21 Aug 2020

Referendum campaigners look for clarity after election date change

10:18 am on 21 August 2020

Referendum campaigners are urgently seeking clarification on how they can proceed with the election date moved back by a month.

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The election date has been moved back a month to October 17. Photo: RNZ/Vinay Ranchhod

Registered campaigners can only spend $330,000 in the three months before the election, and say they now need clarity about how that might change.

They also need the chance to talk to voters face-to-face, they say, or risk failing to get their message across.

"All third party promoters can only spend about $320,000 in the three months prior to the vote," Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said.

"So does that mean that we have to spread that out over four months now? That's unclear."

The foundation is seeking a yes vote in the cannabis referendum, saying the legalisation of recreational cannabis use would reduce harm on the whole.

He said the delay has caused plenty of headaches.

"We're still trying to get our head around what it all means," Bell said.

"Fundamentally, it's an extra month which comes with, you know, an extra month of unplanned expenses, so there's a hit to the budget that we have to figure out.

"Some real basic problems [we have] , like we had just got all of our posters and brochures, delivered with September date. So we have to reprint all of those things."

Aaron Ironside, who leads the Say Nope to Dope campaign, said both sides of the cannabis debate are impacted by the delay.

Ironside said legalisation would cause a high level of harm to the community, and says getting those facts across will be more difficult than ever.

"We're just not sure that people truly understand what the issues are," Ironside said.

"We think it will be harder for us to clarify for people that we're not talking about medicinal cannabis, we're only talking about recreational usage.

"And I think the actual details of the proposed legislation will escape most people who will be focused in other areas and unlikely to encounter the truth."

Ironside said the referendum could move out of the spotlight, and the cancelation of live events has a big impact.

Henoch Kloosterboer, who leads the Vote Safe campaign opposing the end of life bill, welcomed the delay.

He said it will give people more time to understand the legislation in question, which is particularly important given the nature of the referendum.

People will be deciding whether to enact a full piece of legislation that has been through the parliamentary process, not a theoretical law change, as he describes the cannabis referendum.

"No one really wants to be making sort of life and death decisions on the End of Life Choice Act, whilst grappling with the stresses and pressures of Covid-19," Kloosterboer said.

"Vote Safe's campaign is really around creating public information and public awareness around the End of Life Choice Act and I think more time will always aid that conversation."

Linda Kennington of Yes to Compassion supports the legislation, and said she isn't worried about the extension.

She does not think it will affect the vote at all.

"It's been a long time coming, you know, many, many years," she said.

"The legislation was passed last year with a majority 69 percent. The polls have always been around that level, public polls around 70 percent.

"We're just keeping on telling people about it so that they've got the facts and we're just looking forward to October 17."

Government officials are working to offer clarity to campaigners around financial restrictions.

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