that gave crooks my credit card details Overseas crooks managed to secure the credit card data of my credit card, and my wife’s credit card, from a New Zealand business and tried to steal money from us.

SFO closes investigation into spy firm Thompson & Clark SFO director Julie Read said in a statement it had determined the “high evidential standard” for laying criminal charges had not been met.

Official information denied as government agencies illegally refuse OIA request transfers, document shows Kiwis are being denied access to information, because government agencies are illegally refusing to accept the transfer of Official Information Act (OIA) requests, a Justice Ministry document suggests.The document was one of 290 submissions about the OIA, which highlighted problems with delays, documents rendered meaningless by deletions, political interference and government agencies drowning under the sheer volume of information requests.

Luxury cars, cash, posh property seized in police bust

Parliamentary Budget Office

The parliamentary budget office should be just the beginning New Zealand Initiative

Independent Parliamentary Budget Office is a victory The Government’s decision to establish and independent Parliamentary Budget Office, outside of Treasury, is a taxpayer victory and will improve democracy, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Government keen to set up Parliamentary Budget Office, an independent watchdog to cost election policies, but National reject idea


A more-authoritarian China projects its influence deeper into the South Pacific, attempts by Chinese students and diplomats to interfere with anti-Beijing dissidents and stifle free speech on campuses pose an uncomfortable challenge for both U.S. allies. Washington Post

Transparency International Secretariat

Transparency International staff complain of bullying and harassment The Secretariat of the Berlin-based global body, Transparency International, is described by some staff as having a ‘toxic’ workplace culture silencing critical voices.

Transparency International statement on Secretariat staff wellbeing The global body of Berlin-based Transparency International, will work openly and honestly with staff and their representative body to review current practices, address all issues identified, and take action necessary to prevent them happening in future.


TINZ engages New Zealand and New Zealanders in a broad range of issues related to building stronger integrity systems to mitigate the impact of bribery and corruption. TINZ Directors, Members with Delegated Authority and staff provide subject matter expertise in the topic areas of interest.

TINZ Subject Matter Experts, current at the time of this newsletter publication, can be can be found at TINZ Team September 2019. To view by topic, visit the category page which lists TINZ topics and respective current subject matter experts.