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ACT leader Don Brash stands by racially divisive ads despite accepting the resignation of the man behind them, the party's marketing director John Ansell.
"I am happy to confirm I have accepted his resignation," Dr Brash told NZPA.
While Dr Brash would not give details of the resignation, comments Mr Ansell made on-line indicate it was because he wanted to go further than others in ACT were willing.
Mr Ansell was behind a series of race-based billboards in the 2005 general election which Dr Brash narrowly lost as National's leader.
He was recently involved in billboards against new foreshore and seabed legislation for lobby group the Coastal Coalition.
The new ad featuring the Maori sovereignty flag is headlined "Fed up with pandering to Maori Radicals?" and lists what ACT sees as National Party concessions to Maori. These ranged from the foreshore legislation to the spelling of Whanganui.
"Now is the time to draw a line in the sand. Only one thing can stop the Maori radicalisation of New Zealand. And that's a strong ACT," the ad concluded.
Dr Brash said Mr Ansell's resignation had happened in the past few days, but it was inappropriate to comment further as it was an employment issue.
Mr Ansell said on blogsites today he had wanted to "bring the Maorification issue to a head". He also made negative comments about Maori culture and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples lineage.
"Don is mad as hell with me for making my public statements," he said. "I couldn't care less."
Dr Brash said he and the party's parliamentary leader, John Boscawen, were both involved in developing the ad. Act Parliamentary staffer Lindsay Perigo also had input into the ad in his spare time.
Mr Perigo has in the past called for the Treaty to be dumped and Waitangi Day replaced with "Western Civilisation Day". He said pre-Treaty Maori were tribal cannibals.
Dr Brash said he did not accept all Mr Perigo's views.
The debate prompted former ACT MP David Garrett to vent on blogsites. He called the Maori Party racist.
"Make no mistake, the entire [Maori Party] - including that nice Dr Sharples all the ladies love, and Aunty Tari - want nothing less than total Maori control of Aotearoa - and if we don't like it, we can all bugger off somewhere else."
Dr Brash said he could not comment as he had not seen the comments.
Whether Mr Garrett could return as an ACT MP in future was up to the board, he said.
"I didn't say the door was open I simply said it was a board decision."
Maori Party co-Leader Tariana Turia yesterday slammed the ads as deeply offensive.
Today Dr Sharples issued an open letter to Dr Brash saying the ad he saw was sad and disturbing and the views inaccurate.
"You once again bring the Maori peoples aspirations into contempt and ridicule."
He said the "Maori bashing" style tried to undermine what were positive developments.
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, who left the Maori Party over its backing of National, said the ad was a "pathetic attempt" to rekindle racial politics.
"Your attempts to booster ACT in the polls by riding on the xenophobic fears of Joe Bloggs in the street will not work this time round."
Dr Brash denied the accusation.
"The racial tension is there now, there are a great number of people throughout the country who resent the fact that successive governments have created legal preference for Maori ... we are simply reciting the fact that the National Government has continued a policy which Labour began."
The Maori Party's response was "entirely predictable", he said.
"My concern is that successive government have been willing to appease the Maori Party and other Maori radicals by adopting policies clearly contrary to what was intended in the Treaty of Waitangi."
The Weekend Herald published the ad but the Dominion-Post refused and ran a different version.
Dr Brash said that was a freedom of speech issue and the ad was a "recitation of factual statements".