LATEST: UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne was offered thousands of dollars from a wealthy businessman after agreeing to oppose international fishing restrictions.
The offer was made on behalf of businessman Philip Vela - whose family owns one of New Zealand's largest privately-owned fishing companies.
The millionaire was also advised that giving Mr Dunne a $5000 donation could lead to the MP's help with a tax issue the Vela company faced and for "access" to a parliamentary select committee.
Private papers obtained by The Dominion Post say Mr Dunne agreed to raise United Nations plans to protect fishing stocks with a select committee chairman in August 1999.
Within days of a meeting with former National MP Ross Meurant, who also brokered donations from Mr Vela to NZ First, Mr Dunne issued a press release opposing parts of the UN fishing plan.
Six days later Mr Meurant recommended that Mr Vela donate $5000 to Mr Dunne's party to recognise his "assistance", the documents show.
By mid-October 1999, Mr Meurant told Mr Dunne "donation on way", the papers show.
Mr Dunne confirmed yesterday that he received a donation from the Vela family that was less than the $10,000 threshold requiring the money to be declared to electoral officials.
The donation took place in 1999 or 2002 - but UnitedFuture "have never been in the business of selling votes for policy", Mr Dunne said.
On Saturday, The Dominion Post revealed Mr Meurant, who had worked for Mr Vela, brokered donations to NZ First and later worked as an adviser to party leader Winston Peters.
While there, Mr Meurant offered Mr Vela the opportunity to help frame friendly policy in areas in which Mr Vela has business interests.
Mr Meurant wrote a report for Mr Vela at the end of September 1999 - two months out from the general election - in which he suggested donating $5000 to Mr Dunne's party.
The report said: "In view of Dunne's assistance with the UN charter issue and the good relationship I have with him ... I believe there is merit in making good the advice you allowed me to give him last [time] Dunne and I met - and that a donation would be made.
"I suggest $5000. Payable United New Zealand Political Party Campaign Fund."
Mr Meurant told Mr Vela: "I think Dunne is worth it. He will be a key actor in the finance select committee - and I believe the donation will have the effect of moderating opposition he [Mr Dunne] may have previously displayed toward IRD- related issues involving Vela Group."
Mr Dunne has served for the past three years as revenue minister, which includes overseeing the tax department.
Mr Meurant told Mr Vela in the September report that National's own polling suggested it would not win the 1999 election. Its polling also correctly predicted that Mr Dunne was expected to win his electorate, and that ACT leader Richard Prebble would lose Wellington Central.
Mr Meurant viewed Mr Dunne as "critical" for having access to Parliament's finance select committee when he suggested the $5000 donation.
"If ACT don't get in, access to the finance [select] committee through Dunne will be critical," the September report said.
The papers show that Mr Meurant was lobbying some MPs to help stop New Zealand ratifying the UN fish stocks plan.
He contacted NZ First on August 11, 1999 and arranged for NZ First MP Robyn McDonald, the party's representative on the primary production select committee, to oppose the ratification.
The following day Mr Meurant had a meeting with Mr Dunne. According to a report Mr Meurant prepared for Mr Vela, Mr Dunne agreed to speak with the select committee chairman and the senior clerk of the select committee about the UN issue.
On August 16, 1999 Mr Dunne issued a press release supporting the Seafood Industry Council's concerns over ratifying the UN legislation because Kiwi fishing boats would face tougher flagging restrictions than foreign vessels.
Mr Dunne called on the Government to "think again" before the bill was reported back to Parliament.
Mr Dunne said yesterday he could not recall putting out a press release calling for a change to the UN fish stocks legislation, neither could he recall ever speaking to Mr Meurant about fishing legislation. "We've never been in the business of selling votes for policy."
Mr Dunne did remember being chairman of a finance and expenditure committee inquiry into the Inland Revenue Department and that the Vela family made submissions to the inquiry.
But he said he was "satisfied I have never made any statement to the Velas in relation to a tax problem".
Speaking on Radio New Zealand today Mr Dunne said there was no connection between the donation and party policy.
"Absolutely not we don't do that sort of business."
He accused the newspaper of beating up the story.
Mr Dunne said he did meet Mr Meurant about the fishing matters and he had issued a statement supporting the Seafood Industry Council's position.
"Some time later I was advised by Mr Meurant that a donation was being made to United. End of story," he told RNZ.
No money was mentioned: "I don't do those sort of deals. Had it been put to me in those sorts of terms the meeting would have proceeded no further."
Mr Dunne said Mr Meurant was a lobbyist writing to a client.
"This is really a lobbyist gilding the lily as far as reporting back to his masters is concerned. My conscience is absolutely clear."
* In March 1999 at a United Nations meeting in Rome, representatives from 120 countries expressed concern about over-fishing of the world's major marine resources.
* It said there were too many fishing boats with too much harvesting power, which was leading to fewer fish in the sea for reproduction.
* The UN urged countries to limit existing fishing levels and progressively reduce them.
* In response, the Government drafted a bill that allowed for penalties for over-fishing. The fishing industry fiercely opposed the measures.
* The Fisheries Amendment (No 3) Bill became law under urgency in September 1999.