National members bid to soften race policy

By Ruth Berry

Several Auckland National Party officials are behind a move to soften what they believe has been its overly hard-line stance on race issues.

Party member and National Waitakere branch treasurer Michael Kidd is leading the charge, with the support of Waitakere chairman Adrian Delaat.

Other party members or supporters include former Hamilton mayor Sir Ross Jansen and Takapuna writer Terry Dunleavy.

They plan to set up a group called "Nationals for the Treaty" or NATFORT. Dr Kidd said many National members were concerned about the party's stance on the treaty, the Maori seats and its plans to abolish a number of key Maori agencies.

Its recent immigration policy had also angered some, he said.

There had been a deliberate decision to delay the group's formation until after the election, but the group now felt it was time to speak out.

Dr Kidd believed the group's views were widespread among National's membership, with many feeling its stance on Maori issues in particular had probably cost it the election.

The Herald understands there has been concern among some MPs about the stance taken by party leader Don Brash on race issues.

While the pre-election caucus had been determined to provide a united front, there is believed to be support for a review of some policies, and relief the party did not have to carry through on some of the plans outlined.

Dr Kidd said National had lost the support of many, particularly women, heading into the last week of the campaign.

"Making abolition of the Maori seats a hard and fast policy tied to National's election was fatal and galvanised the opposition.

"The public also sees the reduced place of women in the National Party, either in leadership or policy formation, as an indication of a certain culture within National not in sympathy with minorities, exacerbated by the coining of its campaign phrase 'mainstream New Zealanders'."

NATFORT would work to reduce that imbalance, aiming to return to the party's roots of working co-operatively with Maori, he said.

Mr Delaat said he was concerned with the party's policy towards immigrants and Maori.

Sir Ross said those who thought there was no legal definition of the purpose of the treaty were wrong, since it had been defined by the Court of Appeal.

Party general manager Stephen Joyce dismissed the views of Dr Kidd as those of just one of 40,000 members of the National Party - a membership figure the party normally doesn't reveal. He said Dr Kidd was a former Act and Labour supporter.

Dr Kidd left Act for National when Dr Brash became leader.

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