Act leader David Seymour has responded to phallic images of himself put up by a Wellington City councillor, saying he is “always in favour of artistic license and creativity” and he hopes she “graduates high school soon”.
Councillor Teri O’Neill took pictures of herself and her friends sticking the posters up around the city on Friday night and posted them to social media on Monday.
When contacted by the Herald about the pictures, she made her Instagram private but said she stands by her decision to post the flyers - one of which featured new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon inside the outline of a penis.
Another had Seymour and NZ First leader Winston Peters inside the scrotum while Luxon formed the head.
When asked about the posters by Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan yesterday, Seymour said he had not seen them personally, but when it was described to him he asked whether the artist was “in high school or intermediate?”.
“For me that [phase] was around intermediate.”
“I hope they’re not too old, because you’d hope they grow out of it at some point.”
Another one of the flyers said “Those racist men don’t speak for us”, referring to the new Government.
Below it said “Pākehā for Te Tiriti”.
Seymour denied being a racist, saying “We’ve got a Government that is committed to recognising the universal humanity in every human, not dividing us by ethnic identities”.
“If she thinks that’s racist, then not only is she challenged in terms of maturity and illustration but possibly also some basic concepts of political philosophy, but I feel sorry for whoever this person is and I hope they graduate high school soon.”
When contacted by the Herald, O’Neill said she thought she “probably had” stuck some of the pictures up herself, but to say which ones.
Many in her community were “really scared of what’s to come” and she stood by all her actions to “challenge entrenched power structures”, she said.
O’Neill believed the law determines the right to protest and it was her opinion people with a platform were obliged to challenge the status quo. She added the posters were meant as a humorous comment.
“I love that in Wellington we can take a bit of humour.
“Posters allow us to laugh at ourselves about the state we’re in while bringing about a social and political conversation. The house it’s on fire, but we’re also getting a brief moment to laugh about it.”
She said she “didn’t stop being an activist when I became a city councillor”.
“Posting bills is a tried-and-true method of political engagement.”
Mayor Tory Whanau said while she had not seen the post itself, “in general, councillors are free to express their views and humour is often used as a way to make a point”.
Whanau said she would not post the pictures herself, as she must “establish and maintain a relationship with the Government”.
She added she looked forward to sitting down with them and discussing “a way forward on big issues facing Wellington”.
The post on O’Neill’s Instagram came the same day Luxon, Peters and Seymour were sworn into Government.
Peters and Seymour were each sworn in as deputy prime ministers under the coalition arrangement. The pair will share the role, with Peters acting for the first 18 months and Seymour for the second 18 months.
A Wellington City councillor can expect a salary of $119,618 if they have no other additional responsibilities.
Vita Molyneux is a Wellington-based journalist who covers breaking news and stories from the capital. She has been a journalist since 2018 and joined the Herald in 2021.