Election spawns forest of billboards

By Roger Moroney

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AND THE WINNER IS: For the best smile, Neil Kirton.
AND THE WINNER IS: For the best smile, Neil Kirton.

Now then, being of Irish descent (and proud of it too I may add) it was not until about 35 minutes into a recent tour of the regional landscape that I realised why I had not seen a billboard espousing the ethics and enthusiasm of Napier Mayor Bill Dalton, who is standing for another stint at leading his band of merry men and women councillors.

He is standing unopposed.

Had I spotted a billboard featuring Mr D's smiling features then I would have cried out in delight: "Oi've met anudder Oirishman!"

Nope, Bill hasn't had to risk blackening a fingernail with the harsh end of a claw hammer in the pursuit of putting election signs up this time around, which means his budget in the great arena of pre-election advertising is effectively zilch.

Which also means he should be able to put on a fine celebratory shout on the day the provisional results come out ... I'll have a couple of sparkling pilsners, thanks matey.

But not so for Hastings District Council - Mayor Lawrence Yule who is in a three-way tussle for the mayoralty role.

The Yule toolbox containing hammer and nails has indeed been at work ... as have the toolboxes of a few dozen others across the Hawke's Bay street and roadsides in the battle of the billboards.

This has, of course, become a regular three-yearly occurrence which is eagerly anticipated by the suppliers of staunch lengths of timber and for specialists in commercial photo work and signwriting.

The creation of billboards comes under strict financial constraints on those vying for a place of council, with the rules stating that the expenditure limit for people electioneering in a city with a population between 60,000 and 79,999 is $40,000.

Whoa, that's a fair old pile of four-by-two and plastic corrugated signage sheeting.

Not so for a town with a population between 5000 and 9999 ... it's just $7000.

And there are lots of bylaws and rules about when and where you can put them ... and I heard a whisper that while you have to declare the cost of the sign itself you don't have to declare the cost of the big wooden stakes.

And so it has come to pass that the urban and semi-rural corners of this region have become a blaze of traditional spring colour. The colour of billboards.

And the colour of cheerful smiles of course, although the smile scale is a wide one.

The scale ranges from Charles Lambert standing for a spot on the Wairoa District Council (a most subtle display) to the immensely cheerful cheeks of Neil Kirton standing for the Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

He wins the grins, although I'm always uncertain about the use of the word "committed" on such posters.

Some, like Larry Dallimore going for the Ahuriri ward, steer away from a facial pose and use words and colour.

I spotted one of Larry's big billboards which, on the back, had four of his smaller efforts attached and bearing his catch-phrase "affordable solutions" - which I suppose four into one kind of achieves.

Words can say a lot, although many billboards spotted don't say a lot.

Like Jeremy Harker up Wairoa way - it's his name and the words Wairoa District Council.

That's it.

At the other end of the word scale you'll spot Steve Gibson going for a Napier seat on council - "be prepared, plan ahead, sustainable growth, affordable rates."

And Adrienne Pierce, aiming for council and a shot at the mayoralty in Hastings, rolls out the word count with "to work on public transport and open up the region".

It was set up, among seven billboards, at the busy intersection of St Aubyn St and Pakowhai Rd so those using public transport had plenty to read.

And one of the billboards for Bayden Barber was intriguing. It didn't say what he was standing for, although a second one I spotted did.

Maybe he picked the first one up from the printers before they'd finished it.

In the political "bases covered" category Martin Williams (standing for the regional council) wins hands-down.

One side of his two-sided billboard in Taradale Rd is bright (Labour) red, the other side is a very vivid (National) blue.

You can approach Martin from the left, or the right, and he'll grab your attention.

In the case of Kevin Watkins, standing again for a Hastings seat, he'll approach you - he's got a travelling billboard on his trailer.

In the "wordplay" category the Napier council contenders are to the fore with Kirsten Wise declaring a vote in her direction would be a "Wise" choice while Tania Wright invites voters to make the "Wright" choice.

Graeme Taylor cuts to the chase with a simple 'Tick Taylor" but I fear "Tick" could be misconstrued as his nickname.

A couple of Hastings chaps had the chance to score on the wordplay front but missed the chance.

Guy Wellwood, going for the mayoralty has a simple white tick on a green background. He could have gone with "Vote Guy Well... Would you please?"

And Lawrence Yule has gone for a simple "Proven" where a "Yule Get My Attention" could have snuck in.

On that "please" note, I only spotted one billboard where the word was used.

Standing again for a spot on the Napier council (and upon a diamond-shaped billboard) Richard McGrath has the words "please vote" attached.

Back to wordplay - I spotted a couple of large posters for Hastings councillor Peter Beavan attached to a large apple bin atop another apple bin in a field just north of the city.

No wooden stake expenses here, no sir, although he should have further courted the orchard vote by stating he will get to the "core" of the issues and is determined not to be "pipped" at the post.

But then again, maybe not.

In the "eyeful" stakes the northern edge of the Hawke's Bay A&P Showgrounds gets the vote.

There are five lined up all in a row although the sixth one is the eye-grabber as it reads "Go-Karts" and has an arrow pointing left.

Some may wonder if Mr or Mrs Karts is standing and are they the way to ... go?

And across the road, staring at this line-up of contenders is the face of Tom Belford.

The billboard face-off is continued at a spot down Pakowhai Rd where HDC contenders Damon Harvey and Wayne Bradshaw stare each other down from opposite sides of the road.

Down Central Hawke's Bay way the landscape is filled with spring (billboard) colour with the vote for the primest of spots going to mayoral candidate Sally Butler whose billboard stands out atop a hill.

And there are lots of traditional one-liners like "experience and good value" from Chris Southgate and "a positive future" from Alex Walker.

The signage is widespread, and on the journey out of Hastings toward Clive there is a seemingly endless parade of billboards and one does tend to suffer a slice of overload and confusion.

Just near Clive I came upon three in a row: the cheerful Anne Redcliffe and Jason Whaitiri and Barnum.

"Who's Barnum standing for?" I mused, then realised it was a billboard for Barnum, the circus musical show.

Doh.

Yes, the landscape is billboarded big-time, although when one is out actively looking for billboards and signage it is quite an eye-opener in terms of just how many signs of all types are out there.

And, of course, in political terms the only one I couldn't find was one for Bill Dalton.

Had I done so, it would have made my day.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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