Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Act Party meeting this weekend aimed at 'rejuvenation'

Banks' party is preparing to relaunch itself - and it is, so he says, exciting

John Banks in Parliament cuts a lonely figure, wounded and discredited by the Dotcom debacle. Photo / Mark Mitchell
John Banks in Parliament cuts a lonely figure, wounded and discredited by the Dotcom debacle. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Act Party is holding a "rejuvenation" conference today at the Kaukapakapa sculpture farm of wealthy benefactor and founding father Alan Gibbs.

Former MP John Boscawen, also a wealthy businessman, takes over today as the party's full-time campaigning and fund-raising president in a bid to prevent the party sliding into oblivion.

The aim at next year's election is to get get five per cent of the party vote and to keep the seat of Epsom - and to tell the voting public that without Act, National might have to rely on a deal with the Maori Party.

He and Mr Gibbs are expected to continue to fund the party - Mr Gibbs gave the party $100,000 last election - and Mr Boscawen confirmed yesterday he would continue to be a strong donor, giving considerably more than the $20,000 he gave the party last year.

"We are not going to slide into oblivion. We have to rebuild our membership, we have to rebuild our public support.

We are polling between zero and 1 per cent and in years gone by we have polled as well as 10."

He said he would also be telling people that without Act, National would be dependent on either the Maori Party or New Zealand First or both and they would extract a large price for their support, and that

Both men will speak today along with Act leader John Banks and former Act leader Rodney Hide who was ousted from the leadership and eventually Parliament in a coup involving Mr Banks.

Mr Boscawen said he made 100 phone calls last week to drum up interest in the conference and is expecting 200 people to turn up.

He said the Gibbs farm venue was a remarkable place - 400 ha (1000 acres) that was mown every week with six tractor lawn mowers.

"A thousand acres of mown grassland with some amazing sculptures, the property is unique in New Zealand, possibly the world, and what a marvellous venue to have a conference.

"You couldn't get more inspirational and aspirational than the property he has created and it shows you what's possible."

Mr Banks paid tribute to Mr Boscawen's energy saying "He is driven. He will work early in the morning and late at night. He will give of his time completely freely. He will pay his way at every turn. He will give us his money. He will raise a lot of cash. There is no one in the political system who can raise money better than John Boscawen and there is probably no one that single-handedly has raised more money than John Boscawen."

Mr Banks said his speech today would be about freedom to achieve.

"The Act Party's mantra is freedom, choice and responsibility and we think they are timeless ideals and we think that we need to repackage them, and the challenge is to resell them so that we can come back here is 2014, reinvigorated, re-tooled and refocused with a sense of purpose and direction and also with a real role to play in a John Key led National Party coalition Administration."

Mr Hide said he has little to do with the Act Party since the 2011 election.

After the leadership coup and his parliamentary career ended "I tried to take it on the chin as best I could and I basically stayed away from the party because a) I didn't much feel like it is and b) I thought it was the best thing for the party to move on."

He was quite touched to be asked to speak at today's conference.

"At first my thought was 'No.' Then I thought 'I've got to get over myself' and now I am actually quite enthusiastic.

"I want a party there that represents my views that we should have less Government and less regulation in New Zealand."


Act Party Vote

1996 - 6.01 per cent - 7 MPs
1999 - 7.04 per cent - 9 MPs
2002 - 7.14 per cent - 9 MPs
2005 - 1.51 per cent - 2 MPs
2008 - 3.65 per cent - 5 MPs
2011 - 1.07 per cent - 1 MP

- NZ Herald

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