Nelson men push binding referenda

New Zealand needs to embrace the tools of direct democracy to halt its slow slide towards totalitarianism, according to a new organisation set up by two Nelson men.


Tourism operator Chris Salt and deer farmer Mike Waring formed For Real Democracy NZ earlier this year to push for binding citizens-initiated referenda in New Zealand.

Mr Waring said the goal was to make votes cast in a referendum binding on Parliament, giving the voting public real control over government policy.

The organisation will hold a public meeting tomorrow, with Swiss Ambassador Marion Weichelt-Krupski and businessman Colin Craig speaking about the issue.

Switzerland has a long history of direct democracy, and Mr Craig stood on the platform of binding citizens-initiated referenda during his run for the mayoralty of the Auckland super-city this year.

Votes in referenda had become practically meaningless, with politicians often ignoring the results, Mr Waring said.

The proposed system would change this, he said.

"If enough people vote in a referendum and say `we don’t like this’ then it doesn’t happen."

Without such a move, the country risked drifting towards totalitarianism, Mr Waring said.

"I think that individual sovereignty will be further reduced [with] more and more state control over people’s lives."

Mr Waring said he hoped the meeting would be more widely attended than their last, which saw nine people turn up.

"It’s pretty well make or break for us," he said.