Hard road ahead for new rural party, says expert

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 15:55 31/10/2012

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A new political party is chasing a dream, writes Aaron Leaman.

A new political party targeting the rural vote is claiming inroads in Waikato.

New Zealand Rural Party acting chairman Ken Rintoul said more than 200 people had signed up to the party since its inception in August.

A further 400 people had signalled an interest in joining, with support coming from Waikato communities.

"In the past three or four weeks especially, we've been getting a lot of interest from people in Waikato towns, Otorohanga, Matamata and other centres," Mr Rintoul told the Waikato Times.

"Something's really triggered Waikato people's interest."

Mr Rintoul said the party would elect a board before Christmas and hoped to capture voters disaffected with National and Labour.

"The two main things we are focusing on are the regulations that are being unfairly imposed on the rural sector and the high New Zealand dollar that is strangling this country. A lot of interest in our party is coming from provincial communities; people who benefit from the rural sector. It's these people who are hurting because the farmers are closing their chequebooks."

Mr Rintoul said 50 per cent of party members claimed not to have voted in the last election, saying they did not believe the major parties represented the rural sector's interests.

He could not say if the new party would contest both the party vote and electoral seats.

"The problem the rural sector faces is we are a minority and we are constantly having all these regulations thrust upon us. I know a lot of people don't want their kids to go into the rural sector because it's too tough. The Government doesn't seem to realise the average rural producer at the moment is making between 3 to 8 per cent return on capital, so there's no leeway."

But Waikato University political science lecturer Dr Alan Simpson said new parties faced a "hard road" establishing themselves, with their success dependent on strong leadership and the ability to finance effective advertising campaigns.

"If he [Mr Rintoul] is claiming to attract people that didn't vote before, I'd be suspicious of that. Everybody dreams of getting the non-voter."

Dr Simpson said single issue parties tended to have a short shelf life and the challenge would be turning people's dissatisfaction into votes.

"It's a hard road setting up a new party like this unless you've got a very clear profile, good political leadership. If you go back to past elections you can see how many political parties have come and gone; they're not the future of New Zealand politics."

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Dr Simpson said it was not uncommon to have voter discontentment at this stage of a Government's term of office but that didn't necessary equate to election-time votes.

"At this stage we tend to find people are more inclined to think about alternatives but translating that into actual votes which have an impact is a different issue completely. You've got to have money."

aaron.leaman@waikatotimes.co.nz

- © Fairfax NZ News

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