ACT demands apology from Stuart Nash for suggesting Groundswell full of racists, anti-vaxxers

The ACT Party has demanded an apology from Stuart Nash after he suggested Groundswell was full of racists and anti-vaxxers. 

Mark Cameron, ACT's spokesperson for primary industries, has accused Labour of showing their "true colours" when he questioned whether the Government had met with Groundswell.

Labour MP Stuart Nash - who was answering questions on behalf of Damien O'Connor - questioned the farming advocacy group's beliefs after they made headlines for racist comments made by one of their members.  

"I'm not too sure what Groundswell stands for these days and that is what I have read on their website," Nash said at question time in Parliament on Thursday. "It's a mixture of racism, anti-vax etc."

In a statement, Cameron said Nash had shown "utter contempt" towards rural New Zealand and called on the Prime Minister to force him to apologise to the farming advocacy group.

"Stuart Nash revealed Labour's true colours today - describing members of a rural movement as racist anti-vaxxers - and he should apologise", Cameron says.

"Standing in for Damien O'Connor in Parliament today, Nash refused to answer a simple question about whether the Government had met with Groundswell and instead resorted to name-calling."

Cameron said Nash had "stereotyped farmers" and shown "utter contempt" towards rural New Zealand.

"Jacinda Ardern had promised to govern for all New Zealanders. This was supposed to be a kind government. If Ardern wants to be taken seriously, she'll tell Nash to apologise."

Groundswell has repeatedly had to disassociate itself from claims of racism and anti-vaccine sentiments.

The group's Hamilton organiser Ross Townshend resigned earlier this week after making "highly inappropriate" comments on social media about Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

The post was widely condemned online, with users calling it "racist", "disgusting" and "appalling". A spokesperson for Groundswell said the group was not racist and did not support Townshend's views.

But it's not the only time Groundswell has faced bad PR.

A protest in July organised by Groundswell featured many placards of a racial or anti-vaccine nature, and in September, Groundswell distanced itself from a supporter's viral email that made various disparaging comments about Maori, calling it "racial and abusive".

Groundswell's founder was also forced to deny he was anti-vaxxer after refusing to appear in an ad promoting COVID-19 vaccination.

Newshub has approached Groundswell for comment.