National heir apparent Simon Bridges has sent a strong message to the party about his popularity amongst deep-pocketed supporters after hauling in $120,000 in donations.
This is on the back of the Tauranga MP hosting the National Party caucus retreat in his hometown during the week.
Last week, candidates declared donations of $11.4 million. National candidates led the way with $5.2m between them, while their Labour opponents attracted $4m.
Simon received twice as much in donations as any other candidate in New Zealand.
He says his donation haul is a reflection of how hard he worked and lobbied for his home turf. "You know, sausage sizzles and Christmas cake raffles don’t cut it any more for fundraising."
"The value that [the community has] gotten out of the last government, that they have put their money where their mouth is. I appreciate that and I appreciate that they place that value in me."
Candidates could only spend a maximum of $26,200 on campaigning. The money raised would be put to good use, he says.
He says some of the money was funnelled back to the party, however some of it will be used over the next three years to support National’s activities in the region.
Tauranga being one of the fastest growing electorates in the country, sustainable development is a key issue for the electorate, according to Simon.
That’s why he believes businessmen like Paul Adams support him.
"He is a prominent Tauranga business identity and he understood what National was doing and what I was doing locally."
Companies connected to Bay of Plenty rich-lister Paul Adams, who last year had an estimated worth of $135 million, donated $31,000 to Simon to contest the safe Tauranga seat, and $50,000 to the National Party. Regional roading concerns were top of mind for Paul when he made his decision to donate.
"As the Minister of Transport we wanted to make sure he was doing his bit for our region," says Paul. "We’ve got another government now so we’ve got to start working on other people."
Family-owned fishery company Talley’s Group was the second highest donor, funding candidates from three different political parties.
In total the company doled out $49,000 to 10 politicians. New Zealand First MP Shane Jones was the biggest winner, getting $10,000 from Talley’s.
When called on Saturday, Sir Peter Talley said he was not interested in talking about the donations.
The company gave $5000 a piece to National’s Amy Adams, Sarah Dowie, Paula Bennett, Todd McClay, Stuart Smith, Maureen Pugh and Nikki Kaye, while Labour’s Rino Tirikatene and New Zealand First’s Fletcher Tabuteau picked up $2000 each.
It was the first donation Amy Adams had ever received from the company. "They have some facilities in my area," she gave as the reason for the money.
It was not Talley’s first donation to Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith. He says Talley’s motivation for the donation was due to having businesses in his electorate.
Former MP and United Future leader Peter Dunne downplays the influence of donors on politicians, saying New Zealand is still a place where "sausage sizzles, barbecues and those sort of things are still tried and true fundraising methods".
However, Peter says the role of donations raises the question of whether elections should be entirely state-funded, something which he by no means agreed with: "to go out and solicit that funding in support of their ideas is appropriate with proper disclosure laws which I think we’ve got at the moment."