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Outdoor Voters Poised to Vote

Outdoor Voters Poised to Vote

A New Zealand-wide outdoor recreation organisation predicts the outdoors voting public will have a big impact on the election result.

Co-chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (CORANZ) Andi Cockroft of Upper Hutt says the environment and outdoor recreation issues are “several and varied” comprising degraded rivers, the controversial ecosystem poison 1080, foreign land sales, loss of access, anti-deer policies, oil exploration and several other issues.

“There’s a big groundswell of concern which is reflected that CORANZ and other organisations have for the first time ever, taken advertisements in magazines and papers to encourage outdoors-minded Kiwis to vote and vote with the issues in mind,” he says. “The potential impact is great as “outdoors minded Kiwis” number hundreds of thousands.”

Estimates suggest the outdoors vote comprises over 700,000 eligible-to-vote New Zealanders. In 2012 a Horizon Poll survey revealed fishing has five times more participants than rugby, comprising both men and women and ranging from youngsters to pensioners.

Andi Cockroft said depth of concern naturally varies between individuals, but hypothetically a conservative estimate of half (350,000) voting with outdoors issues uppermost would have a tremendous influence. Political pundits say just a 2 percent swing can determine an election.

CORANZ other co-chairman Bill Benfield of the Wairarapa believed political parties had suddenly become more aware of the election impact of outdoors New Zealanders especially with recent advertisements often full pages.

The National-led government’s “recreational-only” fishing areas for sea fishing released 10 days before election day is a case in point. He senses the “election eve” release was the result of the “panic button” being pushed.

“But I suspect fishermen’s memories are very good,” he says.

Bill Benfield recalls National when elected in 2008, promised recreational zones.

“Two terms, six years later, they’ve set up no recreational only areas. In fact, to the contrary, they’ve reduced bag limits as with Auckland’s snapper fishery and imposed some draconian rules on recreational fishers as in the Marlborough Sounds and set netting along the South Island east coast.”

CORANZ’s membership comprises fishing, hunting, access advocacy and four wheel drive groups. In past election years, the outdoor public have been relatively quiet politically - virtually apathetic - says Andi Cockroft.

“But at this election, it’s arousing, showing an urgent and growing urge to mix it politically, at least at the voting box,’ he says.

CORANZ produced an election charter and analysed responses from political parties. Seventeen topics covered sea fishing, rivers, oil exploration, access, 1080 poison and “big picture” environmental issues such as issues as the Resource Management Act, population limits and replacing the GDP measurement of growth with a Genuine Progress Indicator.

The results showed the National government in a poor light while minor parties in particular scored well. NZ First was top party (88 percent) while following closely were United Future and Conservative Parties in equal runner-up place (76 percent). Labour and Maori Party scored 35 percent and National ranked last.

Another analysis independent of CORANZ was done by Auckland-based LEGASEA on five key sea fishing criteria and ranked United Future top followed by NZ First and Green with National scoring a lowly 7th out of nine political parties.

Bill Benfield says National’s poor showing was to some degree due to it being the serving government with its policies open to scrutiny.

“On the other hand the reality is its performance assessment time. If they had performed creditably over their six years, I’m sured their ranking would’ve been near the top,” he says.


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