If politicians representing rural constituencies in our region had ever felt threatened by the formation of the Rural Party, they can take comfort from developments at the weekend. The party has changed its name to Focus New Zealand. Party strategists, presumably, have calculated that not enough farmers and rural folk would flock to their banner to win seats, and they should try to broaden their appeal.
Any political threat that might be posed by the fledgling party therefore should be felt by all Waikato MPs, now that it is pitching for support from urban voters too. But they needn't be unduly unnerved by another party (with around 250 members and requiring 250 more to be registered) joining the MMP fray.
The scant media attention paid to the party since its formation in August won't have helped the recruitment drive. Editors didn't despatch their political reporters to cover the party's inaugural conference at the Okaihau Community Hall in Northland on Saturday, although Radio New Zealand did broadcast a brief item about the name change.
Radio NZ said the party wants to represent the interests of producers and exporters, regardless of whether they are in rural or urban areas. Party president Ken Rintoul said: "It's all about the people that produce the wealth of this country."
Policies have yet to be formed but the party website identifies issues that will strike a chord with many voters (without necessarily securing their votes). The exchange rate is too high, local government reforms should continue, there is too much bureaucracy around the Resource Management Act, and if foreigners are to own our land, then New Zealanders should have full reciprocal land-purchasing rights in foreign countries.
The party has questioned spending more than $6 million to send two Cabinet ministers, 30 Government officials and 60 authors to the Frankfurt Book Fair. And it decries pumping billions into city motorways when, it maintains, the money would be better spent in provincial and rural New Zealand.
The Waikato Times checked the party website yesterday but found no mention of a name change. It seems the organisers have grasped one guiding principle for winning elections - you don't necessarily have to deliver what you promise.
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