|Description||Christian Heritage New Zealand (formerly known as the Christian Heritage Party) is a New Zealand political party promoting what it sees as Christian values. It does not currently hold any seats in Parliament, although (as of the most recent election) it was the most popular of the parties without parliamentary representation. |
According to Christian Heritage New Zealand's self-description, the party "aspires to a government that honours God, that gives its people hope and security, and that serves them with compassion and integrity.”
It describes its three key policies as "Family, Justice and Choice". This, in effect, represents a "family values" platform of protecting the traditional family unit, a focus on law and order, and an emphasis on personal responsibility.
Christian Heritage is in favour of law changes that strengthen traditional marriage and prevent same-sex marriage. They also oppose abortion. They support mandatory standards for television to reduce violence and pornography. In economic policy, Christian Heritage is relatively right-wing, and also makes a point of stressing that "economic policy cannot be viewed in isolation" from social matters.
The party has never had a candidate elected to parliament, although it briefly had representation there after a sitting MP defected to Christian Heritage six months before the 1999 election.
The Christian Heritage Party was founded in 1989 to promote "Biblical principles", although the party's leadership generally claims that its policies are advantageous even for those who are not Christian. The party's first convention, held the following year, established the group's structure. In June, Graham Capill was appointed leader.
Shortly after Capill's appointment, eighteen Christian Heritage candidates contested seats in that year's general election. The party did not gain any seats, but did secure over 10,000 votes across the country. Subsequently, the party's candidate finished fourth in a by-election in the electorate of Tamaki.
In 1994, the Christian Heritage Party gained new competition when a National Party MP, Graeme Lee, left to form the Christian Democrats (originally named the United Progressives). Lee had originally considered joining Christian Heritage, but eventually declined.
Later, however, Christian Heritage and the Christian Democrats reached an agreement to contest the 1996 elections together. This resulted in the formation of the Christian Coalition, with Capill and Lee as its co-leaders.
Shortly before the election, there was much speculation as to whether the Christian Coalition would reach the "five percent threshold" necessary to gain proportional representation in New Zealand's MMP electoral system. If the party gained more than five percent of the vote, it would be entitled to a share of parliamentary seats equivalent to its support, probably gaining it five or six MPs. However, when the final vote was tallied, the party had only 4.4% support.
In May of 1997, the Christian Coalition collapsed, with the two component parties going their separate ways. The causes of this breakdown are debated. According to the Christian Heritage Party, it was the Christian Democrats who left the alliance, but other accounts disagree (either blaming Christian Heritage or blaming both). Points of contention included the extent to which the party would admit people who were not Christian but who shared compatible views - after the split, the Christian Democrats would remove the explicitly religious nature of their party.
Six months before the 1999 elections, Frank Grover, leader of a component of the Alliance, defected to Christian Heritage, giving it one seat in Parliament. In the elections, however, Christian Heritage gained just over two percent of the vote, insufficient to entitle the party to any seats. Grover's seat, therefore, was lost.
In the elections of 2002, Christian Heritage had high hopes. It hoped that by focusing on a single electorate, Wairarapa, it could gain entry to parliament and bypass the 5% requirement. However, the result was disappointing - the party itself gained only 1.4% of the vote, and its Wairarapa candidate, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, came third.
In the aftermath of the election, there was considerable tension between the party's central leadership and the Wairarapa branch. Allegations of financial mismanagement were made against both sides, and Raukawa-Tait criticised Graeme Capill's leadership of the party. Capill, in turn, criticised Raukawa-Tait, and rebuked her for her comments.
Not long after the election, Capill announced his intention to retire from the position of leader. A year later, when Capill's retirement came into effect, the party appointed Ewan McQueen to replace him. The party also reaffirmed its determination to carry on contesting elections (rather than remove itself from the list of parties and become a pressure group).
Since that time, the party has adopted the name Christian Heritage New Zealand, or CHNZ, (rather than the original Christian Heritage Party, or CHP).