The leader of New Zealand’s Conservative Party has said that the “international debate” around equal marriage was reason enough to slow down the progress of the country’s equal marriage bill, which is currently being considered by a select committee.

Colin Craig, who is opposed to the measure, also went on to say that the issue was very important to New Zealanders, and that MPs representing the public were not “socially conservative” enough, reports Yahoo.

Mr Craig said: “It is a core issue for many New Zealanders, and New Zealanders are more socially conservative, I think, than many of the parliamentarians.”

“This is part of an international debate, it’s serious stuff, and we really think New Zealanders should be given the vote in a referendum on this issue,” he continued.

The New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill, which would legalise equal marriage, passed its first reading on 22 August, with a majority of 80 votes to 40 in parliament in support of the change.

A select committee is now reviewing the bill, which would normally be over a period of around six months. After that process, it will make a decision on whether or not to recommend it be passed.

On Monday, a New Zealand charity, the leader of which made a submission to parliament attempting to link equal marriage with rising crime rates, released a statement distancing itself from his comments.

Garth McVicar, the head of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, made a submission to the select committee considering equal marriage, suggesting that the act of legalising same-sex marriage would break down the basic morals of society, and would bring more harm than good.

Last week, the head of an evangelical church in Auckland was discovered attempting to rig a cabinet minister’s poll on a pending equal marriage bill.

Last September, the Prime Minister of New Zealand was mentioned in a pamphlet sent out by Mr Craig, saying that people were disgruntled about his vote in favour of an equal marriage bill and that he was “too gay” to be prime minister.