New party making airbase an election issue

By Wayne Thompson

The prospect of East Coast Bays electors having a No Commercial Airport at Whenuapai Airbase Party to choose from in this year's general election has upset an established anti-airport lobby group.

The group has disclaimed any association with Toby Hutton, a 19-year-old Browns Bay apprentice, who says he will form the party and contest the East Coast Bays electorate.

National MP Murray McCully has had a firm grip on the seat since 1987.

Mr Hutton, who remembers Mr McCully opening the hall at his primary school, said the MP should be succeeded by someone who openly denounces and fights against the possibility of the Air Force base being used for commercial flights.

"It's something people on the Shore are passionate about and I haven't heard anything from the man about it ... nothing in his weekly newsletter which I subscribe to, nor his website.

"I've grown up here, I'll be living 30m from a noisy flight path and like hell I'm going to let it happen."

The earthmoving construction apprentice and territorial soldier is seeking registration of his self-designed party logo for use on ballot papers and hopes to get some party members.

He said he was not a member of either a political party or Whenuapai Airbase Action Group (Waag). But he admired how Waag successfully turned its fight into a major issue for last October's North Shore mayoral and council elections.

While Mr McCully's response yesterday was, "It's a free country", Waag chairman Russell Stewart leapt to the MP's defence.

"We cannot agree with his assessment of Murray McCully as we have worked closely with him over the past year.

"He was instrumental in arranging the meeting between Waag and the North Shore National MPs where we agreed on a National Party policy on Whenuapai and he took it to National leader John Key and the National caucus for approval."

Mr Stewart said Waag was pleased with the National and Green Parties' stance on the Whenuapai issue and believed in working with established parties.

He told the Herald it was possible that Mr Hutton could split the vote in a Labour candidate's favour, though Mr McCully had a majority of 7286 votes in the 2005 election.

- NZ Herald

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