2 Mar 2015

Fundraising 'wake-up call' for Labour

7:03 pm on 2 March 2015

The Labour Party says it needs to become as slick as National in sourcing donations if it wants to be in Government.

Labour's David Cunliffe, left, and National leader John Key.

Labour's then-leader David Cunliffe and National leader John Key in a leaders' debate in the run-up to last year's election. Photo: TV3

Last year National's 64 electorate candidates raised more than $1.2 million, more than double the efforts of Labour's candidates.

The Electoral Commission has published the 2014 candidate returns, which detail donations made to candidates, along with their election campaign spending.

The leader of the Mana Movement, Hone Harawira, who lost Te Tai Tokerau to Labour's Kelvin Davis, was the best funded candidate.

He received $105,000 in donations, including $80,000 from the Kim Dotcom-backed Internet Party.

New Labour MP Stuart Nash was the next biggest recipient of donations, declaring he received $99,000 last year.

He said that was the key to his success in winning the Napier electorate - and in being the only candidate to win a seat back from National.

"The majority of the money actually went on full page ads in our community weekly and Napier mail," he said.

Labour Party candidate Stuart Nash.

Labour Party MP Stuart Nash. Photo: SUPPLIED

Mr Nash said money was not the only thing needed to run a successful campaign but it was incredibly important.

"Would I have won without that level of money and level of support? Possibly. But this certainly made it a lot easier because we were able to build a profile."

In total, Labour's 71 candidates raised just over $604,000 in donations - less than half that of National's candidates.

The party's president Nigel Haworth said the lack of donations compared with National was telling in the election result - which delivered Labour its worst defeat under MMP.

"It says something about the effectiveness of the National's Party apparatus. It also reflects that they are connected with the wealthier sectors of New Zealand and so their ease of gathering funding is easier than ours."

"But it is a wake-up call for us in terms of the need to improve our fundraising," he said.

Mr Haworth said the party had to seriously start looking at building relationships with high net-worth individuals and the business community.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow was downplaying the significance of the candidate donations in the election result.

"I'm not sure there's a direct correlation - I think the largest amount of money raised was by somebody who didn't get elected," he said.

Mr Goodfellow said it came down to the way those campaigns were run and what policies people were supporting.

But Mr Goodfellow admitted money did talk.

"It was pretty obvious that we had a very strong hoardings campaign with direct mail and pamphlet drops and you can't do that without money and without volunteers."

Party donations returns for last year have not yet been released by the Electoral Commission.

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