Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Act's annual conference: David Seymour's keynote speech

Act's wildlife policy:
•State-owned farmer Landcorp should be sold, with the proceeds put in a "Sanctuary Trust", Act says.
•Grants would be given to applicants who want to operate inland sanctuaries for native wildlife, conditional on targets for predator exclusion, biodiversity, and community access.

Landcorp should be flogged-off with the proceeds put into a trust and given to groups to support native wildlife sanctuaries, Act says.

David Seymour used his keynote speech at Act's annual conference in Orakei to call for the sale of the state-owned farmer, worth about $1.6 billion.

He also attacked other political parties, including National which he said hadn't achieved anything a Labour cabinet couldn't sign-off, and quipped that NZ First leader Winston Peters "shows us how well Donald Trump could do with better hair".

A self-described "climate luke-warmer", Mr Seymour said Act's values were the best fit with environmentalism - and said the Greens were hypocrites, citing their MPs' spending on air travel in the last quarter.

"All but three Labour MPs have electorates to get back to. Where do the Greens go?"

Mr Seymour said the proceeds of a Landcorp sale should be put in a "Sanctuary Trust", with grants given to applicants who will run inland sanctuaries for native wildlife, conditional on targets for predator exclusion, biodiversity and community access.

"Frankly the Act Party would sell a lot more than Landcorp, but let's start with that...we could do is take an asset that is environmentally damaging and create a legacy for the next 100 years."

Landcorp, the former Department of Lands and Survey, owns about 158,000ha of farmland in New Zealand and manages or leases another 226,000ha. It runs about 1.6 million stock units (sheep, beef, deer and dairy) on 137 properties and has a staff of about 700.

Finance Minister Bill English and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay have expressed concern about their debt gearing in the wake of a slump in milk prices.

The SOE made a profit of just $1 million in the last six months of 2014, and has been in the cross-hairs of the Green Party which opposes more dairy conversions, particularly a contract, signed between Landcorp and landowners Wairakei Pastoral in 2004, to convert 26,000ha of pine forest to pastoral use.

Mr Seymour - whose speech was covered by New Zealand's biggest Chinese website Skykiwi and World TV - repeated support for tolls and demand-based road pricing (charging more during peak hours) to curb congestion, the abolition of the petrol tax, and moves towards tradeable water rights.

The conference's green theme will be bolstered by attendees this afternoon been given rides in a Tesla S, an electric sports car that goes from 0-100 in 3.2 seconds (outpacing most Ferraris).

Act has struggled to pass the 1 per cent mark in polling since the 2014 election, despite Seymour winning praise for his performance as leader.
He has acknowledged the difficulty of winning votes during a period when National remains popular, and today went on the attack, saying New Zealand needed better than the "timid, tinkering" approach of the National Government.

Prime Minister John Key, after eight years in Government, had not done anything a Labour cabinet could not have signed-off, Mr Seymour told members.

"The staple of a centre-right government should be tax relief. By the next election National will have gone eight years with nothing to say about it. Even adjusting tax brackets for inflation seems too hard for this Government."

Mr Seymour warned conference attendees that senior National ministers were seriously considering a possible future alliance with the Green Party: "National is a broad church and a few of them could sink without trace in a Green cabinet".

Act Party: A Brief History

•1996 Election - 6.1 per cent: Act elected to Parliament in first MMP election with eight MPs; leader Richard Prebble wins Wellington Central after a tacit endorsement from National PM Jim Bolger

•1999 Election - 7.04 per cent: Act wins nine seats, although leader Richard Prebble loses Wellington Central.

•2002 Election - 7.14 per cent: Act wins nine seats again, no electorate seats.

•2005 Election - 1.51 per cent: Against predictions, new leader Rodney Hide wins the seat of Epsom and brings Heather Roy into Parliament.

•2008 Election - 3.65 per cent: Rodney Hide retains Epsom and brings in four other MPs, including John Boscawen. Act signs a confidence and supply agreement with National

• 2011 Election - 1.07 per cent. No former Act MPs stand. Ex-National leader Don Brash leads the party to its worst result after ousting Rodney Hide as leader in coup and replacing Hide with ex-National MP John Banks as Act candidate in Epsom. Brash resigns. Banks becomes leader.

• 2013 December. Banks is committed to trial on charges of filing a false electoral return relating to his 2010 Auckland mayoral bid and announces his intention to resign as leader in February and retire at the 2014 election.

• 2014 February: Jamie Whyte made leader, David Seymour made Epsom candidate.

• 2014 Election: 0.69 per cent: David Seymour wins Epsom but no more MPs. Seymour made leader and appointed parliamentary under-secretary for education and regulatory reform.

• 2015 December - Seymour turns down offer of ministerial post by Prime Minister John Key.

- NZ Herald

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