Owen Glenn's political return

Sir Owen Glenn gives evidence to Parliament's privileges committee in 2008 regarding a donation he made to NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo: Marty Melville/Getty Images.

Kiwi rich-lister Sir Owen Glenn has made a return to the political arena, donating $50,000 to both National and Labour days out from the election.

Glenn also offered NZ First $10,000, despite leader Winston Peters once being censured by Parliament after failing to declare a donation made by Glenn. NZ First declined the offer.

In an interview with Newsroom, the businessman also revealed he has received some positive news in his fight against liver cancer.

The Electoral Commission’s public list of party donations over $30,000 shows Glenn’s company Go Bloodstock New Zealand Limited donated $50,000 to National on September 21.

Speaking to Newsroom from Sydney, Glenn said there was no hidden agenda and he had made equal donations to both National and Labour to give them “a bit of elbow room to pay their bills”.

“I just thought both political parties frankly just don’t get enough support...to present their case, and I think it’s a little bit difficult to choose between them frankly - they’re both doing an adequate job," Glenn said.

“I made a donation to both of them to say good luck, and if there’s frankly anything I can do in the future I’d love to do it.”

Glenn’s donations have a history of attracting attention. He was in the spotlight in the lead-up to the 2008 election over a $100,000 donation made to Peters’ legal fund in 2005.

Peters denied knowing about the donation, but Glenn presented email and phone records to Parliament’s privileges committee suggesting the NZ First leader had spoken to him about the money.

“Oh mate, I haven’t seen or spoken to [Winston] for eight years - I don’t think he misses me. I’m too busy mate, I’ve got too much to do.”

Peters was subsequently censured by MPs after the committee decided he had knowingly misled Parliament by not declaring the donation.

The NZ First leader later referred to concerns over the Glenn donations and others as “the most vicious character assassination and lies seen in any campaign this country has ever witnessed”.

Despite that, Glenn said he had offered $10,000 to NZ First for this election - although he was unsure whether the party had accepted it.

“Like everybody else I thought they’d be the kingmaker - it’s just in ratio to who they were and their share of the market and all that stuff.”

As for his relationship with Peters: “Oh mate, I haven’t seen or spoken to him for eight years - I don’t think he misses me. I’m too busy mate, I’ve got too much to do.”

Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton confirmed the party had received $50,000 from Go Bloodstock. Kirton said Labour did not have any reservations about accepting the donation, particularly given it was going to both major parties.

“I think it’s all ancient history now, we’re really comfortable with it.”

In a written statement, National Party president Peter Goodfellow did not address Glenn’s donation but said the party “relies on the generous support of its members and supporters”.

“Many New Zealand businesses donate to a range of political parties, and we welcome their support.”

A spokeswoman for Peters confirmed Glenn had offered to make a donation, but the party had declined.

'They have their say, I do what I want'

Glenn has not been far from the headlines over the years.

In July, he told TVNZ he had claimed a $220 million settlement in a legal battle with Warriors owner Eric Watson.

An inquiry Glenn launched into domestic violence in 2012 ran into problems. At least 15 people resigned from the inquiry over concerns about its integrity, after it was revealed Glenn had pleaded no contest to charges of physically abusing a woman in Hawaii in 2002 - a case he called “pure fraud”.

In 2014, Glenn voluntarily deregistered his charitable trust following allegations of irregular payments for a thoroughbred racehorse made by the charity.

Glenn said he was not worried by the criticism he had received, and was continuing to make charitable donations - including a $5m pledge towards creating a medical school in Waikato.

“If I took it to heart I’d wonder if my country really liked me, but that doesn’t worry me either - they have their say and I do what I want," he said.

“I do all sorts of things nobody knows about. It doesn’t worry me, people should have better things to do with their time - what do they do to help their country?”

He had retired from his business, and was focussing on property investments and supporting businesses that needed financial, management or marketing support.

He was also setting up what he called HELPS (Health Education Love Protection and Spirituality): “It’s a bit like the Peace Corps, I’m setting up candidates that I’m going to train and send overseas to help in India, China, South East Asia, Pacific Islands and all.”

“I could do a lot of good, but if New Zealand doesn’t want me, that’s OK - that doesn’t mean I don’t want it.”

Glenn revealed in 2016 that he was fighting liver cancer, but said he had received some positive news.

“In fact, today [Tuesday] I had a CAT scan and it was clear, so that’s good news - I’m very happy with that...

“I’m 77 going on 78. I’ve had a good innings you know - I’m not planning to die, but if the Good Lord taps me on the shoulder, I’m ready.”

As for any deeper involvement in New Zealand politics, Glenn said he was not particularly interested.

“I find a lot of the issues are really puerile and not really of substance. We should be worrying about paying back the debt and all sorts of major issues like that, not penny ante stuff that goes on - it’s below our intellectual integrity.”

However, there was one role that would appeal, he said.

“If I had a role to play it would probably be in some sort of trade development if New Zealand wanted me - I’ve been an international person all my life, I’ve lived all over the place -- London, the States, the Far East.

“I could do a lot of good, but if New Zealand doesn’t want me, that’s OK - that doesn’t mean I don’t want it.”