Act Party’s campaign launch in Auckland has been overshadowed by hecklers this afternoon.
Several hundred people gathered inside the Civic Theatre to listen to the party’s leader David Seymour speak.
A couple of minutes into the speech, Freedom NZ candidate and serial heckler Karl Mokaraka, stood up and started shouting before he was dragged out by security.
Another woman started screaming and heckling from the audience. Seymour didn’t let her interrupt his delivery, he increased his volume to drown her out.
She was crying “Party vote Freedoms” as she was escorted from the upper level of the theatre while Seymour introduced his top 20 candidates on the party’s list.
A third heckler then disturbed proceedings.
Act is restating its opposition to co-governance and race influencing the delivery of public services at the party’s campaign launch.
Seymour is speaking to party faithful today from the Civic Theatre in Auckland where Act’s commitment to strip back applications of co-governance is a main topic.
In a press release, Seymour said he believed the Government was presenting Kiwis with a false choice with its approach to enhancing Māori culture.
“[The Government] says that if we want to right the wrongs of the past, cherish Māori language and culture, and give all New Zealanders equal opportunity, then we must throw out universal human rights in favour of co-government,” he said.
“We can ensure Māori language and culture are preserved, that every child has equal opportunity, and that the wrongs of the past are put right.
“Attributing separate rights through co-government will never achieve this, it only causes more division.”
Seymour confirmed Act’s intentions to legislate the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi through a Treaty Principles Act before putting it to a binding referendum.
That’s despite National Party leader Christopher Luxon earlier ruling out having such a referendum under a National-led government. Act is likely to be National’s support partner if the two parties gain enough support to form a government following the October 14 election.
The party also intended to repeal legislation that gave “different rights based on ethnicity”, including the Māori Health Authority and the Water Services legislation, formerly known as Three Waters.
Act would also “reorientate the public service towards a focus on equal opportunity” by removing any “racial targeting”.
The party’s policy document acknowledged the various inequities Māori experienced in New Zealand.
They included Māori living seven years less than average, 36 per cent of Māori attaining NCEA level 3 or above compared to 57 per cent of Pākehā, 28 per cent of Māori owning homes compared to 57 per cent of Pākehā, and 52 per cent of all prisoners being Māori despite making up about 15 per cent of the population.
“Act believes co-government is not the answer to solving these problems. Instead the solutions lie in more robust, evidence-based targeting, greater devolution of public services, and maintaining New Zealand’s liberal democratic system,” the document said.
It also stated Act was not opposed to all co-governance arrangements, citing the management of Auckland’s volcanic mountains and the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes programme.
On its call to define the treaty principles, the party’s document said it was not for “activist judges and officials” to determine what they meant.
“Allowing the courts, the Waitangi Tribunal and the bureaucracy to effectively write the constitution is contrary to the notion that major constitutional change can only be with the explicit consent of the people.”
Seymour has been confident he could change Luxon’s mind on the referendum when asked about the National leader’s opposition to the proposal.
Luxon has traditionally refrained from commenting on Act’s policies, saying it would be thrashed out in negotiations after the election if the two parties were in the position to form a government.
In March, Luxon said he saw no need for a referendum and would prefer a genuine, high-quality conversation about the issue.
Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.