New Zealand is ready for real change, says kingmaker party leader

David Seymour, leader of the ACT Party, says his party will take New Zealand in a new and different direction
David Seymour, leader of the ACT Party, says his party will take New Zealand in a new and different direction - HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES ASIAPAC

New Zealand is ready for “real change”, the leader of the country’s Libertarian ACT party has said after polling suggested it could be a possible kingmaker in October’s elections.

David Seymour, who has spearheaded the ACT’s Libertarian agenda since becoming party leader in 2014, pledged to reunite a divided New Zealand and address the crime wave and cost of living crisis.

Speaking to The Telegraph after an opinion poll found increased support for ACT and the National Party, he said: “The poll shows Kiwis want a change of government. ACT’s job is to make sure it’s a government of real change.

He added: “A strong ACT presence means real solutions to the cost of living that keeps rising, the crime that is out of control and an end to dividing New Zealand with co-government.”

Co-governance, a system of equal voting rights between Maoris and national and local government, has become contentious in recent years.

Changes to the health service – one for Maori citizens and the other for all other New Zealanders – have proved particularly controversial, given that the indigenous community makes up less than a fifth of the country’s overall population.

‘We’d send a guy called Guy Fawkes’

Mr Seymour has been under fire in recent weeks after suggesting that Guy Fawkes might help him deliver on his pledge to abolish the Ministry of Pacific Peoples as a way of reducing government spending.

“In my fantasy we’d send a guy called Guy Fawkes and it’d all be over, but we’d probably have to have a more formal approach than that,” he joked in a radio interview.

After being criticised for the comments, Mr Seymour insisted it was intended as a joke about the ministry’s spending.

Last year the ministry, which proudly describes itself as the “Crown’s principal advisor on policies aimed at improving outcomes for Pacific peoples in Aotearoa”, using the Maori name for New Zealand, splashed out nearly £19,000 on a leaving party for its chief executive, including cultural gifts, ceremonial drummers and travel expenses for 12 guests.

The chief executive later repaid the money after the cost was revealed by a member of the public who made an Official Information request.

While the Guy Fawkes row led to criticism of Mr Seymour, it is unlikely to have any meaningful impact on his party’s rising political fortunes.

Support for the ACT jumped by 1 per cent to 13 per cent in an opinion poll this week, suggesting it could win 17 seats and hold the balance of power in a coalition with the conservative National Party in October’s general election.

Meanwhile, support for Labour fell by 4 per cent to 29 per cent, with the National Party climbing by 2 per cent to 37 per cent.

The Greens and New Zealand First also enjoyed additional support.

Government faces crushing defeat

The figures suggest the present government could face a crushing defeat at the polls seven months after Jacinda Ardern stepped down to be replaced by Chris Hipkins as prime minister.

Mr Seymour’s vision for a post-Ardern New Zealand is a major change in direction for the country.

Among ACT’s budget proposals are moves to cut taxes, slash the number of public servants, boost defence spending and increase the number of prison beds “so dangerous criminals can be kept off the street”.

“ACT’s alternative budget cuts waste in many areas of government, which allows us to invest in areas that are important for public safety,” Mr Seymour said.

Despite Mr Hipkins’s falling popularity, he has vowed to turn around electoral sentiment come October.

While Ms Ardern’s successor admits he is currently the “underdog”, he has warned New Zealanders that a National-ACT coalition would be a “radical right wing government”.

“We’re setting out a positive plan for the future. I’m very optimistic about New Zealand’s future,” he told 1 News.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.