David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Brash backed canned Act ad

Brash rejects suggestions of a rift in the party. Photo / Janna Dixon
Brash rejects suggestions of a rift in the party. Photo / Janna Dixon

A leaked email has revealed Act Party leader Don Brash and his closest supporters were fully supportive of the canned "Maorification" advert.

Brash wrote to his 2011 election campaign team just days before the advertising campaign was due to begin, saying he was determined to go with it.

"I think we should work on the assumption that the ad will proceed later this week unless something seriously derails it."

But the advert was swapped for another considered less offensive _ and deputy leader John Boscawen was blamed for softening Act's approach.

The leaked emails come at a time of concern in some sections of the party over its direction on race relations.

On Friday it issued its list of 47 candidates, with only one identifying as Maori. The party has also accepted a $100,000 donation from millionaire Louis Crimp, who has outspoken views on Maori. And last weekend the party invited back businessman Kevin Campbell, who quit after a furore over him calling the Prime Minister "John the Jew".

Brash rejected descriptions of a rift in the party but accepted he did not have full support as leader.

On the dumping of the "Maorification" advert, he said: "I changed my mind."

In one leaked email, Brash said the advert had won the approval of Epsom candidate John Banks and Peter Huljich, their former business partner. Huljich is currently facing criminal charges brought by the Financial Management Authority.

But the advert was canned just before publication, after the caucus objected and Brash had a change of heart.

Act marketing guru John Ansell quit after his "Maorification" ad was canned and another option headlined "Apartheid Aotearoa" was passed over.

"I, like virtually everybody else, am fed up with the Boscafication of ACT," he wrote to Brash and Boscawen. He said the "Apartheid Aoteroa" advert would have had a "Hiroshima Effect ... or certainly the Nagasaki Effect" on the political landscape.

Act funder Louis Crimp did not return calls about the $100,000 he donated to the party. In a letter to the Southland Times last year he objected to a kapa haka group going to Rotorua. "They are going to chant and pull faces in a grotesque performance which has no semblance of grace or beauty in it."

In another letter, he objected to the cost of Maori language promotion. "I would like somebody to tell me what is Maori culture? Before the white man arrived, they were savages and cannibals."

The only Act candidate publicly identified as Maori is Dominic Costello, 50, who said he was "tired of the grievance industry".

He said his roots were Nga Puhi but he had no plan to stand in a Maori seat if selected. "It's separatism."

In an email to a ministerial inquiry into the Foreshore and Seabed Act review last year he wrote: "Show me a Maori trust and I will show you taxpayer-funded theft."

Businessman Kevin Campbell, who quit the party after he called the Prime Minister "John the Jew", said he had been invited back last weekend - but had declined the invitation. He said Brash had failed to get the backing of the Act board when he took over: "While it looked like Brash might be the next coming of Christ, he failed mergers and acquisations 101," Campbell said.

- Herald on Sunday

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