Past referenda organisers lend weight to march

By Ellen Dorset

Businessman Colin Craig. File photo / Steven McNicholl
Businessman Colin Craig. File photo / Steven McNicholl

Organisers of past referenda ignored by governments have lent their weight to Saturday's march over the anti-smacking referendum, billed as "the biggest march in New Zealand's history".

The march is being organised to protest the Government's lack of action against on the removal of Section 59 from the Crimes Act.

Some 87 per cent of the respondents to the referendum in August agreed that "a smack as part of good parental correction should not be a criminal offence".

Organisers from past referendums - including Garth McVicar who led the referendum on Law and order, Margaret Robertson who campaigned for 99 MPs and the organiser of the last anti-smacking referendum Sheryl Savill - appeared at a media conference this morning.

March organiser Colin Craig called past referendum organisers "true New Zealand heroes".

"These people are heroes and heroines who have stood up as a group and have said: 'hey, we want some things to change'."

Mr Craig said he hoped the march would focus attention on past referenda that have been ignored by governments going back to the 1990s.

"I think the people will win out."

He said despite a large majority in each of the referenda, governments have ignored the citizens.

Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust said he was not a hero.

"We're just ordinary New Zealanders who are passionate about our country."

Mr Craig supported the anti-smacking referendum and said he had been approached by political parties and other organisations with offers of money but chose to reject their help to avoid any "underlying agendas".

Mr Craig has said the march will cost him personally up to $450,000.

Family First national director Bob McCroskie said the march was "opening up a can of worms" and wanted all past referenda to be revisited by the Government.

Steve Baron of Better Democracy (NZ) congratulated the organisers of the weekend's march.

Better Democracy is a non-profit organisation formed to promote binding referendums in New Zealand.

"These people are the gladiators of modern society", he said. "The small percentage who aren't afraid to stand up and be counted.

"I'll be marching alongside them on Saturday, and recommend everyone else does so as well", said Mr Baron.

Free bus services are being arranged to make it easier for those wishing to attend the march, which Mr Craig hopes will draw over 50,000 supporters to Auckland's Queen St this Saturday afternoon.

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