Rick Curach shows no remorse that one of his quirky pukeko election signs has popped up next to a strictly off-limits highway.

''I put it there for entertainment value, it is something a bit different,'' the Tauranga City councillor said about his decision to put a sign just past where the highway from
Bethlehem forked towards the city centre and Harbour Bridge.

Mr Curach said he needed to get the full effect by putting the sign in a location where people were used to seeing pukeko grazing beside the side of the road.

Although he knew that placing signs alongside a highway was not allowed, Mr Curach did not believe he was creating a traffic safety issue at that spot.


''I used my common sense.''

The other area he has put the sign-carrying pukeko was the wetlands where Carmichael Rd joined Miller Rd between Bethlehem and Brookfield.

He said he would only remove the pukeko election sign if he was requested by the New Zealand Transport Agency. Alternatively, the agency could simply take it away.

His quirky 'Pick Rick' signs have been taken as souvenirs over the years, even showing up at a wedding in Rarotonga where the groom was presumably called Rick.

He said the signs were also popular with students, with one appearing prominently in a Auckland university flat - again probably because Rick was the student's name.

Mr Curach was philosophical about the attraction of his signs to young people. Their unquestioned ability to help get him elected was underlined yesterday when he was out fundraising for research into arthritis. A women said: ''Aren't you the man in the signs?''

He said they were effective because they were a bit of a laugh. ''It is about entertainment.''

Meanwhile, the Tauranga City Council has received nine complaints about signs, largely from candidates.

Council communications manager Aimee Driscoll said the system setting out where signs were allowed was working well.

''We have been proactively dealing with any issues we have come across, and working with candidates to move signs,'' she said.

There had been a lot of vandalism of signs this year, more than previous elections, she said.

Meanwhile, voting has got off to a slow start since election papers were delivered to Tauranga householders earlier this week.

Tauranga's electoral officer Warwick Lampp of Christchurch-based Electionz.com said returns to Thursday from the three electoral wards and Tauranga Marina totalled 3471 voting papers - 3.8 per cent of eligible voters.

He put it down to the slower mail system. The papers were later in getting delivered to voters and it took an extra day to reach Christchurch for counting. Voting papers mailed in the last three days before voting closed would be treated as a priority service by NZ Post.

Tauranga City Council election returns to September 22
Mount Maunganui/Papamoa Ward: 1487 votes (4.6%)
Te Papa/Welcome Bay Ward: 994 votes (3.7%)
Otumoetai/Pyes Pa Ward: 987 votes (3.1%)