Those who believe South Islanders get a raw deal in a
country overendowed with North Island politicians, North
Island business owners and North Island welfare beneficiaries
might be a little disappointed in new member of Parliament
Richard Prosser. The former
Alexandra-based "convener" of the South Island Party, that
preached separatism in one form or another, is now singing
from the New Zealand First hymn book - one country with one
flag, one set of laws, one social welfare system... Mark
Richard Prosser: "If they suddenly start getting a much
larger slice of the pie and we are suffering as a result,
then obviously sentiment will start becoming a lot
Richard Prosser is thinking about his maiden speech to
And he is mulling over what to say about his years as
champion of a movement at odds with the philosophy of the
party that delivered him his new seat in Parliament.
He is one of eight list members for New Zealand First - the
party declaring, not surprisingly, it wants to "put New
Zealand and New Zealanders first".
But for 14 of Prosser's past political years, he has been
discussing the idea that South Islanders need to put the
South Island and South Islanders first.
And he still believes one day, South Island
"self-determination" will come in some form, even though he
might not be alive to see it.
"It's probably generations away unless something dramatic
happens in the meantime and you get a big shift in perception
and there's some cause for the barrow to be pushed."
He suspects the Auckland supercity might ultimately be the
cause of the "big shift".
"If they suddenly start getting a much larger slice of the
pie and we are suffering as a result, then obviously
sentiment will start becoming a lot stronger."
So, although he retains "sympathy for the movement", Mr
Prosser believes a "lack of demand" means he can put aside
the interests of South Island separatists for the moment.
"If circumstances change and if the way the South is treated
changes then I think there will be demand and that's
something you would look at then."
He denies he is simply being expedient.
"It's not a conflict of interest simply because my perception
is... that it needs to be demand-driven... and there's not
really a demand for it at the moment."
Asked if he would promote South Island separatism in future,
Mr Prosser said: "Oh it depends what sort of time frame we
"I'm not trying to be evasive. I'm just, I'm very cognisant
of the fact I'm there wearing one hat and that's what I've
campaigned on, and been selected to the party for, and been
elected on the basis of, and I don't want to go hijacking it
with another agenda."
His views on the South Island movement had "never really come
up" in discussions with party leader Mr Peters, he says, but
"I have never made any secret of what my history has been.
It's all over the net like a rash anyway."
Mr Prosser was born in Auckland and grew up in the Waikato
and now lives near Rangiora.
He arrived in Central Otago in 1994 with his partner and
spent 10 years working in the wine industry. He lived at
Lauder for six years and Alexandra for four.
"It becomes very rapidly apparent that it's a very different
sort of a place - the demographics and the values and the
pace of life and the way people are; the way they are open
and friendly. There's a sense of community in the South
Island that they lack in the North, to be honest."
He also noticed a "simmering undercurrent" of separatism or
"There's a perception that the South gets ignored, that the
South produces most of the wealth and the North spends it ...
that southern production goes to subsidise northern welfare.
"It is a concern a lot of people have."
And, he says, some of that revolves around electricity and
the belief the South Island does not benefit sufficiently
from the power its rivers produce.
For 14 years Mr Prosser was involved in that discussion -
with "100-odd" supporters meeting at the middle pub in
"It was a lot of fun. The campaign headquarters were a great
place to meet."