Costly election campaigning

By Susan Edmunds

MPs spend over $25,000 limit with indirect expenses.

Replacing defaced billboards pushes politicians' budgets beyond their allocations. Photo / Supplied
Replacing defaced billboards pushes politicians' budgets beyond their allocations. Photo / Supplied

Election candidates will be out all over the country today replacing signs that have been defaced over the weekend.

They say it is one of the biggest drains on their campaign budgets.

Grant Robertson, Labour's campaign manager for the 2011 election, said his own campaign would cost about $20,000. This is his second and this year he is allocating more money for billboards because of the damage done to them.

"In my personal budget, it's in the early $1000s for billboards."

A candidate from the last election, who did not want to be named, said: "You might have 20 billboards for $160 each but you do not budget for the fact you'll have to have 10 signs replaced because they are damaged beyond repair."

The former candidate estimated that candidates would spend between $30,000 and $40,000 on direct and indirect campaign expenses, and would fundraise about half of that.

There would also be significant time off work.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said signs were always one of the biggest expenses in a campaign and cost more than a lot of people realised.

Running an election campaign is an expensive business: parties are allowed to spend up to $1,065,0000 plus $25,000 per electorate they are contesting. Individual candidates are allocated up to $25,000. The major parties usually spend up to the limit.

Robertson said almost everything in a Labour candidate's electorate campaign was paid out of an individual's funds. "There is no subsidy from head office for local campaigns."

Ardern is standing for Labour in one of the more hotly contested electorates: Auckland Central.

She said despite the fact that hers was a more hard-fought campaign than some would be, she did not get any extra assistance from the party.

She and her team worked out what kind of advertising would best target her potential voters, and distributed funds accordingly. She said all the candidates were very conscious of staying within spending limits, after past controversies including allegations of overspending against former Tauranga MP Bob Clarkson.

Robertson said all the electorates would fundraise between elections so the candidate would not personally have to come up with all the money.

"But the individual makes a significant contribution. Some candidates take on significant personal debt."


* $160 Each hoarding, including timber

* $500 Website

* $2,000 Printing leaflets for drop (assuming free delivery by volunteers)

* Up to $15,000 Billboards

- Herald on Sunday

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