Politicians sidestep campaign regulations
Major political parties have found a way around electoral campaign rules by calling hundreds of public meetings across the country.
Like Easter eggs in supermarkets straight after Boxing Day, a barrage of party political billboards appeared months before the official, regulated campaigning period began at midnight on Thursday.
The billboards extolled constituents to attend meetings discussing electorate issues.
Yet weeks past the advertised meeting dates the signs lingered, often right up until the start of official campaigning.
Labour’s Auckland Central candidate, Helen White, removed her Ponsonby sign on Friday. The meeting it advertised was held on June 14. White, a first-time candidate, apologised: ‘‘Because I am new, I have made a mistake.’’
National MP Parmeet Parmjar had no such excuse: She had billboards up in Mt Roskill this week, advertising past meetings.
Auckland Transport signage bylaw requires them to be removed within three days of the advertised meeting.
The Electoral Commission is seeking legal advice on whether White’s sign constituted advertising.
National Party campaign manager and Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce said some preelection period signage had been paid for by MPs’ Parliamentary Service funding. ‘‘These meetings are an important way of staying in touch with the local community and we have held hundreds across the country,’’ he said.
Gareth Morgan, leader of The Opportunities Party, has lashed out at the ‘‘hypocrisy’’ of the established parties.
‘‘The rash of taxpayer funded billboards, fridge magnets and other campaigning paraphernalia from incumbent politicians is proof positive we need to reform taxpayer funding of political parties.’’