Big-money backers for a campaign to force a race-based referendum at the next general election are emerging.
Advertising guru John Ansell says his "Colour Blind" campaign to remove special "privileges" for Maori is gaining momentum after a 'tidal wave of overwhelming positive interest".
Ansell was behind the 2005 Iwi/ Kiwi election billboards, and has proposed a $2 million advertising campaign to expose what he believes is the 'opportunistic exploitation of billions of dollars by Maori'.
He says the campaign will create public support for a citizens' initiated referendum asking: Should New Zealand be a "colour-blind" state with no racial policies, programmes, or representation of any kind? Support for the campaign has begun to translate into funding.
Although currently 'nowhere near' his $2 million goal, Ansell has seen dozens of donations to the cause.
'I haven't approached the rich folk yet, but I have seen donations of $20 and $50, some in the thousands, and one man gave $25,000,' he said.
That man was retired businessman and former Napier city councillor John Harrison, who believes Ansell is addressing a problem politicians won't deal with.
'He is saying things the majority are too scared to,' Harrison said. 'The current Government seems to kow-tow to everything.'
Ansell has also received an unspecified donation from Invercargill businessman Louis Crimp, who is well known for his anti- Maori views and was ACT's largest financial backer at the last election.
He said then he supported its policy of removing special treatment for Maori. 'I'm happy to have his support, and to have his money,' Ansell said.
Support was also coming from the Maori community, with Hari Rapata, a descendant of Ngati Maniapoto chief Rewi Maniapoto, endorsing the campaign because Maori integrity depended on a unified New Zealand. 'Maori need to no longer be seen as statistics. You get stigmatised by that. A unified New Zealand will change the nature of New Zealand for the better. We won't be put in boxes.'
While Rapata distanced himself from what he called Ansell's 'childish' revision of New Zealand history, he was still contemplating donating. But others doubt whether Ansell has the political standing to create the momentum needed to force a referendum.
Political commentator Chris Trotter says while there is a huge constituency for the ideas Ansell is articulating, he doesn't have the power to carry out his promise.
He said Don Brash's 2005 Orewa speech, which saw National's polling jump a record 17 per cent, illustrated the political potential for race-based policy in New Zealand. But without the power to act on his campaign, Ansell was unlikely to get the 300,000 signatures required to initiate a referendum.
'The problem for people like him, is even though he's an extremely good propagandist, he's not in Parliament, and he'll never be prime minister,' Trotter said.
He believed the popularity of Prime Minister John Key and National had quietened race-based policy, but if the Government was suffering in the polls at election time the race card might find its way back. 'Key has a different approach but that doesn't mean the sentiments that fuelled National's 2004 and 2005 success have gone away.'
- © Fairfax NZ News
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