There are many community and recreational interest groups in New Zealand.
While some community groups have a mainly regional focus, others are organised around a network of largely autonomous cells or branches. Grey Power, a powerful interest group that lobbies for the welfare and wellbeing of those over age 50, is regionally based. On the other hand, each local Returned and Services’ Association (RSA) is independent, but maintains loyalty to objectives and resolutions of the RSA’s national council.
With the move towards greater devolution, local Māori leaders are assuming greater responsibility for advocating on behalf of iwi and hapū, especially with respect to achieving greater self-determination and a larger share of the resources of the state. The Iwi Chairs Forum was set up in 2005 and comprises leaders from 50 iwi (representing two-thirds of Māori). An iwi leadership group is drawn from the forum. It meets regularly with MPs and officials on matters concerning Māori.
A double standard
The New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association has long lobbied against the government’s use of 1080 poison to kill pests such as possums on conservation land because it also kills game. When protesters scattered 1080 look-alike pellets in Christchurch’s Hagley Park in 2008, the association sharply contrasted the media’s alarmed response with its muted reporting of government 1080 bait drops in public water-supply areas.
Reflecting New Zealand’s high levels of participation in outdoor recreation and sport, most recreational organisations not only provide a range of services to their members, but also seek to influence government policy. Sports bodies have lobbied ministers and MPs on topics including access to national parks and privately owned land, firearm licensing laws, visits by sports teams to ‘unfriendly’ or ‘unstable’ regimes, state funding provisions and priorities, and commercial sponsorship arrangements, most controversially with tobacco and alcohol companies.
Rugby Football Union
Undoubtedly the most influential sports organisation in the country is the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. During the apartheid era in South Africa, the union was publicly criticised for trying to convince the government that politics should not influence sporting contacts with South Africa. Those opposed to such contacts set up interest groups such as the Citizens Association for Racial Equality (CARE) in 1964 and Halt All Racist Tours (HART) in 1969.
Other bodies that frequently engage with government policy include the Federated Mountain Clubs (parent body of over 80 tramping and mountain-climbing clubs), the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council (which represents the interests of non-commercial marine fishers) and the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association (which tries to ensure that hunters organise and manage recreational hunting.)