Conservatives introduce Nelson candidate John Green, 81

OLD HEAD: The Conservative Party Nelson's 81-year-old candidate John Green.
OLD HEAD: The Conservative Party Nelson's 81-year-old candidate John Green.

Speaking to a full house of mostly middle-aged or elderly people in Nelson, Conservative Party leader Colin Craig introduced the man he wants to be their MP - 81-year-old John Green.

Green, the Conservatives' candidate for Nelson, is a retired orchardist. The party's West Coast-Tasman candidate is Greymouth drug and alcohol counsellor Claire Holley.

The crowd at the election meeting last night was predominantly middle-aged or elderly and there was no heckling.

ON THE TRAIL: Conservative Party leader Colin Craig spoke to a full house at the Nelson Suburban Club last night.
ON THE TRAIL: Conservative Party leader Colin Craig spoke to a full house at the Nelson Suburban Club last night.

Craig promised to push for binding citizen initiated referendums if he got into Parliament.

More than 100 people crammed into a function room at the Suburban Club in Tahunanui, equal to the number who heard Labour leader David Cunliffe in the same venue at a Grey Power public meeting on Monday afternoon and at a Labour meeting in the city that night.

They heard Craig - who described himself as "always brutally honest" - lay out the Conservatives' four key policy platforms and then take a range of questions.

In a 30-minute speech Craig focused on referendums, "one law for all New Zealanders", law and order, and tax.

Referendums with a clear majority should be binding, he said.

"I don't think it's OK for the Government to ignore the people. They have forgotten, we employ them."

Referendums had only been held on average once every four years, "but when we decide to do it, it has to count".

This was the party's No 1 goal, Craig said.

New Zealanders should be under one law and not "segregated on the basis of race".

"Apparently saying that we want to remove segregation is racist to some people. Absolute nonsense."

The people of New Zealand did not want Maori spirituality written into law.

"I know quite a few Maori and none of them buy into it. But we have an issue where we are writing those sorts of laws. We are opposing that - if we have to, we'll take it to court."

The party also wanted the Maori seats abolished.

"We need to embrace the idea in this country that we play together, we work together and we vote together. I believe that's the basis on which to build a great nation."

He was against early release of prisoners and did not believe they should "sit around" when they could be working.

The Government took too much tax. "What was the big achievement of the current Government last term? Breaking its promise on GST? Selling state assets so that we don't have that income coming in off those very good income earners?"

The Conservatives believed in a tax cut at the bottom end.

"I benefited from the tax cut at the top end but frankly, I wasn't the one that needed the help. There are people out there who are working 40 hours a week and then going out and working a second and third job to make life work for them financially. Those are the people that needed a tax cut."

Craig said the party's five-week campaign in 2011 produced 87,500 votes, an "amazing" result. It needed 120,000 to get into Parliament. "That's very doable".

During a half-hour question time, he said the lot of Maori in New Zealand hadn't improved after nearly 40 years of the Waitangi Tribunal.

"They are actually far worse off than they were. If we asked the people of New Zealand in a binding referendum whether or not the Waitangi Tribunal should be shut down, there would be one overwhelming answer, and that would be yes."

He was in favour of using New Zealand's resources, he said.

"If you think that all the gold on the West Coast should stay there forever, bless. I have a slightly different view - if you dig hole in the ground and plant a tree you're a Greenie. If you dig a big hole in the ground, take the gold out and plant a native forest, apparently you're an eco-terrorist."

Asked about the party list, he said he was "under strict secrecy" but it would be announced soon.

"It is a fantastic list of people and when we do release it, a lot of people are going to have maybe one or two surprises."

Speaking afterwards, Craig said he was pleased with the size of the audience and had also packed out a hall in South Auckland a few days ago. "I love full halls. I think it's a reflection that people are identifying with what we're saying in a straightforward way."

He didn't know if National would make an accommodation to help him into Parliament but was "very confident" that the Conservatives could cross the 5 per cent threshold without their help.

The reaction he was getting at meetings showed that the party had engaged the grass roots.

"That's what's going to matter on election day."

The Nelson Mail