Member log in

National suspected of scuttling Ansell's Colourblind campaign launch

Ad man John Ansell suspects forces within the National party scuttled the launch of his Colourblind New Zealand campaign this week.

The Remuera Rotary club pulled the plug on hosting the event at the last minute, claiming it had been ambushed into providing a platform for a political campaign.

Its sudden about-turn perplexed Mr Ansell, who has since produced a raft of emails between him and the club indicating its apparent enthusiasm for the event.


Now he believes someone leaned on the club, and that “someone” was probably the National party, which is keen not to rock the boat on its cosy relationship with the Maori party.

“One well-known commentator told me I had got too close to the heart of the beast – in other words to the heart of the National party,” Mr Ansell told NBR ONLINE.

“I half expected that somebody would do something like this, but I thought they would operate with more integrity.

“If they’d called me and said 'sorry mate, with the best will in the world we’ve realised we’ve made a mistake, we’re going to have to call the meeting off', that would have been fine by me.

“But to go straight to the press at the last moment and say they have been ambushed is just not on and something that I just can’t let lie, especially as they asked me to invite as many people as possible to the function.”

Mr Ansell says he invited a number of National party people to his address and “it’s quite possible they did run scared and I think I’m going to strike this more and more”.

About-face a bitter blow

The Rotary club about-face was a bitter blow for Mr Ansell, who was already on his way to Auckland from his home in Wellington when he got the news.

But all was not lost because Maori TV came to his rescue and invited him to appear on Native Affairs on the night he was due to give his speech.

“I got treated badly by the Remuera Rotary club but brilliantly by Maori TV, where every single one of them was really nice to me so I did get a chance to get my message across.”

For its part, the Remuera Rotary club rejects any suggestion that it was leaned on by anyone to cancel Mr Ansell’s address.

Club president John Burrowes says his members were “very much looking forward to hearing his point of view” and it was only when a story about the event appeared in NBR ONLINE a few days beforehand that the club had second thoughts.

The story made it clear that Mr Ansell intended to talk about the possibility of forming a political party, something which Mr Burrowes says the club was unaware of – despite details being on Mr Ansell's website.

In a phone call to NBR ONLINE, irate Rotary club spin doctor Felicity Anderson claimed the story was wrong and demanded it be removed from NBR's website. The story was not wrong and it was not removed.

“We knew we had a controversial speaker but I was personally keen to listen to him and hear what his point of view was," Mr Burrowes says.

“But then it shifted to becoming a launch and he was, in effect, converting the occasion from a private meeting to a public meeting by inviting his supporters.

“There may well have been some misunderstanding between us over this but I can say quite categorically that there was no external pressure on us to cancel the occasion.

“We can’t be seen to endorse the launch of a political party.”

Mr Ansell finds the club’s position especially hard to understand given that politicians are regularly invited to address Rotary clubs around the country, sometimes on equally “sensitive” issues.

Highly controversial speech

In 2004 then National party leader Don Brash delivered a highly controversial speech on race relations to the Orewa Rotary club, calling for one rule for all races in New Zealand.

It resulted in a major surge for the party, which had been languishing in the polls.

Despite criticism from some quarters that he was “playing the race card”, the polls indicated that many Maori were comfortable with his speech.

And then in 2005 Dr Brash returned to the Orewa Rotary club to give another speech, this time on another highly sensitive topic – welfare dependency.

All of which fuels Mr Ansell’s suspicion that political skullduggery lay behind the canning of his appearance in Remuera.

But Mr Burrowes says Dr Brash’s appearances at Orewa are not evidence that his club applied a double standard to Mr Ansell.

“Dr Brash was an established politician invited by the Orewa club to a private function at which he made a state-of-the-nation address.

“This was a tradition that was established by Rob Muldoon many years earlier.”

Despite the Remuera rebuff, Mr Ansell is refusing to let it get him down and is pressing on with public meetings in the Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay to whip up support for a single issue party to campaign for a colourblind New Zealand at the next election.

He has also been sounding out commentators on the right and left of the political spectrum to see whether he is going down the best track.

“Sir Bob Jones told me a single issue party will fly as long as John Key remains cowardly.

“He says that unless Key shows some backbone like Helen Clark did then a single issue party will work.”

Mr Ansell says left-wing political commentator Chris Trotter “started to talk in big numbers about the support such a party could get”.

“But he says it will need to be broad spectrum of the right and the left.

“He seems to back much of what I’m saying as he believes a lot of people on the left support the idea of a colourblind state.”

In the meantime, Mr Burrowes says the door is still ajar for Mr Ansell to return to the Remuera Rotary club –  but not for a campaign launch.

“I would personally love to have him back as a guest speaker and hear what he’s all about but it would have to be a private meeting as opposed to a public meeting and it would be people that Rotary invited as opposed to his invitees or the public at large.”

More by Rod Vaughan

Comments and questions

If Mr Burrowes says "there was no external pressure on " Remuera Rotary... then it is logical to assume the influential culprit was a member.
A half-hearted admission that there was a misunderstanding is a very poor show and goes nowhere near the apology Mr Ansell is due.

This scenario makes a lot of sense and adds to the growing concern about the arrogance of those in power.

JK could put paid to this proposition by simply issuing a statement of denial,but will he?

Why is the NBR promoting this "issue" on a daily basis?

The issue is answered by the Rotarian who said, “I would personally love to have him back as a guest speaker and hear what he’s all about but it would have to be a private meeting as opposed to a public meeting and it would be people that Rotary invited as opposed to his invitees or the public at large.” That's the answer - no conspiracy there.

No conspiracy you say ? Yet the evidence shows a rotary flip / flop at the 11th hour.

Remuera Rotary don't matter to me, as I'm already finding people with integrity to host bigger meetings.

What ought to matter to them is that they lied.

My message in posting the evidence against them is not that I enjoy shooting myself in the foot by alientating potential donors, but that more than anything I can't abide liars - be they white, brown or blue.

I'm not interested in attracting the support of people with low integrity. That's no way to move the country forward. This organisation must have honesty as its top value, or we'll end up like another National Party.

I've been advised to compromise. What, between right and wrong? No way.

We've got to blaze a new ethical trail in this country. We've got to be 100% honest, not 50% or 90% honest. We've got to level with people and tell them the truth.

Explaining is NOT losing, as Key thinks. We just better explanations - Great Explanations, as I call them.

If we treat people as adults, they'll make adult decisions. If we keep them in the dark and feed them on bullsh*t, of course they'll make the wrong decisions.

On this Treaty issue, there's so much that I now know and the public haven't been told about. And one way or another - even if I have to drop leaflets from planes - I'm going to tell them.

I look forward to seeing thousands of you at our meetings. We're going to do it properly, and not rely on such clubs.

Read the evidence in Rod's link.

Sorry the above comment was by me - my first Anonymous comment ever!

If you cant stand liars and lack of integrity you could start by putting energy into educating people on the continuous stream of lies under the guise of bad memory coming from our leader

Forget about Dotcom, the Constitution based on Treaty of Waitangi will be the final nail in the coffin for NZ. People other than Maori are being represented by Michael Cullen, I rest my case.

Rotary look bad and no amount of help from Felicity Anderson will change that. John Ansell will find a better forum. Perhaps Sir Bob could host him at one of flash cbd locales?

Ansell has hit a nerve. The fact that 'they' scrambled to block him should give him even more encouragement then he'd have got with a full-house at Remuera Rotary....who are more aligned with Grey Power and special offers at Sibuns.

were one type of person gets preference because of his race then that is racism. NZ is now a racist country with a racist government. National party has to sort this out now before too much damage is done to the country and the National Party. Show us some back bone

This conspiracy theory is ridiculous. Rotary meetings are private for invited guests and members only. Ansell tried to hijack the meeting by inviting all and sundry to the meeting via his web page. The Rotarians would have not expected it to go public in that way. There is no doubt they would have been keen to hear his views as they do with many controversial speakers. But to imply that pressure was brought to bear from Outside Rotary is just ridiculous

You clearly havn't read the paper trail now in the public arena associated with this matter. Best you see all the facts before getting all righteous.

As a Rotarian ( not Remuera) this is a very bad look for Rotary. Yes Rotary is apolitical but invites politicans and would be politicans to speak to members. As the chairman of the programme committee for a club I invited (with the support of the committee and clubs officers) politicans to speak. The actions of the Remuera Club also fly in the face of Rotarys principles of free speech and equality for all. This is a chilling censorship that has no place in any Rotary Club. If the Club has sucumbed to political pressure this is doubly damaging as it places Rotary in the position where it is not a free movement but controlled by external powers.

Just to be clear, I have always had the highest regard for Rotary and their good works, and still do.

I've given my talk about the crazy English language to many clubs in Wellington and have always been struck by the integrity and selflessness of my hosts.

So this setback doesn't change my positive opinion of the wider Rotary organisation one iota.

Good on you Remers have just added to the publicity that this campaign needs. I say the sooner this state of apartheid is squashed the better. I am no conspiracy theorist at all, but one would have to be 'blind Freddie' not to be concerned at the inequality that is now a part of life in NZ. To John Ansell, let us know where and when you plan to launch..I and a host of friends will be there in support. As NZ'rs, we in general, are extremely naive and lack 'street-smarts' ...just live overseas for any length of time to see this is true. When it comes to 'working the system', manipulation of truth; and plain cunning, the Maori 'academics' (using that discription very loosely) are very good at all of the above and yet our so-called intelligent politicians will sell their soul to remain in power,. regardless of the negative affect on the general population. ...Time for a political party to take a stand, draw a line in the sand, put a stop to political 'games' honest and beyond reproach. Go John Ansell!!

Thanks grundle. Looking for regional leaders right now. Accelerators, not handbrakes. People to book big venues. If you're one, email me on

As a Remuera Rotarian, I can assure you John that many of the club would have gone out of their way to hear what you had to say, even as President John Burrowes says he would have done. I can well understand Colin Wilson siezing on the opportunity to fill a gap in our programme which had first been notified (as TBA) to members only about ten days before the meeting, presumably from a cancellation. No thinking person - which should include everybody - can be unconcerned about this issue. But you must surely realise that Rotary can not be seen to actively support any political party, whether in formation or not, as distinct from hearing what it has to say. Both the unseemly unilateral cancellation and the "ambush accusation" are highly regrettable, given the evidence you have provided, and on your behalf, club members could hardly expect you to be aware of the ABSOLUTE NECESSITY for any service CLUB (as distinct from it's members in their non-club lives) to be formally apolitical, in the sense of avoiding any possible accusation of actively supporting any one political party - or prospective party launch - as distinct from being keen to hear any and all points of view. As for John Burrowes and Colin Wilson, both men enjoy my complete confidence as to their integrity; over many years (even decades) both men (like you) have gone beyond the call of reasonable duty in service of the community. It is inconceivable to me that either man would have taken any notice of any attempt by any National Party person to "lean on" them, but I can well understand that, under pressure of other events in their lives, they did not give the evolving situation the consideration and clear thinking that, in retrospect, was required. So the club was at fault in that regard, and I for one will be suggesting that the club refund your expenses and apologise for our part of the various incorrect presumptions, misunderstandings, and mistakes that occurred as the situation evolved, and the embarrassment they would have caused you. Regrettably, your own reaction, however much justified it may seem to you given your intepretation of events, may have discredited your argument somewhat in the eyes of some; a great pity, as your cause is of great moment for NZ, and we should all be immensely grateful to you for your efforts on all our behalves, whether we agree with you or not. And for the record, I for one do. Which is why I hope you will see fit to come back and address us some time after all the fuss has blown over, but without associated ramifications for club impartiality next time!