18 September 2014
A couple of elections ago there was a bumper sticker around to the effect the one million New Zealanders liked to hunt, fish or tramp in our great outdoors. The implication was that governments therefore needed to take their concerns more seriously to retain their electoral support. The reality was, however, that when it came to the elections that million New Zealanders voted pretty much the same way as everyone else, and nothing much changed.
One of the reasons for that that was that while the statements were fine and the concerns serious, there was no political party that appealed as the most logical home for their votes. All that has changed significantly in the last three years. There has been a party in Parliament that has demonstrated a commitment to outdoor values in the most practical of ways. That party is UnitedFuture, and the practical evidence is the establishment of the Game Animal Council as a statutory body. For almost 70 years hunters in particular had been advocating for such a body, but those calls had consistently fallen on deaf ears. The fact that UnitedFuture was able to bring the Game Animal Council to fruition not only resolved this long standing issue, but more importantly sent a signal to many with an interest in outdoor recreation policy that at last there was a party which did not just talk the talk, but walked the walk as well.
That achievement assumes a fresh relevance on the back of an announcement by the recreational fishing group Legesea last week. Legesea, which speaks for about 85,000 recreational fishers, issued its assessment of the various political parties’ policies and who would be best for the recreational fishing sector. UnitedFuture was their runaway winner. Now here is the rub. If around 30,000 of those members give their party vote to UnitedFuture there will be at least 2 UnitedFuture MPs in the new Parliament. If 50,000 of them vote for us, there will 3 UnitedFuture MPs, and if the whole 85,000 vote for us there will be at least 4 UnitedFuture MPs, and the debate about potential kingmakers would look entirely different.
Be all that as it may, we are now coming to the end of the most unusual and bizarre election campaign I have ever been involved in. The overriding message I am picking up is that people have had more than enough of the sideshows, and are looking forward to the resumption of normal business next week.
My parting shot is simply this: one thing this campaign has shown is that anything is possible – and you can vote for it. This is still a democracy which our votes control. So maybe this time the bumper sticker claims I began with will translate into practical results on the day – but only if people vote for what they believe in. Now it really is over to you. Your vote can move mountains, if you are prepared to let it do so.