'Anti-separatist' campaign launched against 'Maori favouritism' ahead of 2017 election
A new "anti-separatism" campaign fronted by former National Party leader Don Brash has been launched to pressure politicians into opposing preferential treatment of Maori.
The campaign group is running a number of newspaper ads calling for an end to separatism and race-based laws - and will consider donating to any parties willing to "commit strongly to a colour-blind state"
The campaign, Hobson's Pledge, is named after the first governor of New Zealand, Captain William Hobson, and his statement upon signing the Treaty of Waitangi that "we are now one people".
The campaign says it wants to "arrest a decline into irreversible separatism" by ending race-based structures and co-governance models, but claims "we are not in any sense anti-Maori".
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Brash, anti-MMP campaigner Peter Shirtcliffe and Canterbury University law lecturer David Round are among the group's members.
Brash said the catalyst for the campaign was a number of government policies which would "create a constitutional preference for those with a Maori ancestor", such as proposed changes to the Resource Management Act to require iwi involvement.
"I'm not trying to win another election - I'm out of politics - but I want to avoid New Zealand drifting further into a racially-based society."
The Treaty of Waitangi was not based on "some kind of ongoing partnership between two different races", but the idea of New Zealand as one people.
Brash said the campaign had paid for newspaper ads, calling for "an end to separatism", which would run over the next fortnight.
"If funds permit", it would also make donations to any political parties that were willing to "commit strongly to a colour-blind state".
He would not reveal how much money the campaign had at its disposal, but said "about 20 or 30" people had donated to the cause and he hoped others would follow.
"We're hoping that there are a lot more New Zealanders who say, 'Look, this is something I care about deeply and finally there's an organisation expressing the view that I have long held'."
Brash believed there were "a large number of people who agree with our position but have been intimidated, I guess is the right word, by people accusing them of racism".
"We're saying, look, how can it possibly be racist to argue that every New Zealander, irrespective of their ancestry, should have the same legal rights?"
The National-led government had betrayed its principles and promises to end separatism since gaining power, he said.
Government minister Steven Joyce said the campaign was "part of democracy".
However, he did not believe the issue of separatism would have the same resonance as a decade ago, saying "a lot of water's flowed under the bridge in that time".
"I just think that actually most New Zealanders recognise they have a Prime Minister who's actually very even-handed on this sort of stuff and very careful to respect everybody's rights and interests."