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HomeNew ZealandBillionaire Graeme Hart big backer of Wayne Brown's election

Billionaire Graeme Hart big backer of Wayne Brown’s election

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By Todd Niall of Stuff

(AUSTRALIA OUT) Graeme Hart from Burns Philp, 22 July 2004. AFR NEWS Picture by TANYA LAKE (Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images)

The Hart-owned Rank Group made the biggest individual donation of $58,265 to the Brown campaign.
Photo: Fairfax Media via Getty Images

New Zealand’s richest man, billionaire Graeme Hart, was behind the biggest single donation to Auckland mayor Wayne Brown’s winning $470,000 election campaign.

The Hart-owned Rank Group made the biggest individual donation of $58,265 to the Brown campaign, according to the mayor’s statutory declaration of donations and expenses.

According to Bloomberg, Hart is one of the 200 richest people in the world, worth about US$10.9 billion ($NZ17b).

Hart, who made his vast fortune in packaging, is no stranger to political donations, having previously given money to the National Party, New Zealand First and the Act Party.

Hart has also donated aid to Tonga this year after a devastating tsunami triggered by a massive underwater volcano on 15 January, and $10 million to the University of Otago.

However, the biggest combined contribution came in four instalments, totalling $86,825, from IEF Limited (International Education Fund) – an immigration advisory firm with offices in Auckland, Macau and Hong Kong; $22,425 of that was described as being “in kind”.

Auckland Construction Group Limited, chipped in $34,500, with the biggest donation in the name of an individual being $26,009 from Andrew Ritchie, the former part-owner of bus company Ritchies Coachlines.

Property investor Centuria Capital contributed $15,000 to Brown’s fund-raised total of $310,150.

The gap between the amount spent, and the sum donated, suggests Brown may himself have covered the $159,798 shortfall.

Brown won the election comfortably, gaining 181,810 votes – 57,000 ahead of Labour and Greens-endorsed Efeso Collins, to succeed Phil Goff who retired after two terms.

Efeso Collins and Wayne Brown

Wayne Brown comfortably beat his main rival, Efeso Collins.
Photo: RNZ

Brown’s is so far the only major mayoral candidate declaration filed with the Electoral Officer, ahead of the end-of-Friday deadline.

He had openly talked during the campaign of expecting to spend around $500,000 on his bid to become mayor.

The breakdown of how Brown spent his $470,000, shows the biggest share went to media company NZME, owner of The New Zealand Herald and talkback radio station Newstalk ZB, where $163,231 was spent.

Billboards accounted for $113,968, with a further $80,339 spent advertising on TVNZ.

Brown spent nearly $18,000 with Stuff in advertising.

The people behind Brown’s biggest backer, IEF, appear to be the company’s two owners, Robson Liang and Mandy Jianmin Yan Liang.

Auckland Construction Group is owned by entities controlled by its two shareholders, Kongquan Tang and Song Zha.

Centuria is listed as having four directors, New Zealand-based Bryce Robert Barnett and Mark Edward Francis, and Australian-based Jason Christopher Huljich and John Edward McBain.

At the other end of the campaign spending scale, the run by 2013 mayoral runner-up John Palino, now based in Florida, showed no donations and no spending, other than his $200 nomination fee.

This story first appeared on Stuff’s website.

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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