10 Sep 2020

An introduction to 'The Outliers': The political parties who aren't in the daily headlines

2:47 pm on 10 September 2020

Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins are dominating the daily headlines, but there are plenty of others out there with their eye on Parliament.

We're calling them "The Outliers" - the small parties also striving for a place in Parliament - an array of colourful characters with starkly different, sometimes controversial, policy manifestos.

For some, like the Māori Party, it's a tough path back to regain seats they'd held for several years, and for others their first foray into the world of politics.

RNZ political reporter Katie Scotcher hit the road to meet The Outliers and hear about their plans to woo the voting public.

The Opportunities Party

Geoff Simmons - a keen cyclist, economist and improv actor - pitches himself as a leader who would ask the tough questions.

Geoff Simmons, leader of The Opportunities Party.

Geoff Simmons. Photo: RNZ

"I've spent my career researching the solutions to New Zealand's biggest problems, and frankly, I've just got hugely frustrated because I've seen career politicians throw those solutions in the too hard basket."

The party won just 2.4 percent of the vote at the last election, under the leadership of its founder Gareth Morgan. The provocative leader, known for his outbursts on social media and not his policies, was replaced by Simmons in 2018.

Simmons is willing to work with almost any party to get into Parliament. Although he admits some parties are "less interested in the evidence and more dogmatic than others".

TOP is campaigning on "evidence-based" policies - it wants to "stabilise" the cost of housing by building medium density housing near public transport in cities and managing immigration. It also wants to introduce a weekly universal basic income of $250 per week for everyone and prioritise a climate-friendly Covid-19 response.

"We're looking beyond the three year cycle of getting re-elected and we want to talk about the really big issues that are affecting the country long-term, because most career politicians don't worry about those sorts of things - they just worry about getting re-elected."

The Māori Party

The Māori Party is fighting to return to Parliament, after a crushing defeat at the last election.

Co-leader of the Māori Party, John Tamihere.

John Tamihere, co-leader of the Māori Party. Photo: RNZ

Co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and John Tamihere are promising to uphold the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi and for 25 percent of all government contracts to support Māori.

Ngarewa-Packer explained their main priorities.

"Ensuring that we have healthy families who can self-determine and live their best lives and in order to also do that, it's about preserving whakapapa, and ensuring that we have a safe and healthy environment to live with and on and to leave for future generations," she says.

Tamihere has previously served as a Labour minister, but at number seven on his party's list, it's highly unlikely he'll return to Parliament without winning the Tamaki Makaurau seat.

The Māori Party has always campaigned on winning electorate support, Tamihere says.

"We want the mandate off the street. If you get the mandate from the hood, you got some big say ... because the people have spoken," he said.

Tamihere is confident he has the support he needs, saying he wouldn't throw his hat in the ring if he wasn't.

Vision New Zealand

Politics and campaigning is all new for Vision New Zealand's Hannah Tamaki, who's better known for leading Destiny Church with her husband Brian.

Vision New Zealand leader Hannah Tamaki.

Hannah Tamaki. Photo: RNZ

"I didn't know what I was walking into, what I was stepping into and I still don't know everything, but what I do know is that people matter and the choices they make matter, but their voice is important and I think that sometimes those voices are not being heard."

Tamaki launched the party last year, to be a "voice for the silent majority" and to get strong family values into Parliament.

When asked who exactly the "silent majority" is, Tamaki says it is people who haven't voted before.

Vision New Zealand doesn't have many policies, but would roll-out Destiny Church's controversial Man-Up and Legacy prison programmes if elected.

It is also promising to ban all immigration and refugees for two years, although it's a policy Tamaki backtracked on.

"Not just a total ban for refugees, because a refugee status is a little bit different ... there would have to be the criteria and of course ... I've got a heart," she says.

And despite her ties to Destiny Church, she is adamant Vision New Zealand is not a Christian party.

"People don't have to go to church to be members of Vision New Zealand, they don't have to go to church to vote for Vision New Zealand."

New Conservatives

Leighton Baker and the New Conservatives are promising to scrap all of the changes made to firearms legislation, as well as repeal the Emission Trading Scheme and Zero Carbon Bill if elected.

New Conservatives leader Leighton Baker.

Leighton Baker. Photo: RNZ

It also wants to reduce the number of sitting MPs and make binding referenda more common.

"Democracy allows us to debate and discuss and argue a wee bit, and then hopefully come to a place where we can all agree and if we don't agree it's a majority thing," Baker says.

"But without democracy I think we're enslaved by someone else's opinion, which we don't really want."

Like Vision New Zealand, the New Conservatives also want an immigration crack down.

"Net zero immigration until our housing is sorted out. You can't invite someone round to your house if you haven't got enough beds for them."

The ban wouldn't be indefinite, he says. "We'd like it to be short term. The shorter the better."

Baker, who has been party leader since 2017, describes himself as a reasonable and practical leader, "I am who I am, I guess".

NZ Public Party

New Zealand Public Party leader Billy Te Kahika has a large following and it's growing.

Billy Te Kahika, leader of the NZ public party.

Billy Te Kahika. Photo: RNZ

"Something has happened with this movement that's never happened before quite like this in the New Zealand political landscape," Te Kahika says.

But just days into campaign, he has garnered some unwanted attention - that of the Electoral Commission.

It's looking at his party's finances and how it handles donations, after a complaint to the Serious Fraud Office.

He's teamed up with former National MP Jami Lee Ross - who fell out spectacularly with his party and is now facing serious fraud charges in the High Court.

His prospects of keeping the staunchly National seat of Botany don't look good but his incumbency provides a gossamer thin opportunity for the alliance to gain a place in Parliament - under the rules one seat is enough.

Ross' new political partner, Te Kahika - a Northland blues musician - has posted hours of conspiracy-theory fuelled videos online, in which he claims Covid-19 is a "plandemic" and Bill Gates is influencing government decision making.

When RNZ asked what Te Kahika thought of people who call him a conspiracy theorist, he said they were "uneducated".

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