In October 2014, New Zealand’s Scenic Hotel Group announced it had “secured” the Matavai Resort in Niue.
The Niue Tourism Property Trust, whose trustees are appointed by Mr McCully, carried out what the minister said was a fully commercial process to find a company to run the resort.
The month before, Mr Hagaman, Scenic Hotel Group’s founder, had donated $101,000 to the National Party, making him National’s biggest living financial donor in 2014. Only a man who had died and left his estate to National gave more.
But Mr McCully said there was no link between the contract and the donation.
Scenic Hotel managing director Brendan Taylor said Mr Hagaman didn’t know the company was in the running for the Matavai Resort contract.
“Earl wasn’t actually even aware that we were negotiating in Niue, because basically that was me and I had it all in-house until such time that we knew we had been awarded the contract.
I did get [Earl’s wife] Lani Hagaman to sign the contract because I wasn’t actually available to do it, but apart from that Earl really had no involvement in Niue whatsoever.
His donation is something he did purely from a personal situation, and basically the hotel company and what Earl does from a personal point of view we kind of keep separate.”
Mr Key, speaking in China, said today that, while he hasn’t followed the issue closely, he’s not at all concerned.
“People make political donations and that’s well and truly disclosed.
“But actually Scenic Hotels have been operators for a very long period of time, that’s a management contract from what I can see in Niue – there’s nothing untoward there.”
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