Wicked row heats up with campaign

By Alexandra Newlove

7 comments
WICKED: Three female government ministers have vowed to get slogans like this off the roads, after several Northlanders spoke out against the company behind them. PHOTO/FILE
WICKED: Three female government ministers have vowed to get slogans like this off the roads, after several Northlanders spoke out against the company behind them. PHOTO/FILE

They're vans that have sparked hundreds of awkward conversations on family holidays.

Now a Mangawhai man who helped kick off the campaign to bring an offensive campervan company to justice is thrilled the cause is gaining government attention, and possible intervention.

Terry Harris contacted Whangarei MP Shane Reti in January after he saw a campervan from Australian firm Wicked Campers bearing an obscene message that was deemed too offensive to print in this newspaper.

Several ministers - Paula Bennett, Louise Upston and Maggie Barry - had since taken up the cause and are trying to find ways to get rid of the slogans, which had sparked a string of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. The company has ignored the rulings.

Despite the media attention over a number of years, the company was yet to receive its first fine and the government was now scrambling for options, which could include banning Wicked Campers' vans from public camping grounds, referring the company to the chief censor or using park rangers to fine people driving them.

"I think we'll get on top of them," Mr Harris said. "The only way to affect a company like that is through their pockets. That could be through either government legislation or local [bylaws]."

Northland mum Karen Edwards also spoke out about the company in April 2015, after she saw a van reading "I've often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can't get my wife to go swimming". Ms Edwards' daughter Ashlee, had been drowned in a Whangarei stream by her partner three years earlier.

Dr Reti said it was good to see an issue which had caused a stir in Northland being picked up nationally. He had written to councils across New Zealand urging they use bylaws to fine the company. He also raised the issue in Parliament on March 2, sending a message to the company that "your disgusting degrading of women and children is unacceptable, your signage is an affront to public decency".

Whangarei District Council wrote to Wicked Campers in February advising that "offensive, objectionable" signage was banned under its Signage Bylaw and could provoke fines of up to $20,000. WDC was now seeking legal advice on whether its bylaw would be applicable in the case of mobile campervans.

Mayor Sheryl Mai said the company had not responded to the letter and the council was evaluating options.

-Dr Reti encouraged anyone who saw an offensive van to email the details to him to shane.reti@parliament.govt.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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