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NZ First leader Winston Peters 'backs to the hilt' candidate whose quote was used in debate

Claire Trevett and Kurt Bayer,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 Sep 2023, 12:36PM

NZ First leader Winston Peters 'backs to the hilt' candidate whose quote was used in debate

Claire Trevett and Kurt Bayer,
Publish Date
Thu, 28 Sep 2023, 12:36PM

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has backed Rangitata candidate Rob Ballantyne, saying if a quote by Ballantyne which Labour leader Chris Hipkins used in the Newshub debate related to the “disease of co-governance”, then he was “backing him to the hilt”. 

Hipkins had read out the quote, saying that when talking about Māori at a candidates’ meeting an NZ First candidate had said: “Cry if you want to, we don’t care. We are the party with the cultural mandate and the courage to cut out your disease and bury you permanently.” 

Hipkins had then asked National leader Christopher Luxon if he thought it was racist - and if he would be comfortable working with people who held such views. 

He did not name the candidate, but it was Rangitata candidate Rob Ballantyne. The Herald has approached Ballantyne for comment. 

Asked if he backed that quote this morning, Peters said Hipkins had not set out the context in which the quote was given, and he had been told it related to Covid-19. 

When told Ballantyne himself had since told Stuff that he was referring to the Māori elite and the likes of Labour’s Willie Jackson, Peters said Ballantyne had previously spoken about the “disease” of co-governance. 

“If you say he was talking about co-governance and the way it was handled, then I’m backing him to the hilt. Because co-governance is a disease and it is destructing our democracy. You got that? 

“And it is a disease, I’m not backing away from that either. I’ve been on this campaign for two-and-and-a-half years telling you about democracy hanging by a thread and about two governments in this country: two systems in health, two systems in education, two everything.” 

Asked if he had spoken to Ballantyne about it, he said: “If I had or hadn’t spoken to him, I wouldn’t be telling you.” 

He questioned why there was so much interest in it, saying the media had barely covered Peters’ speeches over the last two years, “and somebody way down the list says something, and now it’s a big issue with you people”. 

Ballantyne told Stuff his quote was taken out of context and he did not believe it was racist. He said the Māori elite included the likes of Labour’s Willie Jackson. 

“It’s just those top elite, we call them the conspirators, the Māori separatists that want to base co-governance come self-governance on a racial-based future, and we don’t want that.” 

On August 17, Ballantyne explained his reasons for running for Parliament on Reality Check Radio NZ, hosted by Cam Slater. 

Over the last three years, he said he’s become more anxious, concerned, and “at times somewhat angry at the direction the Government has been taking us”. 

”It seems that there is a disrespect for those who have built their lives in this country or, in my case, five generations but, as I say, I feel as indigenous as anybody here,” Ballantyne said. 

”I feel like I am being marginalised and a lot of people I talk to say, you know, I don’t even feel like this is my country anymore.” 

But he said, “One thing I need to say straight off the bat is that none of us in New Zealand First are anti-Māori, but there is a sector of Māoridom that is causing a lot of harm and is threatening our democracy and our freedoms and it’s been coming along for a long time, as you say, and in the last three years it’s seemed to have grown enormously.” 

He said NZ First is about equality for all and not separatism. 

”Racism is one of the things that you least want to be labelled as because it sticks,” Ballantyne said. 

”The one thing about New Zealand First that I like when it comes to the race card is that, in my view, New Zealand First is by far and away the party that has the greatest cultural mandate to sweep this ideological folly into the gutter, sorry it may not be the gutter, but you know sweep it aside and let us get on with our normal freedoms and democracy.” 

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