Political sign defacement 'work of idle vandals'

By Simon Hendery -
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A billboard featuring Prime Minister John Key, put up by Tukituki MP Craig Foss on Karamu Rd North, is among the latest to suffer a vandalism attack. Photo / Duncan Brown
A billboard featuring Prime Minister John Key, put up by Tukituki MP Craig Foss on Karamu Rd North, is among the latest to suffer a vandalism attack. Photo / Duncan Brown

The fire engine used by Labour's Napier candidate, Stuart Nash, is the latest political prop to come under attack from vandals.

Candidates are used to their billboards being attacked and say the current round of vandalism appears to be the work of people "with nothing better to do" rather than political opponents.

Mr Nash said his fire engine was spray-painted with profanities on Tuesday night.

"I've just been down to the guys who do all our sign-writing and they gave me some of the sort of [paint removal] stuff that melts metal and I managed to get it off but it's very disappointing because none of us have time for this," he said.

"I know it's not the Nats doing this and the Nats know it's not Labour [vandalising their signs]. It's just hoons with nothing better to do." He said National and Labour's Napier campaign teams had an agreement to let each other know when they spotted damaged signs, because neither wanted to make the "visual pollution" of campaign hoardings appear worse than it needed to.

National Tukituki MP Craig Foss said while some attacks against his signs in past campaigns had been politically motivated "mostly it's incompetent fools with nothing better to do".

National's Napier candidate, Wayne Walford, said his signage had been attacked and his campaign team worked hard to remove graffiti as soon as possible.

The fact that fences and letterboxes in the vicinity of signs were spray-painted at the same time suggested "it's just people wandering around with a spray can and not very much to do," he said.

"I don't think it's a targeted campaign, I think it's just opportunists with a spray can."

Tukituki Labour candidate Anna Lorck said she had only had one sign defaced so far and she had been able to clean it up with turpentine.

Same again, says council, on election hoardings

The Hastings District Council is sticking to the same campaign billboard rules it applied at the last election - despite a short-lived attempt to cut back the amount of political signage in the district this time around, Mayor Lawrence Yule says.

Labour's Tukituki candidate, Anna Lorck, said she took down one of her hoardings in Havelock Rd yesterday after being told it breached council rules restricting the total area for signage allowed on a single property.

Labour's Tukituki candidate Anna Lorck was back out re-erecting an election hoarding in Havelock Rd last night after being told to take it down yesterday morning. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Labour's Tukituki candidate Anna Lorck was back out re-erecting an election hoarding in Havelock Rd last night after being told to take it down yesterday morning. Photo / Glenn Taylor

The call came after council staff had been out measuring signs.

But Ms Lorck was back at the site putting the sign up again last night after Mr Yule confirmed the district would be consistent with the policy it applied in the 2011 general election and again during last year's local government elections.

The Hastings district plan stipulates that only three square metres of signage, visible in any one direction, is permitted per property during an election campaign, but over the past three years that rule had been interpreted as meaning three square metres per candidate, Mr Yule said.

The "per candidate" dispensation would be applied again this year on the basis that the rules were due to be reviewed in the near future, he said.

"We're giving that dispensation because that's what we did at the last central government election and at last year's local government election. [The dispensation is] on the basis that the signage rules are being reviewed in hearings for our district plan later this year.

"Generally we want to adopt a pretty liberal approach to election signage on the basis that it is part of democracy, they are only up for a three-month period and it is easy for the council to get embroiled in political conflict when we've actually got better things to do with our time."

Ms Lorck said the council had found a "reasoned way" through the issue.

Her political rival in Tukituki, National MP Craig Foss, agreed with Mr Yule's observation that councils had better things to do.

"Hastings District Council have certainly got their clipboards and tape measures out and are working hard. They are entitled to do that although it does seem a wee bit curious," he said.

"Once everything settles down I may make a submission to the rules reduction taskforce announced by [Local Government Minister] Paula Bennett yesterday.

"The rules are the rules and I don't think anyone goes out deliberately to break any rules - but sometimes they are hard to interpret."

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