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More tricky - Cunliffe's role in $4m house purchase

The Herald on Sunday story summary:

The Labour leader dodged questions about helping his rich friend and donor buy an idyllic holiday home

You see, the Herald on Sunday asked  about the $4 million purchase. His response:

When the Herald on Sunday asked Cunliffe two weeks ago about the four-bedroom, 200sqm house at Ti Point, overlooking the Omaha holiday home of Prime Minister John Key, he said he had nothing to do with the sale.

Cunliffe said he had no beneficial interest in the property, and his wife Karen had simply played a legal role with the trustee company which bought the property.

If he was not telling the truth, Cunliffe said, “you can have my testicles for garters”.

So they clear impression he gave the Herald on Sunday was it had nothing to do with him, and his wife was simply acting as a lawyer with the sale.


Real estate agent Lorraine Mildon said Cunliffe had been involved in the purchase, and had visited the property.

Cunliffe returned to the property shortly before Waitangi Day last year, she said, on behalf of a friend who was in America.

“He didn’t buy it. His friend did. He came and looked at it on behalf of his friend but he didn’t sign the agreement.”

Neighbour Jan Haslam said she believed Cunliffe had been to visit the property. 

The real estate agent says Cunliffe was involved in the purchase and visited the property pre-sale.

Cunliffe said he first visited with Keenan, who wanted to buy the property, but the gate was locked. “We weren’t able to get on to the property.”

Keenan returned to the US, but Cunliffe went back to Ti Point with his wife and children to inspect the house.

So why did Cunliffe give the Herald on Sunday the impression the sale had nothing to do with him:

Cunliffe did not disclose his visits when the Herald on Sunday inquired about it on February 22. This weekend, he said he had checked his recording of the interview and he had truthfully answered questions about any beneficial ownership of the property. “If you had asked me whether I had visited the property, then my answer would have been yes,” Cunliffe said.

They asked him if he was involved in the sale and he said no. Most people would answer yes if they had been out to visit the property on behalf of the prospective owner. But once again, Cunliffe goes for the tricky response.

Let’s be clear. I don’t have a problem with an MP helping an old friend who is based overseas purchase a property. Nothing wrong with helping your friends. It does get murkier when the friend later becomes a personal donor, which is why disclosure requirements are so important.

The issue is Cunliffe’s response to the Herald on Sunday. His response shouldn’t have been to deny he had anything to do with the sale. It should have been “Yeah I helped Perry purchase it. He’s an old mate and was only in NZ for a few days, so I checked it out for him. It was great to be able to help him out, as that is what mates do for each other”

But he basically denied all knowledge of it, and only when the Herald on Sunday came back to him with testimony from the real estate agent did he admit he was involved, but then claimed he didn’t lie when he originally denied it because he interpreted the Herald on Sunday’s inquiries to be about whether he had a beneficial interest in the property, rather than any involvement.

This is exactly what people mean when they talk about being tricky.

Political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.

Comments and questions

I swear, the boy finds it so hard to grasp the truth -- that it's easier to hold on to an eel coated in grease with your own hands smothered in lanolin.

You and the Herald sound desperate to find a counter-scandal to Key's anonymous donations passed through a benefit dinner. This isn't it.

Cunliffe didn't abuse his position or use government or Labour Party resources to benefit someone. He looked at a house on behalf of a friend and a client of his wife's. He has no financial interest in the property, save the fees his wife would have charged.

If disclosure is so important, why aren't you talking about the National party fundraiser that earned ten times Cunliffe's hidden leadership donations?

This stuff is one of the reasons I cancelled my NBR sub. This isn't news, and it's not opinion. It's cheap hackery and partisan spin.

There is no scandal in raising donations through dinner functions with a PM as guest speaker. All parties do it - even the Labour party. It is a legitimate form of fund raising.

What David Cunliffe has difficulty with is telling the truth.

I agree wholeheartedly. Whale is now abusing the English language to an extent that splitting hairs has become a hairstyle for himself. He should move on to more important things and be more transparent about being a National Party propagandist and stop pretending to be a journalist.

Lot of talk about the house, but Keenan purchased 20ha @ $200k / ha , the old bungalow on the property was thrown in for nothing

This is getting ridiculous.
I am not a Cunliffe fan but surely he can look at a house for a friend without having to disclose it.
Who would want to be a politician with all this disclosure nonsense going on?
Mind you it was implemented by Labour.

No need to disclose at all, but when asked by the media about it he tried to hide it. It just looks stupid when he clearly was involved helping a friend, if your default position is to hide stuff (especially innocent stuff) then why would anyone trust you on important matters?

So David Cunliffe has exposed what he truly is - a good friend! SHOCK HORROR!! Unless he personally owned a share in the property, or received money to look at it or personally ordered and paid for a building report or actually signed the sale agreement, how can anyone claim he was "involved" in the sale? You are all clutching at straws - it won't work, John Key has been exposed for the hypocrite and liar that some of us always knew he was! Better Luck Next Time, Boys!!

Perhaps I'm a bit slow today, but how does an article claiming that Cunliffe has (yet again) been a bit economical with the truth somehow show that Key is a 'hypocrite and liar'? Key neither wrote nor is mentioned in the above article, so attempting to infer anything about him from it must involve a new and particularly powerful form of telepathy.

If I had visited the house and was asked if I was just involved in the sale I would have said no.

Really? I would have bragged to all and sundry about being asked my opinion of a four million dollar house, and having friends who could afford it.

David, I feel you are making a mountain of a wee mole hill here.

So where was the OIO application on this purchase? Was it avoided by carefully structuring using a trust (like is being done on NZ dairy farms to escape OIO scrutiny).

Can't seem to find one on the summaries on the OIO website, is it not hypocritical that Cunliffe and Labour want to ban/limit sale of land to overseas buyers yet his wife is structuring around the requirements?

Buyer is an NZ citizen I think?

$5 million is the threshold for Overseas Investment Office approval, unless "sensitive land" is involved.

Sensitive land is defined as 5ha or more of non-urban land. The property in question is 19ha.

Even if the land was classified as "non-urban" by, it is "sensitive" if it includes foreshore - which I am not sure if it does (or if the Queens chain is in place).

so how many holiday homes dose John Key own 1 at ti point 1 in Hawaii 1 at milford sound

yea but Key didn't deny his involvement, or ownership. 100% transparent.

I think this is a weak attack and best forgotten quickly.

No way do I want a Lab-Green government - but this is getting a bit stupid.

People are missing the point of this article. The house issue is a non-event. It's boring and the Herald would have realised it was a dead end storey if the true facts were initially disclosed.

This article is a small part in building an overall personality profile of DC, how he thinks, how he reacts and communicates with the public......all politicians have an agenda and are full of bull but a tricky narcissist is a real big turn-off for most people.

OK so its established that Cunliffe talks out the side of his mouth and is slippery to say the least. Enough though, lets get to a few real issues.

But that is the real issue.

Please keep him as leader of the Labour Party - that will ensure National will win the next election