Will Brendan drop the hammer?

Brendan Horan (TV3)
The NZ Racing website still lists Winston Peters as a member of the Bellazeel syndicate. It says the horse last raced in January

KeallHauled

Chris Keall

WINSTON'S HORROR 2014

Jan 15: An investigation clears list MP Brendan Horan of any wrongdoing in the execution of his late mother's estate. Mr Horan was expelled from NZ First by Winston Peters after allegations emerged in December 2012. 

Feb 12: Prime Minister John Key says Peters has had three secret visits with Kim Dotcom. Peters says a report on Key's claim is a "crock of crap". 

Feb 13: Kim Dotcom confirms he has met with Peters on three occasions. Peters concedes the pair did meet, but says the PM was claiming three visits in the past year, when in fact the three visits were over a two-year period.

Feb 22: Peters says during his state-of-the-nation speech,  “While you’re here media, let me tell you something, Huka Lodge has just been sold to the Chinese … and I want you to go and ask John Key what role you had in this? Was it not true, Mr Key, that you assured them `there won’t be a problem, we’ll smooth it out for you’.” The Office of Overseas Investment says there has been no application to buy property. It emerges that the Lodge's long-time owner is already a non-NZ resident, albeit Dutch rather than Chinese.

May 12: After promising new information that will see Judith Collins "gone by Monday," a slurring Peters uses Question Time to accuse the Justice Minister of a technical breach of her obligations under to the Register of MPs' Pecuniary Interests. The accusation falls flat

May 14: Horan says Peters failed to declare a financial interest in racehorse Bellazeel to the MPs' Register.


Affable TVNZ presenter turned failed MP Brendan Horan could hold the country's fate in his hands — or at least the outcome of the next election.

Mr Horan tells NBR he's still trying to decide whether to push ahead with a complaint over Winston Peters' apparent failure to disclose his financial interest in racehorse Bellazeel.

Having called for Judith Collins's head for failing to fully comply with her obligations under the Register of MPs' Pecuniary Interests, it would be untenable for Mr Peters to stay on if  found to have committed the same offence (in reality, of course, Mr Peters would claim conspiracy or some other excuse, but the embarrassment and awkwardness could well push his party under the 5% threshold).

Registrar Sir Maarten Wevers, who oversees the registry of MP's financial interests, says he cannot look into the matter of his own account. Standing Orders require a formal complaint to be made by an MP.

And Mr Horan is the only one likely to lay the potentially career-ending complaint.

Other parties are too wary that Winston Peters could play a kingmaker role after the next election. When it come down to it, even National — which has been so mocking over the NZ First leader's recent fumbles — won't rule out holding its nose and working with NZ First. Such is life under MMP where, even with its huge lead and the opposition flailing, the most upbeat poll gives National only a razor thin majority if an election was held tomorrow. (Of course, there are policy differences between National and NZ First. But the party that's flexible enough to put Kiwi vs iwi billboards behind it ally with the Maori Party could easily overcome NZ First's objection to asset sales. Get Winston's support on confidence and supply and give him a ministerial portfolio outside cabinet and bob's your uncle).

So: it come down to Brendan.

Worth a nosey
And on the face of things, there's a pretty good case for Sir Maarten to at least have a poke around.

Mr Peters has defended his non-disclosure, saying his interest in the racehorse was a small, short-term syndicated lease, purchased in a charity auction in 2008. The NZ First leader says the lease has since expired and Bellazeel — sired by famous racehorse Zabeel — is no longer running.

According to TVNZ's report, Mr Peters told reporters earlier this week, "I did have an ownership for a short time but it's been out to pasture for years."

Yet NZ Racing records that Bellazeel raced as recently as January. 

In fact, the five-year-old bay mare — sired by the famous Zabeel — has had quite a chipper time of it over the past few months, with two wins and a third from seven starts in the 2013/14 season, earning prize-money of $20,175.

In all, Bellazeel has raced 15 times and won three races, winning $31,575.

And Mr Peters has been fuzzy on timing, his exit from the syndicate is presumably a recent development; NZ Racing still lists him as a co-owner.

What's holding him back?
So what's stopping Mr Horan pushing ahead with a complaint?

The ex-NZ First list MP wants to form his own party, New Zealand Independent Coalition, and this is just the sort of crusade that would give him a shot.

On Thursday, it seems the independent MP over-reached.

He went on Radio NZ and, in a live interview, made new accusations against Mr Peters regarding consultants and spending. 

Mr Peters turned his lawyers on RNZ.

The state broadcaster posted an apology to its website the same day, which it also read out multiple times on air.

Having taken his attack a step too far, Mr Horan now seems to have over-compensated in the other direction.

Will he remained cowered, and let his his Bellazeel accusation wither?

Or will he seize back the initiative, and reanimate his political career by laying a complaint with Sir Maarten?

NBR is giving him the weekend to gather his thoughts, then we're going to check back in Monday morning.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

What do you think? Should Horan press ahead with a Parliamentary complaint about Peters' failure to declare his interest in a racehorse syndicate?  Click here to vote in our subscriber-only Business Pulse poll.

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