The National Party has launched a billboard campaign imploring Kiwis to “demand debate” on government policies it believes are being implemented with insufficient consultation.
National leader Judith Collins launched the campaign Sunday morning on a busy street corner in Auckland’s Mt Wellington, under a new digital billboard with her face reading: “Hey Puapua? Claim the debate.”
The post references the controversial He Puapua Report, commissioned by Te Puni Kōkiri and written in 2019 to set out how the government can achieve the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It describes a New Zealand in 2040 with a Māori court system, exemption rates for Māori land ownership, and new constitutional arrangements to give Māori more power over their affairs.
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Collins has repeatedly said the report shows that the government is practicing “separatism through stealth”.
In May, when controversy over the report was at its height, Māori party co-leader Rāwiri Waititi said Collins was pushing “racist propaganda and rhetoric toward tangata whenua.”
Waititi was evicted after performing a haka in protest against National Party rhetoric.
Collins told media at the launch that the billboard message was the first of several that would host the party.
One was to address the government’s controversial moves to make hate speech a crime, she said.
Collins accused the government of making changes it was not campaigning for.
“It’s all about New Zealanders across the country telling us that the government is implementing policies and very serious legislative changes without ever campaigning.
“We’re seeing other changes now, where they’re talking about a separate justice system and other changes that New Zealanders have never signed up to or debated.
“This is just the first of the billboards, but we have other issues that will run out in the coming weeks.”
The party has set up a website, demandthedebate.nz, to support the campaign and solicit donations.
Collins repeatedly referred to talkback radio, saying that Kiwis should use the medium to make their voices heard on controversial issues.
“There are very few options for people other than by writing letters, by contacting their MPs by sending emails, by going to certain websites and blogs.
“But one of the more effective ways is often through talkback radio, and we just think it’s really important that people don’t shut down their own opportunities to have their say.”
Collins laughed off a question about whether the campaign was an attempt to win back voters on the political right after a poll days earlier showed that ACT leader David Seymour had overtaken her in the rankings of elected prime ministers.
“No not at all.
“In fact, it is a response to a government that is becoming increasingly arrogant towards the people it is supposed to represent.
She said the party has received a lot of feedback from people who feel they cannot make their views public.
“What they say to us is that they feel closed off.
“They are very nervous about what is happening.
“They have told me that if they express their thoughts they will be accused of being racist.”
A statement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s press secretary defended the government’s record.
“The government will continue with the priorities we have been chosen to: manage our recovery from Covid, roll out the vaccine, address the housing crisis we inherited from National, reduce child poverty and tackle climate change.”
“A year after the arrival of Covid-19, our plan is working. New Zealand remains in a very strong position with no community transfer, freedoms few other countries have and an economy with higher growth and lower unemployment than countries we compare ourselves to, such as Australia and the UK.