David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Dreams of Act's demise

Don Brash has taken over the helm of a party with 'many challenges internally'. Photo / Janna Dixon
Don Brash has taken over the helm of a party with 'many challenges internally'. Photo / Janna Dixon

A millionaire who almost funded a new political party for Don Brash is now considering running against it - just to spoil its chances.

Colin Craig said Act - the so-called "party of millionaires" - was struggling for money and had come to him cap-in-hand asking for help. Instead of helping, he may try to destroy it.

The former Auckland mayoral candidate told the Herald on Sunday he had paid for regular polling to be carried out in the Epsom electorate. He said the result predicted an easy win for Act's John Banks, another failed mayoral candidate.

In last year's first Super City election, victor Len Brown got 221,000 votes to Banks' 161,000 - with Craig coming third with 40,000.

Craig said Banks would do much better in blue-ribbon Epsom: "If the status quo remains, Banks will get in by a reasonably clear margin. There is just no left-wing vote. The only thing that could put a fly in the ointment is a very serious conservative candidate."

Craig believes a serious right-wing contender could block Act from winning Epsom, meaning the party would die unless it got to five per cent of the votes. Asked if he would run for the seat, he said: "I wouldn't rule it out. I quite enjoyed standing against Banks."

Craig made millions of dollars through property management, owning companies which manage high-rise buildings including the Nautilus at Orewa and the Sentinel at Takapuna. He emerged as a determined conservative political activist in 2009, financially backing a march against the smacking law. He said he had discussed starting a political party with Brash before the former Reserve Bank governor joined Act. "I genuinely think he has taken on a hard ask. Act is a party with many challenges internally."

Craig said he believed the challenges extended to finance, with party deputy leader - and its parliamentary leader - John Boscawen twice calling him to ask for a donation. He said he made it clear in the first call he was not an Act supporter and was surprised to be asked again.

Boscawen confirmed the call to Craig but refused to discuss details. He said the party did "struggle to raise money" and if it could have afforded to, it would have polled Epsom itself.

Recent donations to the party included $50,000 from Boscawen, who also donated $100,000 in 2008. Another $100,000 came from Invercargill businessman Louis Crimp.

The Herald on Sunday has been told some of the recently donated money went towards paying for the controversial advertisement which asked if the public were "fed up with pandering to Maori radicals".

Other adverts which didn't run included references to New Zealand as an "apartheid" state or asked if the public was happy with the "Maorification" of the country. The adverts apparently led to terse exchanges within the party over the switch from Act's traditional focus on economic policies to targeting Maori directly.

Boscawen said the party advocated "one law for all" but did not want to discuss an approach that targeted Maori directly.

Party president Chris Simmons said funding had improved since Brash became leader and leadership had gone up 50 per cent.

NEW PARTY HAD CUFF LINK

Don Brash came close to launching his own right-wing party branded with a pair of orange handcuffs, says a confidante, until he decided instead to mount a hostile takeover of the Act Party.

There were a number of party names considered, including the New Zealanders' Party, the Freedom Party and the Reform Party.

Advertising guru John Ansell - who worked on the National Party 2005 campaign with Brash - had been involved in designing concepts around the party. Those included using orange as the main colour for party logos and to align a set of handcuffs with party imagery, symbolising constraint.

Among those involved, according to papers seen by the Herald on Sunday, was former Cabinet minister and author Dr Michael Bassett.

ACT STAFFER ASKED TO EXPLAIN MIDNIGHT FACEBOOK POST

Questions have been asked of Act's campaign manager after a Facebook post in which she said some "dysfunctional organisations ... should be left to die".

Auckland-based Karen Bridgman made the comment on Facebook last week and was then asked to explain herself to deputy leader John Boscawen.

The statement, made at 12.18am last Sunday, read: "I love helping dysfunctional organisations. Some however are beyond saving and should be left to die."

Boscawen said he had accepted Bridgman's explanation.

Bridgman was employed by Parliamentary Services from 2008 to 2011 as an "out-of-Parliament adviser" to Boscawen. She left to work for three months as an assistant to Don Brash before taking on the campaign manager's role under Boscawen, who is campaign director.

- Herald on Sunday

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