Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Gareth Morgan launches new political party: Compares himself to Trump

Gareth Morgan says his cat campaign will help his new political party get votes - and has framed himself as an anti-establishment candidate like Donald Trump.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw was quick to warn that a vote for Morgan's The Opportunity Party (Top) would likely be wasted, given it would need to capture 5 per cent of the party vote next year to make it to Parliament.

Shaw also said Morgan's 2013 campaign to eradicate domestic cats would hurt his new party's prospects.

"There's quite a high risk that you will waste your vote there. I think Colin Craig and Kim Dotcom demonstrated that having a lot of money is useful but an insufficient condition."

That was dismissed by Morgan, who said it had led to successful campaigns by local councils to have cats microchipped and desexed.

"I'm feeling quite proud of what we did with cats now ... the whole cat thing now is in the hands of the regional councils and the district councils to implement. It's about having cats and wildlife compatible. It's not that hard."

Labour leader Andrew Little said Gareth Morgan was not a threat to Labour.

"It's great to see him in our corner. There are big issues going on, the issues we've been talking about. In the end if we want to get issues like housing, like education, like health fixed, there's only one way and that is to change the Government.

"There is only party that can lead a change and that is Labour."

He said he would be prepared to talk with Morgan, saying he had done some good work.

However, he was focused on what Labour had to do to change the Government in 2017.

Morgan was asked by media if he worried he could end up playing a similar role to that of Kim Dotcom at last election. Some political commentators concluded the Internet-Mana alliance and Dotcom's involvement hurt the left vote.

"Kim Dotcom? Let me think of something better. How about Trump. We just stand on our own merits and the people in New Zealand will decide," Morgan said.

Room for one more? Green Party co-leader James Shaw has warned a vote for Gareth Morgan would likely be wasted.
Room for one more? Green Party co-leader James Shaw has warned a vote for Gareth Morgan would likely be wasted.

He went on to clarify that he liked "nothing" about Trump's campaign, but saw himself as a figure outside of the political establishment.

"I think that New Zealand is really not fulfilling its potential. I see things like the level of inequality that we have got ... obviously poverty ... and the latest in this saga is the falling affordability of housing.

"Which has got to the point now where I would have to have doubts if this continues if my grandkids would be able to rent let alone bloody own a house."

It wasn't hard to fix these problems, Morgan said, but establishment politicians were more worried about change disturbing voters.

Morgan cited today's Guy Fawkes and said he wanted to "light a fuse" under Parliament. Shortly after his press conference employees left the building because of a fire alarm.

The businessman will not contest an electorate seat, meaning Top will need to capture 5 per cent of the party vote next year. He wanted to bring five or six MPs to Parliament next year, but said no candidates had been selected or lined-up.

At the 2014 election, Craig's Conservative Party received 95,598 votes and still fell short at just under 4 per cent of the party vote.

Top will release about six key policies, with the first a housing-related policy on December 8. If public support looked to be forthcoming, the party would aim to register in March.

Morgan has resigned as a trustee of his foundation in order to head the new political party. Asked what voters he would target, he said "anybody who cares about New Zealand as opposed to themselves".

"That rules out the Act Party...the Nats have done pretty well, I think, in terms of what has happened in terms of pure economic growth. But it does concern me the cost of that - which is the loss of affordability of housing and this persistent inequality."

National's campaign chair Steven Joyce said getting to 5 per cent wouldn't be easy for Morgan, "but good luck to him".

"Every election we get people coming along and it just adds to the colour and entertainment, and I'm sure Gareth will provide plenty of entertainment."

Joyce said the Government's strong environmental record meant so-called "blue green" voters weren't likely to go to Morgan.

"I think probably he is more likely to pick up votes from opposition parties, because he sees himself as wanting to promote change away from the existing status quo...I think he will certainly split some of the focus on the opposition side."

The Red Peak flag designers have criticised the logo of Gareth Morgan's new party as being too similar.
The Red Peak flag designers have criticised the logo of Gareth Morgan's new party as being too similar.

Red Peak controversy

Gareth Morgan's political party was only hours old when it came under fire over similarities between its logo and Red Peak.

The logo for the new party is the winner of the $20,000 competition to design a new flag Morgan ran in the lead-up to the first flag change referendum.

The flag - Wa kainga (Home) - was created by Auckland design business Studio Alexander. It is similar to the Red Peak design that was eventually included as one of the final flag options.

The creators of Red Peak said yesterday that Morgan's logo was too similar.

"The Opportunities Party did not give us any opportunity to discuss the potential conflict with Red Peak and it appears they have acted unfairly in co-opting Red Peak's hard-earned profile," reads the statement, retweeted by Red Peak designer Aaron Dustin.

Gareth Morgan relaxing at Mt Drury, near his home at Mount Maunganui. Photo / John Borren
Gareth Morgan relaxing at Mt Drury, near his home at Mount Maunganui. Photo / John Borren

Who is Gareth Morgan?

Economist, author, entrepreneur, philanthropist and now politician - Gareth Morgan wants to take his outspokenness to Parliament.

Morgan attended Putaruru High School, and after earning economics degrees he worked for the Reserve Bank, where he realised he had a strong aversion to hierarchy.

He amassed a fortune after selling his economic forecasting firm Infometrics in the late 1990s, later set up Gareth Morgan Investments, and received a windfall after a $75,000 investment in Trade Me, set up by his son Sam, turned into $47 million.

Morgan pledged to give away the millions earned through his Trade Me investment, and established the Morgan Foundation, which focuses on conservation and development projects as well as public policy research.

He is also part-owner of the Wellington Phoenix football team, and has previously hit out at fans who disagreed with his opinion that the team needed to play more attractive football as "pathetic".

This year he stepped in midway through a Givealittle campaign to buy a stretch of beach on the Awaroa Inlet in Abel Tasman, pledging to cover any shortfall - so long as his family could have exclusive access to buildings near the beach.

The offer was rejected, and Morgan later claimed it was a scheme to push up donations.

Most controversial was a 2013 campaign to eventually eradicate domestic cats - or "sadists" and "natural-born killers" - with Morgan wanting people to not replace the pets when they die.

Not minding that heat, he has continued to speak out on a range of issues including inequality, climate change and tax reforms (Morgan was dubbed "arguably New Zealand's biggest know-all" in a newspaper profile after the cat controversy).

He has until now resisted politics, but told media yesterday the pull had become too great.

"It's just so easy, really. I've sort of worked on this stuff for so long. You sit back objectively, and I've got a reasonable amount of confidence I know what to do."

- NZ Herald

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