Politi­cians side­step cam­paign reg­u­la­tions

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - SI­MON MAUDE

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.’’

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