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Steve Hart told the Meet the Candidates meeting he wasn’t affiliated with Voices for Freedom. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Hart denies Voices for Freedom link

Mayoral candidate Steve Hart denies being involved with Voices for Freedom despite saying on social media in November last year he was “active” with the advocacy network.
At a Meet the Candidates event in Thames on Saturday, Mr Hart was asked whether he was “actively involved” in Voices for Freedom, an organisation that aims to protect “all freedoms under attack from an overzealous and oppressive Covid-19 response”.
Mr Hart, who is the founder of The Ecologist Party, told the capacity crowd he wasn’t part of the group and the allegation was “probably just a media beat-up”.
This is despite his November 15, 2021, Facebook post on his mayoral candidate page that says: “I have become active in the ‘Voices for’ network and facilitating face to face meetings to assist in creating solutions”.
When asked to clarify his stance by The Profile on Monday, Mr Hart said the operative word in his post was “network”.
“I involve myself in a wide range of networks to develop my professional information and research and data… and also, I’m a political animal; I’ve been involved in politics since I was at school, so I enjoy searching out and digging and digging all of these comments and views,” he said.
When asked if it was accurate to say Mr Hart supported Voices for Freedom, he said he did support “quite a lot of their comment”.
The candidates event, hosted by the Thames Business Association on September 3, invited attendees to anonymously pose questions to the seven mayoral contenders.
One question read: “Stuff recently ran an article cautioning that supporters of Voices for Freedom are wanting to undermine democracy. Are any of the local candidates affiliated or receiving funding from Voices for Freedom?”
All seven mayoral candidates, including Mr Hart, Eric Carter, John Freer, Ron Julian, Peter Pinkham, Len Salt, and Cherie Staples – said they weren’t associated with the group.
A second question, directed solely at Mr Hart, was: “Steve, you’re running a slick campaign in the interest of transparency, why have you not then trumpeted your active involvement for Voices for Freedom?”
“Who says I am active in Voice for Freedom?” he asked, to which a member of the public replied: “You do”.
“This is probably just a media beat-up, so that’s a total false call,” he said.
“I’m active in a whole range of circles, actually, right across the board for political activism from a range of areas… I do enjoy research and if we have a look at the Voices for Freedom website, there’s some phenomenal material there that certainly helps us support our own viewpoints on many things.
“I enjoy researching,” he continued. “It’s been part of my career path all my life, and just like any activity we need to go through in the future, we must research all that detail and get it correct.”
According to its website, Voices for Freedom is an organisation founded in December, 2020, with “a focus on protecting New Zealanders’ fundamental human rights: particularly freedom of speech, health and medical freedom, and all freedoms under attack from an overzealous and oppressive Covid-19 response”.
A blog post on the site said the group was “encouraging people to participate in democracy”.
A “manifesto” on Mr Hart’s Ecologist Party website states: “we have been designed as slaves and locked into a world of slavery at every level to feed an elite. [The Ecologist Party] exposes this and offers the leadership to gain our own enriched freedoms”.
Also discussed at the Meet the Candidates meeting was the controversial council project ‘The Vibe’, which closed part Mary St to through traffic. Thames Community Board candidates were asked if they would reopen the road, if elected. Fiona Cameron said she liked the idea of the Vibe, but it was in the wrong location and Kara-Leah Grant said she wouldn’t open the street both ways.
Adrian Catran said The Vibe “cuts the town in half”.
“With regards to the Vibe, if that was [voted] the best street in New Zealand, I can only think of two things: one, it was self-nominated, or, it was the only entry,” he said.
“Of course The Vibe’s got to go. You can recreate a much better system anywhere else. That is [the poorest] example of urban landscaping I’ve ever seen.”
DETAILS: Voting documents will be sent to all enrolled voters starting from September 6. Voting day is on October 8, closing at midday.