A Green Party member was responsible for coordinating the defacing of hundreds of National Party billboards in Hawke's Bay and elsewhere, Greens' co-leader Russel Norman admitted this morning.

 

On Sunday night, about 700 National Party billboards across the country were altered by activists who fixed new slogans over the billboards.

The slogans were blue with white writing, and said things such as ``The Rich Deserve More'' and ``Drill it! Mine It! Sell it!''.

The Greens had previously denied involvement, however, Dr Norman told media today that Green Party member Jolyon White, the partner of Dr Norman's executive assistant, was the person who coordinated the defacing.

Dr Norman said he learnt of Mr White's involvement only after other Green members recognised his voice in a radio interview this morning.

``At that point, because we knew that Mr White was the partner of my EA, we talked to her about it and found out what she knew.''

Mr White was not an active member of the Greens, Dr Norman said, and the networks he had used to mobilise the people involved in stickering the signs were not Green Party ones.

``I don't know whether there were other Green Party members involved, there may have been, but not as Green Party people,'' he said.

``Clearly it is part of the membership agreement that you don't bring the party into disrepute, so we will be talking to people if we find other people involved.''

Dr Norman said his assistant had known about the plan for a couple of months, but he would not discuss whether she would be fired.

``She wasn't involved in planning it, or taking any actions on it, but she was aware of it,'' he said.

``She should have been aware of the political implications of what her partner was doing given her connection to the Greens.''

Dr Norman said he had apologised to Prime Minister John Key, and had offered whatever assistance was necessary to clean up the vandalism.

The Greens have previously been outspoken about dirty campaign tactics, and were the subject of an anonymous smear campaign in 2005, which the Exclusive Brethren was later revealed to be behind.

``We've had dirty tricks played on us, and we make a point of playing clean politics, so it is embarrassing that it was Green Party member who did it,'' Dr Norman said.

``I know how many volunteer hours go into putting up and maintaining billboards, I've done a lot of it myself, and I want to say sorry to the National Party volunteers.''

National Party president Peter Goodfellow said he was pleased the Green Party had come forward on the issue, and the party might take up the offer for help removing the stickers.

``I think most have already been removed but hopefully this means they won't go round putting up more illegal signs.''

He said he had no reason not to believe Russel Norman's assurance that he had not known about it.