Once a party is registered it has ongoing statutory requirements which must be met. In particular, new parties should note that all registered parties must by 30 April each year file with the Electoral Commission:
- an audited annual return of party donations and loans, and
- a statutory declaration under section 71A of the Electoral Act.
A party secretary must also:
- keep proper records of party expenses, donations and loans.
- ensure the Commission is notified if the party’s membership falls below 500 current financial members who are eligible to enrol at any time.
- notify the Commission of any change of auditor.
- provide the Commission with a copy of the membership rules within one month of any changes being adopted by the party.
- ensure there is a party secretary at all times and inform the Commission of any change to the party secretary’s contact details or when a new party secretary is appointed.
- file a statutory declaration with the Commission if any separate political parties become component parties of the party.
- authorise all advertisements that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging voters to vote for the party, including advertising published by candidates and others.
Audited annual return of donations and loans
All registered parties must file an annual return of donations and loans by 30 April each year. The return must be audited by the auditor appointed by the party. Newly registered parties should note that they must file an audited return even when they have not received any donations or entered into any loans and will be filing a nil return.
Donations and loans over $30,000
A return must be filed by a party secretary with the Commission within 10 working days of receipt whenever a party receives a donation that:
- exceeds $30,000, or
- when added to all the donations received from the same donor in the preceding 12 months exceeds $30,000.
Every registered political party that receives a loan exceeding $30,000 or series of loans from the same lender within the previous 12 months that exceeds $30,000 must provide a return to the Commission within 10 working days of receipt of the loan or the loan which takes the aggregate over $30,000.
Party expenses returns
After every general election, registered parties must submit an audited return of election and broadcasting expenses.
Annual section 71A statutory declaration
By 30 April each year registered parties are required to make a statutory declaration under section 71A of the Electoral Act. The declaration must:
- state that the party intends, at general elections -
- to submit a list of candidates under section 127, or
- to have one or more constituency candidates stand for the party or for a related political party, or
- both, and
- state whether the party has at least 500 current financial members who are eligible to enrol as electors.
As well as the declaration, the Commission also asks party secretaries to provide information about the processes and procedures they have in place to ensure party membership records are accurate, allowing them to make reliable statements concerning membership and to ensure that parties maintain an accurate membership total for the purposes of the Electoral Act.
Maintaining 500 current financial members eligible to enrol
The party secretary is responsible for ensuring that proper membership records are kept. In particular, the party secretary should ensure there are systems in place to ensure that:
- the party’s membership database clearly identifies those members fitting the definition of “current financial member eligible to enrol as an elector”
- the financial status of each member is accurately recorded
- there is a process by which to exclude members aged under 18 years from the count of eligible members
- there is a process by which members who are outside New Zealand can be identified as remaining eligible to enrol
- individuals are not counted twice as a member through, for instance, membership of two branches
- membership applications and renewals and associated fees are correctly processed and recorded
- the termination of membership (including expiry of membership, resignation or death of a member) is correctly recorded, and
- there are management or audit systems to ensure that any regionally/electorate managed membership systems/counts are reliably maintained.
The party secretary of a registered political party has a continuing obligation under the Electoral Act to notify the Commission if the number of current financial members of the party who are eligible to enrol falls below 500. If the number of current financial members fall below 500, the party secretary should inform the Commission at the earliest opportunity in writing.
The Electoral Act states that the Commission shall cancel the registration of any political party on being satisfied that the number of current financial members of the party who are eligible to enrol as electors has fallen below 500. For the purposes of exercising this power, the Commission may require a political party to supply a list of the current financial members.
Keeping proper records
Party secretaries must take all reasonable steps to keep records of all party election expenses, donations and loans from the point the party is registered. For the purposes of filing returns of expenses, donations and loans newly registered parties only have to disclose expenses, donations and loans made and received from the point at which the party was registered.
Party secretaries must keep invoices and records for all election expenses of $100 or more for three years after the election.
Parties need to have systems in place to record donations, expenses and loans and to manage and be alerted that aggregated donations and loans from the same person or company have exceeded $30,000 within a 12 month period, in order to be able to fulfil the disclosure requirements within 10 working days. Parties that have electorate branches need to have systems in place to ensure that party expenses incurred and party donations received at branch level are appropriately authorised and recorded.
Changes to the party secretary
A registered political party should have a person in post at all times to fulfil the responsibilities of the party secretary under the Electoral Act.
If the position of party secretary becomes vacant, the party secretary must ensure that, within five working days of the vacancy occurring:
- a new secretary is appointed, or
- a person is appointed to act in the position of secretary until a new secretary can be appointed.
If the position of party secretary is not filled, either permanently or with an interim replacement, the Commission may cancel the registration of the party. Parties are encouraged to contact the Commission as soon as possible if they encounter any issues with replacing their party secretary.
The outgoing party secretary may be required to provide the Commission with the name and contact details of the new party secretary as well as evidence (such as Board meeting minutes) of the change of party secretary.
The Commission will contact the new party secretary to confirm their appointment, contact details and provide them with information they may require for future compliance.
Party secretaries should regularly check the Register of Political Parties at elections.nz and notify the Commission if any of the information contained in the register needs updating.
Change of address or party secretary and promoter statements
The party secretary’s name and street address must be included in election advertisements promoted by the party. The address included in a party secretary’s promoter statement is usually the party headquarters.
Where there is a change of address or party secretary there is no need to change the content of promoter statements on items published or continuing to be published providing the promoter statement contains the current name and address of the party secretary that initiated the advertisement at the time of printing. Where changing a promoter statement is straightforward, for example through the addition of a small sticker, parties may still wish to do so to avoid complaints.